The Harrisonburg Department of Public Transportation (HDPT) has implemented a new bus app called Passio GO for commuters and students in Harrisonburg, giving students mixed opinions about the new app.
The city discontinued the previous myStop app and launched Passio GO in August. According to JMU’s transportation website, the new app allows users to instantly know where their bus is, plan their trips, and set bus arrival alerts. To use the app, users zoom in, select a stop, and then see how long it takes for the bus to depart from its current location and arrive at the next one.
The move may be a big change for bus drivers, but Harrisonburg Transit Superintendent Elliot Menge said the move was part of a “much bigger change.”
Menge said the bus company’s operating system, the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), needed an update, and with that came a brand new app. At the front end, Menge said, the ITS tells users where the bus is, the estimated time of arrival, and other information commuters need for their journey. The backend, on the other hand, houses grants and data such as driver tracking, speed limit and safety checks.
“We couldn’t have swapped a part [of the ITS] and keep the app,” said Menge. “They come together as a whole package.”
Menge said he heard a lot of feedback from Harrisonburg commuters and students, both good and bad.
A common theme among student complaints to The Breeze about Passio GO has been inaccurate estimated bus arrival times. Freshman Grace Dudley said she follows the bus’s moving arrow rather than the times because it’s more reliable.
“I think the times given are often inaccurate,” said Dudley. “But if you follow the arrow representing the bus, that’s correct.”
Sophomore Jasmine Moore agreed.
“You’ll look at the times, and the bus won’t actually be there,” Moore said. “You have to see when [the bus] moves in the app. Actually, I don’t even look at the time anymore because it’s never right.”
Moore also noted that the app is often glitchy, making it difficult to navigate at times. She said Passio GO forces users to zoom in and click on each stop individually, which becomes “even more difficult” when the app experiences glitches.
Other students who spoke to The Breeze said they liked the app after giving it a try. Freshman Emily Kruger said once students get the hang of it, the bus system serves as a “helpful tool” for students.
“It’s just hard when you’re a freshman because everything is new,” Kruger added.
While Moore liked both apps, she said she prefers Passio GO over myStop.
“For myStop,” Moore said, “you could just click a button and see all the buses and when they go to which stop. That was helpful.”
She also said Passio GO’s ability to allow users to see all bus routes is a helpful feature.
Menge said that while he sometimes hears from people “just venting,” the city tries to take all feedback as constructive criticism.
“Whenever people give feedback, it always alerts us to something that should either stay the same because it’s a strong point, or maybe something needs to be adjusted to make it better for all of you as a user,” Menge said.
Several students who spoke to The Breeze expressed concern about a general lack of consistency and about the buses themselves that operate on campus. Moore and Dudley said more buses are needed to maintain consistency at stops. Dudley said she waited over 20 minutes for an Inner Campus Shuttle (ICS) one morning, even though there’s a 10-minute guaranteed wait.
“It’s more comfortable to walk at this point,” Dudley said. “[The bus system] being more consistent would help.”
Regarding these inconsistencies, Menge said HDPT has a shortage of drivers due to a nationwide shortage of bus drivers.
“The number of running routes does not meet our expectations,” said Menge.
Whether these complaints and compliments have affected students’ use of the buses is unclear at this time. The number of bus drivers has fluctuated in recent years due to COVID-19 and the restrictions that have come with it.
“I can say that compared to spring, more people are using the bus again, which is good,” said Menge. “We’re not seeing how the app is affecting things, instead focusing on getting our entire operations back to how they were before the pandemic.”
According to Menge, first-year students only have to worry about two routes: the ICS and the shopper. Menge encourages students who have concerns about using the bus system to test ride the bus.
“The only way to learn something is to do it,” Menge said. “If you’re uncomfortable or worried about the bus, try it, make a mistake and still get home before you have to be anywhere.” That’s the best way to learn.”
Contact Ashlee Thompson at [email protected] For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the News Desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.