PARTA launches its long-awaited GPS tracking feature

101416+SPOT+PARTA

101416 SPOT PARTA

Mitch Felan

After months of waiting, PARTA has officially launched its GPS tracking feature, allowing riders to track their bus in real-time through phone or text message.

The SPOT PARTA program was launched Wednesday afternoon during a community event at the Kent Central Gateway.

“I know there’s a lot of people who have been asking for it, and we’re happy to finally deliver,” said Claudia Amhrein, PARTA’s general manager.

Amhrein rang in the new system with a ceremony in the center’s lobby, complete with SPOT PARTA giveaways, food and beverages and a visit from Spot, the mascot of the program.

But, the event also gave PARTA the opportunity to show riders how to use their new program.

Director of Planning at PARTA, Katherine Manning, showed groups of attendees the benefits of the SPOT PARTA program’s website, spotparta.com, on a tablet.

“Here’s your bus and you can track it wherever it goes,” Manning said as she pointed to the bus on her tablet.

The website uses GPS tracking data to display bus routes on the online map in real-time, much like the transportation phone app Uber.

It also provides information on the closest routes to a rider’s location and a trip planner.

“We get a lot of complaints from students wanting to where their bus is or if they’ve missed their bus,” Manning said. “This is going to take away the age-old question of ‘where’s my bus?'”

Manning also discussed the program’s SMS system, which will allow users to text a special code found on SPOT PARTA signs to the phone number also found on those signs.

Riders will then be texted information on the approximate arrival of their bus.

“People have been accustomed to finding out information through their smartphones and computer desktops,” Amhrein said. “It’s one thing to read a paper schedule, but that can be a little tricky if you’re new to the system. This gives hands-on access to people through their phones.”

Amhrein also stressed that the program can be used on any kind of phone with a messaging feature, including flip phones.

The event also gained attention through a few community guests, including WAKR’s Jasen Sokol, who hosted his live show at the event, and Kent City Manager Dave Ruller.

Ruller spoke with Sokol on air about the many city projects around Kent, and their importance to the city.

“PARTA of course is central, literally, like the name here at the gateway. They got us rolling and keep us rolling,” Ruller told Sokol during the interview.

Ruller said that the bus service is important to the growing city and that he always makes time to give his support.

As for PARTA’s next step, the service is holding more promotional events for the SPOT PARTA program, including one at Kent State University.

“We’re hoping to get a lot of students out to try the program and try the texting feature and be able to use PARTA in a more efficient manner,” Manning said.

The event will take place on Oct. 18 in the Student Center KIVA from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Mitch Felan is the safety and transportation reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]