Imagine following your school bus while waiting in the comfort of your home instead of a rainy or freezing bus stop.
Starting this week, students and parents at Indian Prairie Unit District 204 can do so with the Versatrans My Stop app which allows users to track buses while they are on their routes.
Ronald Johnson, district support operations manager, said the app took three years to implement due to software and server updates — not to mention the many months during the pandemic when no school buses was not working.
But with GPS systems installed on district buses, it was only a matter of time before My Stop was rolled out for families to use.
“There were a lot of changes, but the initiative and the path remained the same,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the app is free and is already part of the district’s Versatrans software. Bus drivers have an on-board system called Tyler Drive, and district transportation officials access the arrivals board to let them track buses.
After parents in the district participated in a pilot program to provide feedback on My Stop, families received a guide to the system before it went live on Monday.
Johnson warned that the app isn’t perfect. Assistance will only be available by submitting an online form. But while losing a cellular or GPS signal can hamper the app, Johnson said My Stop is still a useful tool.
“(My Stop is) integrated into the suite that we already have, so it’s just a matter of enabling it and making sure the data that was coming through was reliable,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty reliable. It’s under a minute.”
Johnson said the My Stop app should not replace standard bus procedures. Students should always be at their stops five minutes before the scheduled pick-up time instead of trying to time their arrival based on the application.
Enforcement, he said, should be reserved for bad weather when delays are likely or when a bus is unexpectedly late.
“We don’t want to create dangerous situations where you chase a bus, miss a bus, ask for a bus to come back, which creates other obstacles and other problems,” Johnson said.
“I don’t see it being used every day, all day, every morning,” he said. “I see it being used in snowstorms or when it’s raining outside.”