Bus Tracking Apps Should Anticipate Parental Needs

Written By Amanda Pampuro I

f a parent can track a pizza using their smart- phone, why can’t they follow their kid’s school bus? Parents are repeatedly asking that question. Over the last five years, at least a dozen companies

ranging from veteran routing firms to startups have provided answers, and often it’s the simplest ones that resonate the most. “As a working parent, there’s always a struggle to

know when the bus is going to get your kids. It’s that minor migraine that’s always present,” said Patrick Fogarty, parent of a high school senior and a 13-year- old who attend Red Clay Consolidated School District in Wilmington, Delaware. The district uses WheresTheBus by Tripspark. “The bottom line is, we all live with very tight sched-

ules and a lot of our life revolves around knowing when the bus is going to show up and when the bus is going to pickup the kids,” Fogarty continued, adding that he gets peace of mind when sending his daughter out in the dark early mornings to catch her bus along a busy road knowing student tracking technology is available. He noted that it was important to him that the app

works equally well on different devices. “I’m speaking to you right now on an iPhone, but

because the nature of my business is technology, I also have Android devices, and I very frequently will go back and forth from Apple to Android,” Fogarty said. “I have to say the consistency is equivalent whether I’m seeing it on the iPhone or on the Android.” Incorporating end user feedback is a challenge for any

developer of school bus products, since the district buys it but parents ultimately use it—and review it online. “The app is also a representation of our client, the school district. At a certain level, most parents don’t realize all the ins and outs of these products, they just want to make sure it just works,” commented Antonio Civitella, president and CEO of Transfinder. Civitella said the biggest difference between de-

signing an app for parents, such as the company’s Stopfinder, and routing software for districts is training.

14 School Transportation News • JANUARY 2021 “We don’t train parents,” Civitella said. “When we roll out

software to our clients, we have a whole training regi- ment that we follow based on all the modules our clients buy, and of course, if there’s new staff members, we have refresher courses. I can’t just say open up the box and start running on your own.” Though some apps also have options to send emails and push notifications, many parents say they are content with a map showing bus location. “I don’t think we need to make something overly com-

plicated when it does what it’s meant to do,” said Jackie Morris, who uses WheresTheBus to follow her 12-year-old son to his charter school in the Red Clay Consolidated School District. “With all the apps we have, I don’t need to learn 50 million features in an app, when all I want to know is where the bus is and when it’s getting here. I think it does a great job of doing that. It’s easy to follow. It’s user-friendly.” Like opening a Facebook account or installing a Google

Nest, parents should intuitively be able to plug and play— that means streamlining features and eliminating jargon. “The biggest thing we changed after talking to the par-

ents was some of the language we used on the screens,” explained Susan Papali, product manager for Zonar, which launched MyView last year. “Some things like geo fence, for example, that we know inside the industry and that dispatch is probably very familiar with, but as a par- ent, that’s an unknown term.” She added that Zonar focused on making MyView sim- ple and easy to use, which paid off in September with the

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