New app developed for bus riders


By Kayah Gausman, NewsNetNebraska

Late for class? Need the bus? Nowhere to park? Can’t afford another parking ticket?

There’s an app for that.

“I think it’s exactly what students need,” Dan Carpenter, Director of Parking and Transit Services at UNL said. “It’s the right way to reach that age group and it helps them plan their day. It does exactly what it should do.”

The app — called “StarTran Bus Tracker” — is new within the last month. Though it uses data from StarTran’s website to function, the app isn’t made by StarTran. Gordon Smith, a freelance developer, created the app and said he didn’t mind that StarTran didn’t want to be legally affiliated to the project.

“Originally, my meetings with [StarTran] were about whether they wanted to take it on and have it be their actual app, and after 5 months of waiting I found out they actually weren’t interested in doing that,” Smith said. “What they really wanted somebody to do was to make it for them for free and do in-app advertising instead to help pay for the app.”

Smith actually didn’t come up with the idea himself. He got the idea from a friend who showed up to their weekly hangout late because of a bus, complaining that there wasn’t an app to help him catch the one he needed.

“Everybody’s always coming to you, saying, ‘hey, I’ve got a great app idea,’ and they’re normally terrible,” Smith said. “So when someone mentioned it to me I was excited that it might actually be worth looking into.”

Once the idea came about, Smith said it wasn’t that hard to put it together. StarTran uses a server to track all of their vehicles already. All he had to do was harness the information and turn it into a map for users.

“It turns out StarTran has a data feed of where all the busses are, because every single one of them has a GPS transponder on it,” Smith said.

His least favorite part about the whole process? Publishing the app for public use.

While he was excited to share his work with the world, Smith said that the negativity that spawns on the Internet can be incredibly discouraging.

“You put hours and hours and days and weeks into this stuff, and it becomes kind of personal after awhile,” Smith said. “You put it on the app store and all it takes is somebody hitting ‘comment’ and leaving something nasty to ruin your day.”

While the app hasn’t become incredibly popular yet, the number of users is steadily rising. Most UNL bus riders agree that the app is a lifesaver.

Sara Warner, a UNL student, said she’s really excited to know that the app exists.

“I’m usually so late for class that I don’t have time to wait for another bus in ten minutes,” she said. “If I actually know where these busses are so I can plan accordingly, yeah. That would be awesome.”

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