It’s 2 a.m. You’re stranded in the Fort and can’t walk home; salvation may be as easy as the push of a button.
Beginning this semester, UT will be operating a late night T: Link access app that will allow students to remotely call a T: Link bus between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. The service, which can be accessed through the existing UT app under the transit tab, is free for UT students with a valid student ID who register for it.
Mark Hairr, the Parking and Transit Services director at UT, explained that because the current program is a beta test, it will be operated by the university free of charge until the end of the semester. UT administrators will decide by the end of the semester whether a permanent ride request app, currently run through the transit company Transloc, will be implemented following the current trial run.
While UT has had a bus-tracking app in place since the summer of 2013, the current app differs in that it allows students to remotely request a bus ride with the help of their smartphones.
As Hairr sees it, the benefits of the current app are multifaceted as students will no longer have to put up with long holding times that were a common feature for students calling in person for a T: Link bus. Because the app utilizes GPS, bus drivers can pinpoint the exact location of students and more easily avoid missed rides. Students will also be given the vehicle number of the bus sent to retrieve them in order to avoid confusion should another bus pass a student by.
Blake Roller, a UT graduate who previously served on SGA’s technology committee, helped push university administration to accept the current beta test of the current T: Link app. During his time at UT, Roller experienced first hand the difficulties in acquiring a T: Link bus late at night. In one instance, Roller waited in the rain for 40 minutes for a bus that never came, dealing with long hold times over the phone before abandoning the wait and walking to his destination.
Recognizing the need for a change, Roller and several other SGA members observed the systems in place at other universities, like Alabama and Clemson, and eventually approached UT administration with the idea for a ride request app run by the university.
While his time at UT is over, Roller knows the current system in place will provide convenience for students without any added cost to the university itself.
“It gives a semester to get some student feedback,” Roller said. “It also gives us a semester to not have to pay for it since it’s a beta test.”