WESTPORT, Conn. — School buses: Sometimes they run late, sometimes they run a little early. Thanks to Westport residents Betty and Norman Tsang, parents and students can take the guesswork, and stress, out of waiting for the school bus every day.
As the parents of one high school, one middle school and one elementary school student, the Tsangs are more than familiar with unpredictable buses. That’s why they created “ Where’s Our School Bus? ,” a free mobile app for iPhone and Androids that provides real-time school bus location information.
“It is frustrating when you don't know where the bus is, and you wait and wait and hope that you didn't already miss it,” said Betty, a former third grade teacher. “At times, we’d wait upwards of 20 minutes.”
The Tsangs came up with the idea for the app last year after their oldest son missed the bus on several occasions, even though he was at the bus stop at least 10 minutes before its scheduled arrival time.
Working with a technical partner, “Where’s Our School Bus?” was born. The app works by crowdsourcing bus location information from parents and students who use the app. The information provided by parents or students of a particular bus route is used to provide others still waiting for that bus with it’s real-time location and estimated arrival time.
For example, the app will ask users if the bus arrived at their stop. Parents or students can answer “no,” “just now,” “1 minute ago,” “2 minutes ago” or “3 minutes ago.” That information is used to update the bus location and remaining route schedule, letting others nearby know what time they can expect the bus to arrive.
App users can also set alerts. For example, a parent can opt to receive an alert one minute, five minutes or 10 minutes before their child’s bus is expected to arrive. Users can communicate information via a message board, too.
Because the app is based upon information sharing, the more people that use it, the better it works, the Tsangs said.
One important feature of the app is that it is anonymous and secure.
"No personal information is shared," Norman said. "So you won't see names of children on the bus."
Currently, the app is only available for use in Westport. The Tsangs said they hope to be able to expand it to other communities this fall.
For more information about the app and its features, or to download the app, visit the "Where's Our School Bus?" website .
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