With the new Passio GO bus app, commuters and students in Harrisonburg can now track the buses and their arrival times.

The Harrisonburg Department of Public Transportation (HDPT) has implemented a new bus app called Passio GO for commuters and students in Harrisonburg, leaving students with varied opinions on the new app. 

The city retired the previous app, myStop, and introduced Passio GO in August. According to JMU’s transportation website, the new app allows users to know where their bus is instantly, plan their trips and set bus arrival alerts. To use the app, users zoom in, select a stop and are then able to see how long it takes for the bus to depart from its current location and arrive at the next. 

The switch may be a big change for bus riders, but Elliot Menge, Harrisonburg Transit superintendent, said this change was part of a “much larger switchup.” 

Menge said the bus agency’s operation system, the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), needed updating, and with that came a brand new app. On the front end, Menge said, the ITS lets users know where the bus is, the estimated time of arrival and more information commuters need to know for their ride. The back end, however, houses grants and data such as tracking drivers, the speed limit and safety checks. 

“We couldn’t have switched one part [of the ITS] and kept the app,” Menge said. “They come together as a whole package.” 

Menge said he’s heard plenty of feedback from Harrisonburg commuters and students, both good and bad. 

A common theme among student complaints to The Breeze about Passio GO was inaccurate estimated times of arrival for the buses. Freshman Grace Dudley said she tracks the bus’ moving arrow rather than the times because it’s more dependable. 

“I think the times that are listed are frequently inaccurate,” Dudley said. “But if you track the arrow that represents the bus, that’s accurate.” 

Sophomore Jasmine Moore agreed. 

“You’ll look at the times, and the bus won’t actually be there,” Moore said. “You have to look when [the bus] is moving on the app. Actually, I don’t look at the times at all anymore because it’s never right.” 

Moore also noted that the app glitches frequently, which makes it hard to navigate at times. She said Passio GO forces users to zoom in and click on each stop individually, which gets “even harder” when the app glitches. 

Other students who spoke to The Breeze said they came to like the app after giving it a chance. Freshman Emily Kruger said that once students get the hang of the bus system, it serves as a “helpful tool” for students. 

“It’s just hard when you’re a first-year student because everything is new,” Kruger added.

While Moore liked both apps, she said she prefers Passio GO over myStop. 

“For myStop,” Moore said, “you could just click a button and see all the buses and when they’re going to what stop. That was helpful.” 

She also said Passio GO’s ability to allow users to see all of the bus routes is a helpful feature. 

Menge said that although he sometimes hears from people “who are just venting,” the city tries to receive all feedback as constructive criticism.

“Whenever people give feedback, that always is pointing us to something that either should stay the same because it’s a strong point or maybe needs some adjusting to make it better for you all as the users,” Menge said.

Several students who spoke to The Breeze expressed concern over a general lack of consistency, and of buses themselves, operating on campus. Moore and Dudley said more buses are needed to maintain consistency at the stops. Dudley said she waited over 20 minutes for an Inner Campus Shuttle (ICS) one morning, even though there’s a guaranteed 10-minute wait time. 

“At that point it is more convenient to walk,” Dudley said. “[The bus system] being more consistent would help.” 

Regarding these inconsistencies, Menge said HDPT is short on drivers due to a national bus driver shortage. 

“The number of routes running is not what we’d like to be running,” Menge said.  

Whether these complaints and compliments have affected students’ usage of the buses is unclear as of now. Bus ridership has fluctuated over the past few years due to COVID-19 and restrictions that came with it. 

“I can say that compared to the spring, there seems to be more people using the bus again, which is good,” Menge said. “We are not seeing how the app is impacting things, but instead focusing on getting our entire operation to how it was before the pandemic occurred.”

For first-year students, Menge said, they really only need to worry about two routes: the ICS and the Shopper. For students who are worried about using the bus system, Menge encourages them to take a test bus run. 

“The only way you are ever going to learn something is to do it,” Menge said. “If you’re uncomfortable or worried about the bus, try it out, make a mistake, and still get back home before you need to be anywhere. That is the best way to learn.”

Contact Ashlee Thompson at thomp6ab@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.