January 13, 2023

Keeping students connected with transit at the University of Colorado Boulder

Kylee Hall
January 13, 2023

Keeping students connected with transit at the University of Colorado Boulder

Kylee Hall
Kylee Hall

Executive summary

The University of Colorado in Boulder (CU Boulder) is one of Swiftly’s first customers dating back to 2017. With 25 vehicles across 5 routes, the Buff Bus transports students across campus for classes, to access university services, and for events like football and basketball games.

Like nearly every transit agency across the country, CU Boulder had been experiencing higher levels of trip cancellations and adjustments due to staff shortages. These increased trip cancellations were accompanied by higher numbers of calls from students frustrated by the lack of information about these changes and the experience of “ghost buses” in trip planning apps.

Having worked closely with the team at Swiftly, Tom Christian, Director of Transportation Services, heard about Swiftly’s Service Adjustments when it was launched back in May of 2021. Facing continued unplanned changes to service, CU Boulder purchased Service Adjustments in February 2022.

Since then, Tom and the operations team at CU Boulder have been able to stay on top of unplanned changes to service and, most importantly, communicate those changes to students in real time. After launching earlier this year, CU Boulder has programmed over 350 schedule changes using Swiftly Service Adjustments. Meanwhile, they’ve seen complaints for “ghost buses” decrease by upwards of 75% on a monthly basis.

Adapting to the new normal on campus

With students coming back on campus, CU Boulder had to adjust to many unpredictable variables as part of the recovery plan from the pandemic. The Buff Bus operations team was faced with weekly (and sometimes daily) changes to routes and schedules.

The unplanned changes to service meant students were sometimes left waiting for a bus that never showed, leaving them stranded. These “missed connections” turned into frustrated calls and emails into the Buff Bus operations team.  

Swiftly Service Adjustments bring new meaning to real-time passenger information

Real-time predictions doesn’t just mean sending real-time information to riders based on a static schedule. It also means informing riders about any changes that may impact their trip: cancellations, closures, and more.

Swiftly Service Adjustments empowers agencies to make the most common ad hoc changes to service – including trip cancellations, trip additions, stop closures, and changes to departure times – right in the Swiftly Dashboard. Swiftly can then automatically and immediately push updates to apps like Google Maps, Transit, and Apple Maps to alert riders of these changes.

Swiftly started building Service Adjustments in the middle of the pandemic and launched it in early 2021. The product work was in response to the unprecedented number of changes transit agencies were having to make to their schedules on a regular basis due to staff shortages and COVID protocols.

Dynamic, real-time updates mean students aren’t left in the dark

Given the rising number of changes to service, Tom and the operations team purchased Swiftly Service Adjustments in early 2022. With the existing Swiftly platform already in place, the operations team was able to use Service Adjustments almost immediately.

By leveraging Service Adjustments, the operations team was able to immediately and dynamically make updates to service while simultaneously alerting students to those changes via Transit. Within weeks, the CU Boulder operations team saw student complaints drop by upwards of 75% on a monthly basis.

While no transit agency wants to have to cancel or change service at the last minute, the ability to accommodate changes and communicate those changes to riders is crucial. In a world with unpredictable weather, pandemics, and traffic-inducing events like football games (Go Buffs!), having a flexible platform like Swiftly can help keep a campus connected.    

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