Do you like Park City’s new bus tracking iPhone App? What, you hadn’t heard of it? That’s OK, you may want to check it out. It’s actually kind of cool… and of course, you paid for it.
In 2011, the Park City City Council unanimously voted to contract with Avail Technologies to add GPS (global positioning system) technology to its buses. Along with the GPS came an iPhone app that anyone could use to track the buses. What was the cost? $1.2 million.
Now to be fair, the federal government chipped in 80% of the funds, so the city and county only paid $247,000 for it. Yet, we seem to remember that 2011 was still pretty rough economically around here. Government employees were being let go (or jobs not backfilled) and we kept hearing that our roads weren’t going to be maintained to proper levels unless taxes were raised. But… there was enough money to add GPS tracking to our FREE buses?
[We almost can’t write this without chuckling in sadness]
What’s so aggravating from a citizen’s point of view is three fold:
- Projects like this are often justified by pointing out that federal or state funds will be used or a grant will be obtained. While that sounds good, and we suppose it is better than directly spending millions on a project like this, those are still OUR tax dollars be spent (you pay federal taxes right?). If we aren’t willing to say say NO to projects like this that aren’t really needed, we really can’t complain when the state “equalizes” property tax revenues and sends our taxes to West Valley. If someone in North Dakota is paying for our GPS bus tracking with the federal taxes, why shouldn’t we pay for some kid’s education in Nephi?
- The money has been spent; now Park City should make the most of this opportunity. Do you have an iPhone? Try to find the app in the IOS App Store. We dare you. We know, you tried to type in ‘Park City Bus’ into the app store search box. We bet you got Roof Jumping Stunt Driving Parking Simulator and 97 other entries. Roof Jumping is a great game but not quite what you are looking for. If it was in the other 97 results the search returned, we didn’t see it. If you go to the web on your computer, and type in ‘Park City Bus Schedule’, you’ll probably end up selecting Park City Bus: Routes & Schedules. No iPhone app is listed here either… but you can get to a web page with current bus locations by selecting the fourth option, Real-time AVL Bus Tracker. We suppose this does a lot of what the iPhone app does but are you going to really use a web page on your computer? No. What would we expect for a million dollars? Make it easy for both residents and visitors to download the app. That shouldn’t be hard.
- It always costs more than it is supposed to. This was supposed to cost $1.23 Million. Park City has paid $1.33 million to date. In addition to that there are long-term costs. There is the maintenance of existing systems. There is the added equipment required on any new bus. There is also likely a maintenance charge from the vendor. While we are sure there are benefits to the people who manage the buses (ability to monitor on-time performance, ability to monitor mechanical status remotely, etc), the system has already cost 10% more than it was supposed to. That will likely just keep increasing.
It’s not that we are anti-technology. In fact, we think it can provide great benefits. However, in this case we just don’t see the cost/benefit panning out. That said, since you bought it, you should try the app. Search for “MyStop Mobile” in the iPhone App store. What, you don’t ride the bus? Oh well.