Midd Rides App to Cut Wait Times

By Bridget Colliton

Over the last two semesters, the student organization Middle Endian, otherwise known as Middlebury’s Computer Science club, has been working to create a new mobile app for the Midd Rides program, the evening transportation service on and around campus. The club plans to release the app during Winter Term of this year.

“The app is basically our solution to solve some of the inconsistencies and inconveniences of the current Midd Rides system,” said Sherif Nada ’16, one of the students spearheading the project.

Currently, students are able to use Midd Rides by calling the dispatcher phone number during operation hours and ask to be picked up at one of the service’s 11 stops. The dispatcher then radios the driver’s assistant who will tell the driver where the next pick-up location is. The goal of the app is to streamline this process.

“The biggest problem is that someone can call the van and say ‘come meet me at [Adirondack Circle], for example, and then you have no idea when that van is going to get there. And since Middlebury is freezing most of the year, that’s really inconvenient for a lot of people because they stay outside for a while [waiting for a van]” Nada said.

In order to enhance communications between the student and the Midd Rides dispatcher, rather than inundating the dispatcher with calls, students will be able to press a button that will alert the dispatcher that they need to be picked up. A drop-down menu will then allow students to select from the selection of locations around campus at which they wish to be picked up. The dispatcher will then be able to see the number of students at each location who need to be picked up and tell the drivers the most convenient and time-sensitive routes. Additionally, the app will alert students on their phones when the driver is near.

By alerting students when the driver is near, the app aims to cut wait times from ten or 15 minutes, to two or three minutes. “The dispatcher to driver lane of communication stays the same, but the user to dispatcher communication is what is changing, at least in this version” said one of the programmers Nosagie Asaolu ’18.

Laura Harris ’17, who has worked as a driver and driver’s assistant for Midd Rides for two years, agrees that the app would help Midd Rides be more efficient. “The new app would be useful to us as drivers because it will make it easi- er for people to meet the van on time, so we will be able to pick people up more efficiently and not spend time waiting at stops” she said.

Asaolu, Julian Billings ’16, Ben Brown ’18, Khi Chou ’16, Henry Swaffield ’18 and Peter Wang ’18 are the pro- grammers currently working to create the app. Nada founded the Computer Science club in order to provide com- puter science students with real-world rather than theoretical skills.

“I founded the club because I thought there was a disconnect between what is being taught in computer science and what is demanded in many areas of the job market,” Nada said.

The programmers who are creating the app hope for it to spark the interest of other computer science students. “For the community at large, this is definitely a way to use Midd Rides better, but for people involved in computer science, for people who are trying to learn about cod- ing or software development, this can be a playground,” Nada said. “They can try to upgrade the product and expand it into something bigger than what it was initially.”