By Daniel Perez
UTEP News Service
A free mobile app that follows the Miner Metro shuttle system officially launches this fall and will help many University of Texas at El Paso students and employees get to class and work on time.
Martin Padilla, a senior graphic arts major and employee with UTEP’s Academic Technologies, parks his car in the R-5 lot across from Sun Bowl Drive by the Physical Plant Complex. He depends on the shuttles to get him to the main campus.
He admitted to being late to work a few times in the past, but is confident it will not happen as often because of the Miner Metro Tracker. The app, which gives maps, routes and real-time information about the location of each shuttle, went through a successful shakedown cruise this summer and is available at utep.doublemap.com.
“This (app) gives me the information I need to decide when I have to leave or if I have a few more minutes to work on a project,” said Padilla, who works in the Undergraduate Learning Center and began to use the app in June. “It helps me keep track of the shuttles.”
Students, faculty and staff who will be returning to campus starting Aug. 25 also will enjoy access to an additional 600-plus parking spaces in perimeter lots and beginning in October can ride Sun Metro’s new Brio rapid transit system along the West side corridor.
Miner Metro drivers shared the app information with riders who used the shuttles during the summer sessions and the tracking system earned high marks, according to Sylvia Ancina, general manager of First Transit, which manages the University shuttle system. The company plans to promote the system at its 17 shuttle stops and in each of the fleet’s 16 shuttles.
“This system is helpful, especially for new students who don’t know their way around campus,” said Ancina, who added that the fleet shuttles approximately 109,000 passengers per month during the fall and spring semesters. “The maps show them where [the shuttles] are in comparison to the bus stops.”
Electrical engineering doctoral student Ubaldo Robles said he occasionally uses the shuttle system, but not enough to be familiar with its schedule. He parks his motorcycle in the V-1 lot at Hawthorne Street and Rim Road, and uses the blue and green shuttle lines to take him around campus.
“I usually just miss the shuttles, so this app will help me gauge how fast I need to be,” Robles said. “I think the live feed will be awesome.”
The new app removes the guesswork from the Miner Metro routes, said Mike Salazar, interim director of UTEP’s Parking and Transportation Services, who was excited about being able to offer an additional 600 to 700 parking spaces when the fall semester begins. These are spaces that were unavailable during the last academic year due to construction. The spaces will be in the S-6, P-6, P-7 and P-4 lots on the campus’ western and southern borders.
Salazar said the sale of parking permits has been good and that they should increase as the first day of school approaches. He expects that another 150 spaces will be available in P-4 near the Spur 1966 roundabout by the end of December.
“My advice is to order your permits as early as possible to get as much flexibility as possible with your choice of lot,” he said.
Visit parking.utep.edu for prices and locations of surface lots and parking garages.
Another option for students who live on El Paso’s West side will be to board the Brio, Sun Metro’s new rapid transit system scheduled to start by early October. The new 60-foot bus with an accordion-like mid-section will provide faster service along the 8.6-mile Mesa corridor from the Bert Williams Downtown El Paso Transfer Center, 601 Santa Fe, to the Al Jefferson Westside Transfer Station, 7535 Remcon.
The Brio buses will arrive at 22 stops along the route every 10 minutes during peak operating hours and cut significant minutes in travel time. During a recent test run, visitors got to ride on a bus that still had its new-car smell. Patrons will enjoy free Wi-Fi, LED monitors with information about upcoming stops and promotional video screens. The buses have technology that will enable the drivers to lengthen green lights when necessary.
“The primary advantage to the students is that it will get them to campus faster,” said Laura Cruz-Acosta, Sun Metro marketing and public affairs coordinator. She added that Sun Metro officials worked in partnership with UTEP leaders in the design and placement of the Glory Road Brio stop.
The system will augment the existing Sun Metro bus system. Riders from other parts of town can catch the Brio, which is Spanish for energy, at the Downtown transfer center for a quick ride to campus. Additional Brio routes that will serve other parts of town are in the planning stages. The student fare is $1 per ride with a free transfer. There are discounts for weekly and monthly passes. The vehicles are ADA accessible and can accommodate up to three bicycles inside.