PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — For many students, a morning spent waiting out at the bus stop in the elements – wind, rain, cold and snow – is part of the school day routine. Now, a new mobile application hopes to change the waiting game by allowing some Rhode Island parents to connect to the buses their children are riding.
The app SafeStop lets parents know exactly when a bus will arrive by connecting parents and school officials to the bus as it’s tracked by global positioning systems, or GPS. When a school district signs up for the service the application sends out messages and alerts to parents who download it, letting them know about delays, perhaps a change in bus number and even a substitute driver on their child’s route.
“Now parents in the form of an app can look at and see when the bus is going to arrive, where the bus currently is and then also receive alerts and messages from the school, maybe the transportation provider on anything that might affect day-to-day bus service,” said Patrick Gallagher, SafeStop’s Director of Sales.
In order for the SafeStop system to work, school buses must have GPS systems on board. Updates on bus routes come directly from the school district’s transportation staff. For safety purposes, districts can limit who can see that information.
“We can work with any school administration to develop any kind of security protocols they want,” Gallagher explained. “Some districts use student ID systems so that a parent has to successfully register a student ID in order to register.”
Gallagher said approximately 1,200 buses nationwide have been equipped with SafeStop, including fleets for Barrington and East Providence schools, with plans to add more Rhode Island schools in the future.
“This was built in response to the new generation of moms, which are those millennial moms who are seeking all this kind of information,” he added.
The application does come at a cost: $4.99 a month per family. Eyewitness News has learned some school districts do pay for the service, making it free to parents. Other districts subsidize the cost and give users of the application a discount.
Gallagher says it is a minimal cost for some peace of mind.
“When you send your child out to the bus stop, sometimes it’s two or three blocks away,” he said. “It’s definitely peace of mind knowing they don’t have to wait out there in the cold or in the rain or potentially long amounts of time in the dark that can become unsafe.”
SafeStop hopes to have 5,000 buses equipped with the program nationwide by the end of the year.