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FirstView app provides real-time updates, estimated arrival times, custom alerts

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - West Linn-Wilsonville School District students and parents now will be able to track bus routes more easily via First Student's new FirstView application.

If there's one thing students and parents crave when it comes to navigating the West Linn-Wilsonville School District bus system, it's predictability.

And while buses that occasionally fall behind schedule is inevitable, users of First Student's new phone application FirstView could help them prepare for such delays.

First Student, which is the district's transit provider, launched the app locally last fall and more residents are beginning to use it, said Andrew Kilstrom, WL-WV School District director of communications.

"We created FirstView to better support the school districts, parents and students we serve," said Claire Miller, First Student senior vice president of strategy, business development, marketing and communications, in a news release.

"Parents want real-time updates and more peace of mind surrounding their child's journey to and from school. Our school district partners want better tools for managing their bus fleet and staff resources," she said. "FirstView provides accurate and quick information, which frees parents and administrators from worry. We look forward to introducing it in even more communities next school year."

Some of the key features of the application include: live bus tracking, estimated times of arrival and custom alerts.

To sign up for the app, have download it onto your phone, create a profile and enter your child's identification number and a PIN number provided by the district.

Kilstrom said bus route delays happen every so often in the district.

"If there's traffic or an accident on the road that causes a delay, a bus could get delayed at any point during the day," Kilstrom said. "It doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen."

The district's sole method for alerting parents and students about delays prior to the addition of the app was sending an email to parents.

"It's only so effective. You have to have access to email or be checking it, so this is a nice alternative to that in that

you can set up push notifications on your phone or by checking it in real time," Kilstrom said.

Some of the limitations of the application, Kilstrom said, are that it isn't helpful for when a student has to ride a different bus than expected due to the normal bus getting a flat tire or other issues or when it snows because First Student uses different routes during those occasions.

"It (bus tracking) only applies to your assigned bus number," Kilstrom said. "If there was a bus that broke down for a day and we had to combine a bus, the app wouldn't be helpful because they're on a different bus."

Kilstrom said that when First Student and the district performed a "soft launch" of the app in the fall, about 200 families used it. But numbers have ticked up recently. And the district is hoping for feedback from the community about the app's efficiency.

"We're still in the preliminary stages but, so far, it seems to be helpful for tracking the bus and arrival times," Kilstrom said.

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