Campus shuttle routes now added to the campus map

Very soon we will be launching a new feature on the campus map which will allow our users to view campus shuttle routes. Clicking a marker on the route will tell you more information about the pickup and drop off location. Since we now allow for polylines to be added to the campus map, we hope to find other uses for this functionality to add even more features to the map.

I used Google’s Interactive Polyline Encoder Utility to draw the route. I felt it was a much better approach to use the encoded data rather than using each longtitude/latitude point as it is shown on their example page. The encoded data is much smaller so transferring the data to the user will be faster since the routes have a lot of data points.

Launch: Campus Alternative Transportation Map

Everyone needs to travel to campus. Do you do it responsibly? Do you know how if you wanted to? These are the questions the Campus Alternative Transportation Map aims to answer. Launched just last week it has already started to impact how people are getting to and from campus.

Motivation for the project

We were approached by a student from the Student Environmental Action Leaders group on campus about creating an online map showing all the alternative methods of transportation on campus. We thought this was a good idea but knew it had to be more than a PDF on a page. Our current campus map was not at a point where we could add items like this so we decided to create a separate transportation map.

The map is built on Google Maps v2, although new at the start of the project, it is now deprecated. But it gave us a great understanding about the limitations of a Google map and how to solve these issues in our next round of campus map improvements. The campus transportation map highlights the bus routes, campus shuttles, bike racks, parking lots, trains, walking routes and campus retail locations. Although Detroit is not known for its walk-ability and relies heavily on cars the goal of this map is to break that impression. There really are many ways to get to and around campus without a car, you just have to look for them.

Bus Routes

Although DDOT and SMART have the bus routes and schedules on their websites they are not very user friendly. It’s hard to tell where the buses run and when. The student running this project took it upon himself to improve this information. He recorded all the stops for each bus in midtown, visited each location and took GPS coordinates to map them. This proved to be very useful when looking for the different options for drop off and pick up points for a route in relation to campus buildings.

Bike Racks

This year a large number of bikes have been seen on campus, far more than previous years. Students know we have bike racks outside most buildings but where are they really? The student running this project was motivated to find them all. He and a few friends searched campus with the goal of finding all locations a bike could be securely locked. They recorded the GPS coordinates of all locations and with just one click a visitor to the site can now see the nearest bike rack location to each building.


A big part of coming to campus if you are not using public transportation is where to park. We have roughly 33,000 students in an urban area which makes finding parking spots often a challenge. We have a list of parking structures and lots on our current campus map but flipping between both is a hassle so we imported their locations into the transportation map. Each parking location has additional information associated with it to know who can park there, when, and how much it costs.


Lastly as a bonus to transportation to campus it also is nice to know what to do and where to eat on campus once you get here. The site also compiles a list of the retail locations on and around campus. Right now it is not a comprehensive list but it is getting there. The locations are broken down by category and more information is available for each location. The goal is to combine the need to get to and from campus responsibly and to shop and learn in midtown Detroit.

Take Aways

The beauty of this project was it was completely motivated by and is maintained by students. Our department was just involved with the overall branding and functionality. The Business Operations department helped fund the project and the effort from here on out is to expand the information past campus and into midtown, getting area businesses involved and adding local attractions. We are already seeing a consistent number of visitors to the site and the most popular areas are bike racks and SMART bus campus routes. We are happy to be part of such a green project and encourage everyone to use the map to plan their next campus visit.

View the Campus Alternative Transportation Map at

Whiteboard: Planning our next campus map

After some delay we finally kicked off the new campus map project with a two hour meeting, tons of notes and some whiteboarding.

Current campus map

The current map is completely flash based. We developed it over six years ago when flash was the upcoming trend. Although it is old it still works great, we have had nothing but compliments from visitors about how easy it is to use. We have tested it with many people and we don’t want to loose any functionality. The problem is it is not accessible on mobile phones and is hard to connect to external services.

As a small mobile fix we forward any mobile traffic to an SVG version of the map so it is at least usable if someone is walking around campus and is accessing it from their mobile phone.

The current campus map is available at
The SVG version is available at

Some upcoming new features

  • Built on top of Google Maps
  • Mobile version with location awareness
  • Separate maps for main, medical and extension center campuses
  • Locations for OneCard fill machines, ATM’s, wifi, computer labs, blue lights
  • Campus tours
  • More images/videos per location
  • Upcoming events per location
  • Integration with Foursquare/Gowalla/SCVNGR

User interaction

The best thing about using a whiteboard is the ability for everyone to see the same thing, add and erase things as comments come up. Walking through the user experience step by step gives everyone on the team the ability to understand the features and layout in context. The drawing above although it looks simple took a few iterations to get to and a lot of the functionality identified in the single picture.

Basic functionality like listing and searching was the largest part of the discussion, then allowing single or multi layers on the map and how a visitor would add, see and remove them. The options are endless but seeing it on a surface, using a finger as a mouse and actually mimicking the user’s experience is crucial to coming up with a usable product.

We will be posting more about the map as it develops in the coming weeks.

Accessible building entrance icons added to the flash campus map

To increase awareness of all our accessible entrances on campus, we have implemented some new functionality to our campus map. We have added a toggle switch on the bottom-right side of the map to switch to an accessible entrances view, showing where the entrances are on each building.  There are two new icons in the map key to show Accessible Entrances with and without automatic doors.

Campus Map Togglecampus-map-ada

We have also provided a printable PDF version of the map that you can get from our printable maps page. Or try it out live at