8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Website tracks 'U' buses in real time
Engineering students use GPS
technology to allow bus riders to
pinpoint University buses as they follow
their routes through campus
By Molly Bowen
Daily Staff Reporter
This fall, University bus riders won't have to guess when
their ride home will roll up to the curb.
A new computer-tracking system in its final testing stages
will allow web users to view the exact position of all operat-
ing University buses at any given time.
Although the system is already online through the School
of Engineering, a more finalized version of the system will
premier next fall.
University undergraduate students designed the system,
called Magic Bus, with the help of Engineering Prof. Chris
Ruf. Magic Bus uses Global Positioning System and wire-
less technology to bring moving icons of University buses
to computer screens.
Students and staff first began working on the project in the
fall of 2004 with funding from Parking and Transportation Ser-
vices. To make the system operational, the project team installed
hardware in buses and developed supporting software.
While the system is already accessible to students on the
Internet, Ruf said there are other ways to track buses.
"We have a text messaging computer so that you can text
it and it will tell you in how many minutes the next bus will
come," Ruf said.
Riders can also access bus locations by sending a mes-
sage to the Magic Bus buddy on America Online's Instant
Ruf said that the team plans to put up public monitors in
Pierpont Commons and the Michigan Union.
The ongoing assessment of "Magic Bus" has produced
"We've been having Engineering 100 students evaluate
our project," said Prashanth Pandian, University alum and
project manager. "Gauging the reaction from (the Engineer-
ing 100 students), a lot of people are excited for this."
Engineering sophomore Mark Poll said he thinks people
are looking forward to the new system.
"I think everyone was really excited about it," Poll said.
"Most students saw that it was pretty good but not quite
there yet, so it made them pretty excited to be a part of it."
According to David Miller, executive director for Parking
and Transportation Services, the University decided to cre-
ate its own- program due to the high cost of a commercially
"It's something that we've thought about doing for years,
but the cost to buy something like this commercially off the
shelf is much higher," Miller said. "Using a student group
like this has made it affordable."
Miller said that the system will not only tell students and
staff when to step out to the curb, but it will also make it
easier for transportation supervisors to receive feedback if
buses are having mechanical or traffic problems.
Courtesy of the University of Michigan
Bus locations are available at http://ace.engin.umich.edu.
to Greenway proposal
Controversy over use of
Ann Arbor's historic Allen
Creek property lingers otn
By Walter Nowinski
For the Daily
Local residents with competing visions
for the Allen Creek Greenway - a proposed
network of parks and trails - faced off at a
series of public workshops last weekend.
The City's Greenway Task Force orga-
nized two workshops to get public feedback
on proposals for three city-owned sites with-
in the Greenway.
The Greenway proposal has been hotly
debated since the Ann Arbor City Coun-
cil voted against a resolution to support its
development in March 2005.
Critics of the project argue that the city
needs more high-density development
downtown, not open space, while supporters
emphasize the proposal's potential aesthetic
and environmental benefits.
The proposal, which is not related
to the Ann Arbor Greenbelt, aims to
develop a network of parks and pedes-
trian trails that would follow the historic
route of Allen Creek.
Although the name of the project implies
the greenway would border a creek, the
actual waterway was buried by the city in
the early 20th century. Much of the proposed
greenway would run alongside an active
freight railroad, which now sits atop the his-
toric creek bed west of Main Street.
At a second workshop last Saturday, the
Greenway Task Force presented several dif-
ferent plans for three city-owned parcels -
two storage yards and aparking lot - within
the proposed greenway. The properties,
which total nearly eight acres, are located in
or near downtown Ann Arbor.
Most who attended the second work-
shop, which attracted roughly 60 people,
supported the controversial Greenway
proposal but disagreed over how the sites
should be developed.
One large group, donning campaign
buttons, argued that the city should use the
space to build performance venues and art
"We desperately need a place in Ann
Arbor for non-University performing arts;'
said David Karen, who is involved in com-
Ann Arbor resident Vince Caruso spoke
passionately in favor of converting the sites
into green space. Caruso argued that a sig-
nificant danger of flash flooding exists along
the historical route of Allen Creek.
The three parcels, all of which are partially
within the floodplain, should be turned into
open space to help mitigate flooding, he said.
"Floodplains should be for flooding, not
for buildings;' Caruso said.
Caruso warned that building structures
inside the floodplain would pose a danger to
people in those buildings.
"I don't know if I would want my children
playing down in the floodplain," he said.
He also warned any structures in the plain
would increase the risk of flooding for other
parts of the city.
"Putting in structures would be det-
rimental to the current neighborhood,"
Caruso said. "If a flood came, it would be
an economic disaster for the old west side
(of Ann Arbor)."
The last major flood hit Ann Arbor
Peter Pollack, chair of the Greenway Task
Force, said that flash flooding was not a seri-
ous threat because any water buildup in the
area is generally gradual.
The Greenway Task Force plans to hold
additional public workshops before issuing its
final recommendation to the city in October.
Continued from page 1
The University is the first college to offer a modified co-
pay plan such as MHealthy.
"We hope it will be a model for the nation," said Public
Health Prof. Allison Rosen, who will evaluate the program's
progress and success.
Proponents want to prove the program's effectiveness
to lawmakers in order to encourage the implementation of
similar programs in the future.
The road to recognition
University profs. Mark Fendrick and Michael
Chernew published an editorial in this January's edi-
tion of The American Journal of Managed Care dis-
cussing the philosophy behind MHealthy: value-based
According to the article, "smarter" healthcare packages
would combine disease-management programs with cost
Cost sharing refersto the sharing ofmedicalcosts between
employers and employees. It has become standard for health
insurance providers to increase cost sharing - requiring
healthcare recipients to account for a biggerslice of the pie.
"Cost sharing kills people," Fendrick said. "Ultimately,
adverse outcomes are not just abstract. There are real, bad
But Fendrick said it is important to understand that
cost sharing will always help the bottom line. For this
reason, Fendrick and Chernew are not arguing against
cost sharing but for a more comprehensive approach to
Fendrick said there was little reaction to the 2001 article
from both the business and academic worlds. It was not
until a May 2004 Wall Street Journal Article that the Uni-
versity's research received much attention. The article out-
lined the results of a simplified version of the University's
program used by Pitney Bowes, an international supplier
of office and postal equipment. A month after the Pitney
Bowes article, the Wall Street Journal published an article
on the University's research.
In October 2005, the Center for Value-based
Insurance Design was opened to promote, develop,
improve and evaluate innovative health plans. V-BID
focuses on the tradeoffs between the cost and quality
of healthcare, Fendrick said. Fendrick and Chernew
are co-directors of V-BID.
MHealthy is only one of the evaluations underway
Research at V-BID
Research at V-BID involves gathering subsets of patients
and determining the effects of changing co-pays.
Chernew said that although samples are not randomized,
appropriate control groups must be found to serve as a basis
of comparison. Research is conductedby evaluating existing
Current projects include assessing Blue Care Network's
program that has lowered co-pays for asthma-controlling ,
drugs, comparing the difference in medication adherence
between twolargeemployersthathave different co-pay strat-
egies and monitoring a database that lists claims data from
the filling of prescriptions. The database, MedStat, contains
data for millions of patients and is used to compare the pre-
scription-filling patterns of patients experiencing increased
co-pays to patients experiencing no change in co-pays.
"This is as close to apple pie as you can get " Chernew
said of value-based insurance design. He said no one can be
opposed to the design's purpose - to improve health.
According to Fendrick and Chernew's January article,
the U.S. approach to health care has faced much criticism
from the media, Congress and the business community this
year. Many Americans are uninsured, patients are under-
using recommended care and swelling healthcare costs are
adversely affecting America's competitive edge in the global
Amid this healthcare crisis, the environment has been
appropriate for innovation, Chernew said.
Last week, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and CIGNA Pharmacy
Management announced they would reduce co-pays. Effec-
tive January 2007, Wal-Mart will reduce employee co-pay-
ments for generic drugs for conditions such as diabetes,
hypertension, and high cholesterol from $10to $3.
CIGNA offers two options for employers. The first
option is to cover medications without having to sat-
isfy a plan deductible, and the second option gives
some employees with diabetes and cardiac conditions
a higher level of coverage as an incentive to participate
in a disease management program.
In March 2003, results were released on the Asheville
Project, a five-year study in which two large North Carolina
self-insured employers offered free co-pays and free month-
ly meetings with pharmacists to 194 diabetic employees,
dependents and retirees.
According to the study, published in the Journal of the
American Pharmacists Association, not only did patients
use fewer sick days and experience lower hemoglobin Alc
levels (blood-sugar content), but employers also spent less
on insurance and prescription claims.