Provided by the County of Alameda
Caleb Kim and Stephen Ou have ended their summer internships with Alameda County’s Information Technology Department and are returning to school. But the two technologically-adept teen-agers have left a lasting legacy that will boost public transportation and mark a major new step toward meeting the transportation needs of County employees.
Caleb and Stephen, both 17 and friends from Castro Valley High School, spent much of their summer creating and perfecting ALCO Shuttle App, a new web and mobile-phone application that aims to make an innovative County shuttle service easier to use for people seeking to travel from the office to public transportation hubs and/or within the large network of County facilities.
The County currently operates weekday shuttles in Oakland, Hayward and San Leandro to provide employees with a safe means of getting to and from work and to encourage more staff to use public transportation. (The Oakland and Hayward shuttles run only for employees; the shuttle that runs between San Leandro BART and the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center is open to the public). It is hoped the County Shuttle App will help ramp up Shuttle use “by making the shuttle as convenient and easy to use as possible,’’ said Stephen, who will begin his senior year at Castro Valley High in late August.
The County Shuttle App is also being used as a prime example of the kind of innovative thinking about improving services that Alameda County leaders would like the County’s roughly 9,000 employees to engage in. Later this week, the County is holding Rethink AC, a day-long “internal Hackathon” where employees will work in teams to develop ideas on how to upgrade customer service or improve other ways the County performs its business. Caleb and Stephen will attend Rethink AC and give County employees a presentation of how ALCO Shuttle App works.
Rethink AC is a follow up to two “external Hackathons’’ that Alameda County has held in the past nine months in which members of the community were invited to tap into a trove of public County data to develop mobile apps or app concepts to serve residents.
Caleb and Stephen first came onto the County radar last December when they earned Second Place in the County’s first-ever Hackathon. The two teen-agers earned the distinction with an app called ACPR Finder, which sifts through County Parks and Recreation Data to provide user-friendly information about local parks. The app includes a map interface listing all park locations and a filter that allows the user to organize parks by specific features like playgrounds, hiking trails and basketball courts.
Their latest innovation, ALCO Shuttle App, provides schedules, maps and a “trip planner” that integrates scheduled shuttle stops and BART service options to help find the best time to get from Point A to B. Caleb, who is about to enter his freshman year at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, said the App also addresses concerns expressed by County staff, including restrictions on signage that have led to some confusion among County employees about the exact location of shuttle stops.
The solution: the App features Google “street view” pictures of each shuttle stop, which should resolve any questions about where the Shuttle will be making its next scheduled stop.
“I really enjoyed the internship with Alameda County,’’ said Stephen. “It was such a valuable experience to be able to work with IT professionals and pick their brains about how to go about pursuing my own career in technology.’’
Added Caleb: “The people at the County were really welcoming and supportive. It feels good to have used our time with the County to come up with an App that hopefully will help County employees with their commutes and maybe even have a positive impact in reducing traffic on local roads.’’