Published September 17, 2002
Volume 10, Number 9

Plan Your Commute Online with MTC’s TakeTransit Trip Planner

The Internet has given us access to a tremendous amount of information, from news stories that can be read before the morning newspaper arrives to product information that helps us make the best choices when purchasing the latest gadget. The Internet also contains a plethora of travel information. Whether you’re traveling to another country or just to the next town, you’ll find schedules for buses, planes, and trains online. Here in the Tri-Valley area, we have the benefit of numerous means of public transportation and, while each agency generally posts its schedule and fare information online, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has gone the extra mile to connect this information by offering the TakeTransit Trip Planner (www.transitinfo.org/cgi-bin/taketransit). The TakeTransit Trip Planner is an online resource that allows you to specify your starting point, destination, and travel time and receive an itinerary that tells you exactly how to get to your destination using the region’s transit systems-even if you need to use more than one system on your journey.

The Trip Planner is linked to a transit database that contains all of the schedule, fare, route, and bus stop data for transit agencies in the Bay Area. It currently contains data for 18  transit agencies, but the MTC has plans to include over 26 transit agencies when it’s completed. The TakeTransit Trip Planner debuted in early July of 2001 and has been increasing in popularity since its inception. To measure its popularity, the MTC counts the number of times that users have successfully put their data in and had the system generate an itinerary. Initially, the Trip Planner was generating 300-400 a day itineraries a day. Now, after a little more than a year, it’s generating from 5,000 to over 6,000 routes a day.

The Trip Planner is constantly being improved to make it more useful based on the feedback of its users. One of the areas that is being refined has to do with the options that you can specify to customize your trip. Among the challenges in making a computer-based system useful is the fact that it is uncompromising in generating a trip itinerary based exactly on your specifications. “The system is ferociously logical,” says Emilio Escudero, project manager for MTC’s regional transit information system. “You get what you ask for, so you sometimes need to be careful what you ask for. We are continually refining the options to make them work a little bit better.”

In Spring 2003, the MTC plans to introduce some major changes to its transit information web site, including the TakeTransit Trip Planner. At that time, the agency plans to introduce a family of PDA products that will enable you to download static schedules. Other plans include giving users the ability to identify a particular route that they’re interested in-such as those generated by the Trip Planner-then reformat the itinerary and download it to their PDA. The MTC is also exploring ways for a corporate web site or portal to embed the TakeTransit Trip Planner more functionally and customize it to make it more relevant to their particular company and the kind of transit information they need. All in all, MTC is taking advantage of technology to make it easier and more convenient than ever to find your way on transit.

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