Tuesday, August 05, 2008

UTA needs better trip planner...

The colorful mountains east of Cedar City at s...Image via WikipediaJust a quick note, in the link section of the blog, I have put in the most relevant transit links in Utah. There you will find transit information for the Wasatch Front, Park City, Cache Valley, Cedar City, St. George, and Zion National Park.

While working on that project I fiddled with UTA's Trip Planner. I have mentioned this before but I think it needs to be stated again that this is one area that UTA really needs to work on. The trip planner may be the first exposure that some people have to riding the transit system so it needs to be extremely accurate in giving the best directions. However, UTA's trip planner often is next to useless.

A few months ago when I was taking the westbound California Zephyr I decided to see how long it would take me to get to the Amtrak Station (this was before the opening of TRAX and Front Runner). The trip planner had me take the last 213 at 7:00pm then catch the 45, TRAX, 39, 209 and a couple of other buses before finally arriving at Central Station at 10:00pm. That's right a trip that should take less than an hour showed up as a 3+ hour trip.

I have used trip planners in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami and all of them work better than UTA's. As more new people discover riding the transit system it becomes even more critical to have a easy to use and useful trip planner.

What is really needed is a region wide trip planner that will not only cover the Wasatch Front but also all the transit systems in Utah and connecting services to show customers their best options. But for now it is important to improve the current trip planner from UTA.

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4 comments:

Dave said...

our system here in KC just got on board with google transit. pretty sure it's free if the agency can format their data in a specific way.

green mormon architect said...

Excellent blog and excellent post. I couldn't agree more. The UTA trip planner is clunky and hard to use. I will be moving to the area shortly and my home purchase will be based on transit lines. It has been challenging to figure it all out. Portland's system (where I currently am) is very user friendly and could serve as a model for an update of UTA's existing trip planner.

Jesse said...

Dave is right, Google Transit is free. Multiple people have emailed UTA multiple times, but they haven't got on board. The specification that the transit agencies have to follow is here:

http://code.google.com/transit/spec/transit_feed_specification.html

Also, from what it looks like, the feed Google uses doesn't support the case of FrontRunner where passengers pay per station that is passed. I could be wrong, especially because I only glanced at it.

The thing is that Google with all of it's Ph.D.s in computer science will probably be able to make a better trip planner than anything else available on the market. Also, Google transit is capable of planning trip across transit agencies. So if there was a UTA bus that connected to CVTD, Google would be able to plan a trip all the way from Spanish Fork to Utah State University.

Google transit is available on literally tens of millions of phones, along with the embedded maps and some day Google Earth. I believe that if UTA made a Google transit compatible stream, rider-ship would go up exponentially.

I'm almost at the point where I want to just make the stream myself and see of Google will take it XD. Of course that would never work. I just wish UTA would get right on it.

JMD said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. I have not had the opportunity to really go through Google's trip planner but I plan to. A feature that Google recently introduced was information on walking distances and times.

I have to agree Green Mormon Architect that Portland's system is much easier to use and does a better job of giving accurate information.