Friday, December 19, 2008

Catching a Ride

Memphians have longed used Google for finding information, images, and maps. Now, through a collaboration between MATA and Google Transit, they can use it to find local bus routes.

"Google Transit is a trip planning program that Google provides that integrates with their Google map program," says Tim Moreland, a member of the Sustainable Shelby initiative and a planner with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). "Anytime you get directions on Google maps, you can click to get directions by car, by transit, or by walking, and you can see how long it will take to get there by each way."

MATA had an existing trip planner, but Moreland had heard about Google Transit — which is available in places such as Denver, Miami, Chicago, Austin, and New York — and thought it would be good for the city.

"I had used the MATA trip planner, but I really liked the interface of Google Transit. It's much slicker; it's more intuitive," Moreland says.

MATA just had to provide Google with their data and routing information. The service is free and currently online.

"Since it's Google, you get to use their database. When you create your own trip planner, you don't have an index of where different businesses are," Moreland says. "With Google, you can do simple searches like 'I want to go from the FedExForum to the Flying Saucer."

Google Transit can also be used on smart phones, so that people already out and about can use it to find their transit options. Both the MPO and MATA say they are interested in increasing ridership on public transit.

"This is really simple," Moreland says. "The hope is that this will make it easier for existing riders to use MATA, but also make it easier for visitors and choice riders. They can get online and see what's available."

For a quick tutorial from Moreland, click here.

(Hat tip to Smart City!)


Randal Cooper said...

Based on the example provided, it appears that MATA is twice as fast as walking. Impressive! In fact, they should make that their new slogan.

MATA: Twice As Fast As Walking, Just As Fast As Riding A Bike.

Naomi Van Tol said...

This is awesome. Seriously.

MATA's still slow and clunky, true, but at least now people can get point-to-point directions that make sense. Thanks for getting that done, Tim Moreland!