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First look at TriMet’s new multimodal trip planner

Posted by on October 14th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Bibiana McHugh of TriMet gave a
special sneak preview of the tool today.
(Photo: Michael Andersen)

This guest post is by Michael Andersen of Portland Afoot, PDX’s 10-minute newsmagazine and wiki for transit commuters.

Already known internationally for its top-notch website and pioneering use of open data, Portland’s transit agency is about to take another leap toward making low-car life easy and intuitive.

With the launch of its new Regional Trip Planner – that’s the link to the latest version, which will go live on TriMet’s website tomorrow – TriMet will be the first American transit agency whose website uses open-source software to plan trips the way low-car humans do: by figuring out the best combination of bike, train, bus, foot and even, eventually (gasp) automobile.

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“Multimodal functionality is a highly requested feature that not even Google can offer,” said Bibiana McHugh, the TriMet data specialist who led TriMet’s three-year effort, at a presentation Friday.

Using the interesting new “bicycle triangle” tool developed by TriMet’s team, you’ll be able to choose a balance among speed, safety and elevation changes, letting you customize the trip to your preferences and energy level.

20111014-053414.jpg

Carolyn Young, TriMet’s outgoing executive director for marketing and communications, predicted that the new planner “is going to be the envy of the transit industry.”

Last week, Jonathan laid out the basic functions of the new planner, which was funded by two grants from Metro and executed by a team of in-house developers and interns and a contract with Open Plans (a nonprofit you might also know as the publisher of Streetsblog). Some new nuggets we learned Friday:

  • The trip planner will soon include bike parking: TriMet bike and rides, city bike corrals and even bike staples.
  • It already features Zipcar locations right on the map, and might eventually be able to tell you whether a particular Zipcar is available. To find this, click “carshare” in the lower left of the new map.
  • Within the next year to 18 months, partnerships with nearby agencies C-Tran, SMART and CHERRIOTS will let you plan transit and bike trips all the way from Battle Ground, Wash., down to Salem.
  • In two years or so, you’ll even be able to build an auto trip to the nearest park-and-ride into your trip plan. TriMet is in talks with the Portland Police Bureau about gathering data on street directionality, speed limits and other necessary details.
  • Third-party applications – the sort that could, for example, let you use your mobile phone to calculate the flattest bike route over Alameda Ridge – can’t yet plug into the system. That’s one of the many features that McHugh said will be introduced in the coming months, with new features every couple weeks.

The new trip planner won’t immediately replace TriMet’s familiar, proprietary version; TriMet expects to run them both in parallel for “three to six months,” McHugh said.

In the meantime, McHugh’s eager for input from early users. Have at it.

Portland Afoot’s October issue visited Silicon Valley to reveal seven secrets about the future of carsharing. BikePortland readers can subscribe for $10 a year with discount code BIKEPORTLAND.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Peter NoonePaul JohnsonMichael Andersen (Contributor)Grant Humphries (TrIMet Intern)Mele Recent comment authors
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Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

How is “safest” determined?

I had it suggest that I ride down Division, if I selected fastest, but even 1% safest would make it switch to a bus on division. I guess it considers the bus faster than taking a bike boulevard, but you can’t compare routes easily, like google, and it does not list wait times like the current tracker.

S
Guest
S

I can’t get this to work. I enter all my info, but there is no “engage” button anywhere on the page that I can discern. How do I get it load the data so it will actually show me my trip options?

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

I just tried to plan a route from my home near Alpenrose dairy to the Beaverton Library. Search form worked fine, then got a “Loading” icon for about 13 minutes (literally) before I bailed on it. Other content is loading fine.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

OK. It worked on the second try. Nice tool. Unfortunately, it still tells me I have to walk a mile (literally) to catch a bus, and that my mid-length trip will take an hour one-way. (Walk from Maplewood to Garden Home, Bus from Garden Home to Washington Square, Transfer to bus from Washington Square to Beaverton). I’ll try a route to Hillsdale. Maybe Trimet is telling me I’m using the wrong library.

Machu Picchu
Guest
Machu Picchu

Planning trips by bicycle or “bike and transit” not possible from my home (SW Portland)to either Beaverton or Hillsdale. Error says maybe “outside of map data area”. I guess I will say that I hope it works well for the majority of users, as it seems like a neat-o tool that doesn’t really work for me.

Alain
Guest
Alain

Cool, ah, it mostly works, that is to say it found some places and not others, or it provided routes that I didn’t consider fastest of safest. But it’s a great start or even mid-point. I’m certain it’s hard to build this stuff, so I don’t know what the challenges are on the back-end. The UI looks good. I tried to route from my home on N Williams to Fed-X, and it only provided me one option, which was on Swan Island (where I want to go), but the destination was not the exact location of the Fed-X drop-off spot. Like Google Maps it provides routes, but if one is not familiar with an area, then the route finder does not always locate the best routes (fastest/safest). Better to have something you can use to get 80% closer to knowing your route and then tweak as you experience the ride, then nothing at all. Or maybe it better to go blind and have to way-find by landmarks and odd features, always leaving and hour early to allow for wrong turns.

mos'osm
Guest
mos'osm

Worked great for me. There are tabs at the top that you can use to plan trips by bike only, bus only, and bike-and-bus and then compare routes. The elevation chart is helpful, too – Google doesn’t have that.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

It’s important to note that this is a public beta still in development, and not the final product, so don’t judge too harshly, and definitely email trimet at rtpfeedback@trimet.org so Bibana and the gang can get an idea of what hangups people are running into.

jim
Guest
jim

Why did they spend all this money for new software when there was nothing wrong with the old software? Is this a case of “spend it or lose it?”

jason
Guest
jason

I’m so glad the “Longest walk” parameter goes out beyond one mile. That was always a headache for me when trying to combine trimet/bike travel with the old trip planner. I’m more than happy to bike four or five miles if it will save me a connection or a long wait.

was carless
Guest
was carless

This tool seems incredibly useful. Great for planning longer trips than in my neck of the woods, should help me avoid nasty hills! And its combining transit and biking… finally!

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Peter Noone
So, because I ask a question you don’t like, I’m an astroturfer? I’m sure that attitude’s useful in helping get everyone on board.

You missed the point. Where were you when a commercial package that can’t be fixed and that doesn’t do everything TriMet’s customers need it to do was selected? Why is changing to an open platform that does what it needs to and can be adapted in the future suddenly a cost issue in your mind? Keep in mind your conspicuous absence in the former reduces the weight of any possible answer to the latter.