TriMet recently launched a new trip planner that is designed for use on smartphones and has some upgraded tools for people to who need help finding efficient ways to get around the Portland Metro area without their own car.
You can tell it to integrate use of e-scooters, your personal bike or Biketown without having to map everything out separately.
This is a welcome upgrade, especially as other trip planning apps like Google Maps have started including rideshare services in transit routes, adding some confusion for people who want to get around on transit without hopping into a Lyft or Uber.
I’m a devoted Google Maps user for the simple reason that I’ve been using it since I first started traveling around town on my own almost 10 years ago. Although at first I mostly used it to route me places while driving my car, I’ve also found it helpful for planning out transit routes, especially in cities I’m not super familiar with.
But when I saw a Twitter thread from Portlander (and bikey TikTok star) Jenna Phillips that she posted after Google Maps directed her to the PDX airport from North Portland with a “transit” route that included taking a Lyft for six minutes, I realized I’d been seeing this a lot lately too.
If you include hailing a rideshare as part of your transit journey, you could get from North Portland to the airport in 33 minutes, give or take traffic. But for people who want a carfree trip, Google Maps pulls a bait and switch: it would take more than an hour and multiple transfers to take the MAX or the bus.
This doesn’t just happen when going to the airport, either. As an example, I pulled up how to get from my house in the Richmond neighborhood of Portland to the Sellwood Riverfront Park. It would take 52 minutes to take the 75 and 70 buses with a 10 minute walk.
But wait! I could save a whole four minutes and the walk if I chose to take the 75 bus to Milwaukie and then call a Lyft for the rest of the trip. And it would only require me to shell out $12-14 extra on top of the $2.50 bus fare (sarcasm intended).
Google Maps didn’t suggest this, but with a little extra research I found out I could also take the 75 bus for about 30 minutes with my bike on the bus rack and then ride the 12 minutes to the park: the fastest option of all.
This is all to say there are various ways to mix transit to get around in ways that don’t include getting in a car, but you might need to be savvy with Google Maps to bypass their suggestions.
The TriMet trip planner, on the other hand, allows you to do a lot of helpful fine-tuning. You can input your walking speed, how far you’re willing to walk and whether to prioritize speed or fewer transfers on your journey.
Another cool feature in the new TriMet planner is how you can tell it to integrate use of e-scooters, your personal bike or Biketown without having to map everything out separately and do the addition in your head. Or you can select bike only, and see the bike route mapped out for you, changing time estimates based on your selected biking speed. TriMet even allows you to set a maximum distance you are willing to bike for the entire trip.
You can select rideshare on the TriMet planner as well, but it doesn’t do it automatically, so it’s clear what you’re signing up for when you input your location.
The TriMet planner is a web browser-based service, but you can add it to your phone’s home page so it effectively serves as an app. The thing I like most is seeing all the buses and trains in real time, moving around like little ants across the map. Not only does that help you figure out when your bus is coming, but it also leaves users with a sense of, “Dang, there are a lot of buses out there!” which is a subtle way to communicate high service levels, which in turn boosts confidence and ultimately encourages ridership.
I’d love to know how you usually map out your routes. Do you think there any situations where rideshare should be lumped in with transit? Let us if you’ve run into problems with Google Maps or other similar services and how you feel about TriMet’s new planner.
Taylor has been BikePortland’s staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org