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TriMet trip planner

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trip planner capture
Screenshot of TriMet's new open-source multimodal trip planning map, October 2011.

TriMet's trip planner is an online tool that calculates the best way to get from one location to another using the TriMet system, the Portland Streetcar, bike and foot.

In October 2011, TriMet launched a new version of the tool, called the Regional Trip Planner, that incorporated bicycle trip planning, bike parking, Zipcar locations, altitude changes and other new features. TriMet's new trip planner, expected to replace the existing one by mid-2012, was the first implementation of the open-source Open Trip Planner project.

TriMet was the second transit agency in the country (after Chicago's) to offer a multi-modal trip planner, allowing bike and transit for different legs of the same trip.

The trip planner's service is duplicated (and occasionally improved on) by several third-party TriMet trip planning apps.


[edit] Components

TriMet's Regional Trip Planner was built using three open-source data sets:

The agency then improved local maps by incorporating Metro maps of off-road bicycle trails and manually enhancing them based on satellite imagery purchased by Metro.

[edit] Popularity

trip planner traffic
monthly usage of TriMet trip planner, March-November 2009, courtesy Bibiana McHugh

In 2009, "trimet trip planner" was the most popular locally-specific Google search in Portland, the only such ranking for a public transit agency among the 31 U.S. cities listed. (In 2010, the search fell to second place after the phrase "student assist.")

In that year, the trip planner planned "more than 4 million trips," according to TriMet spokeswoman Bekki Witt.

[edit] Multimodal bike planning

[edit] Elevation data

In addition from helping people who use both bicycle and TriMet plan their most efficient trips, TriMet's new Regional Trip Planner incorporates elevation data into bicycle trip planning.

When planning a bicycle trip, the altitude of the land traveled appears in a green cross-section in the lower right of the screen.

[edit] Bicycle triangle

bike triangle
The "bicycle triangle" in TriMet's trip planner

The new trip planner also includes what developers referred to as a "bicycle triangle" that allows cyclists to plan their trips based on a customized mix of speed, safety and flatness. To use it, select the option "transit or bicycle" for your travel mode, then drag the green dot around the triangle to your desired priority.

"Multimodal functionality is a highly requested feature that not even Google can offer," project manager Bibiana McHugh said, presenting the feature in October 2011.

[edit] How "safety" is determined

In an email, TriMet intern Mele Sax-Barnett wrote that the "safety" measurement is based on the type of the roadway, as recorded by Open Street Map:

"The first question is, are there any bike facilities on it? This applies whether we're talking about an off-street path or a road. For an off-street path, this usually just means whether it's designated as a bike route or it's meant more for walking instead. For a road, this means it gets different weights for being a bike boulevard/neighborhood greenway (best), or having a bike lane (still good), or being a marked route, or having no bike facilities at all.

"Next, for a road a second question applies as well: what kind of street is it? This builds in much more than the size of the road. While street classification is related to number of lanes, speed, and traffic volume, we don't use those pieces of information directly in the weighting. Street classifications are tricky in general, and even trickier to convert into OpenStreetMap terms. However, we feel we have a strong understanding of them at this point and we've done a good job representing the Metro area's street network. Classifications start at service roads (like parking lots, alleys, and driveways) and residential streets, and become gradually more intense as tertiary, secondary, primary, trunk roads, and motorways (freeways). As you can imagine, roads become less "safe" for cycling as appropriate. Of course, we're always open to hearing the public's input about particular roads--is a street more intense than we're representing? The great thing about OSM is that we can easily fix that."

Traffic counts, speed limits and fatalities are not directly reflected.

[edit] Future features

McHugh said in October 2011 that within 18 months she expected to add data from neighboring transit agencies including C-Tran, SMART and CHERRIOTS. Within two years or so, she said, she hoped to incorporate auto directions, too.

The trip planner's API was not yet public in October 2011, McHugh said. Once it's released, she said it would allow third-party app developers to use many features of the new trip planner, including bicycling directions.

[edit] Development cost

The beta version of the open-source trip planner was developed by TriMet, which hired four GIS interns and the software arm of OpenPlans to assist its in-house developers in preparing the tool.

The project was funded by two grants from Metro, including a $75,000 Regional Travel Options grant for 2011.

[edit] Earlier versions

TriMet first unveiled a map-based version of the planner in 2008 at the Toward Carfree Cities Conference in Portland.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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