Thursday, May 21, 2009

Using Google Transit on Google Maps for Mobile

Lack of information is a barrier to using transit. To go somewhere, you have to know how to get there. In a car, you have maps and potentially a GPS device. For transit in LA, you have Trip Planner, time tables, and a stylish, but not geographically representative, map of routes and lines. These resources are hard for a visitor or first time transit rider to find, nonetheless figure out in a little over an hour.

Luckily, in San Francisco , BART and Muni are on Google Transit. While I was up there last weekend, I documented an hour of using my Blackberry 8820 with GPS, and Google Transit on Google Maps for Mobile to navigate the city.

I had some time to kill, so I decided to get some Dim Sum in Chinatown. I'm unfamiliar with San Francisco, so I used Yelp, an online review site, to find a good place to go. I went to their mobile site and searched for "dim sum" in Chinatown, San Francisco, CA. In the first page of results, I found a place with 4 stars called Delicious Dim Sum, which was what I was looking for.

I then searched for "Delicious Dim Sum" on Google Maps for Mobile and found out how to get there using transit. There was a bus departing from two blocks away in just a few minutes.

Google Transit showed me how to walk there:

What the bus stop looked like:

And what time the bus was leaving:

I hopped on the 9X to go to Chinatown.

While I was in transit, my Cousin sent me a text telling me that he and his brother would be grabbing beers before the Giants game near AT&T Park. I told them I'd be there around 6.

I hopped off the bus in Chinatown and walked about a block to Delicious Dim Sum.

And it was delicious:

While eating the pork bun, I searched for the 21st Amendment Brewery on Google Maps for Mobile and found transit directions to get there. I had to walk a few blocks down Jackson Street to get to the stop.

When I got to the stop, Muni's next bus sign not only let me know how long I would be waiting

but also that Muni was subject to state cuts to transit operating funds and what I could do to learn more.

I got on the bus, and had about 20 minutes in transit, so I used my blackbery to update my facebook status

and check the news back home.

I was also able to follow my progress along the route:

(I'm at the blue dot, the route is the blue line, green diamond is beginning, red diamond is destination, orange diamonds are embarkation and disembarkation)

When I got off the bus I had a short walk:

and then I grabbed a beer with my cousins:

I did all of this in about an hour and 15 minutes. I was unfamiliar with the system (I event tried to use my declining balance BART ticket on Muni), but Google Transit made it easy to figure out.

Want experiences like this in LA? Join the effort to get Metro and the munis on Google Transit by joinining the Los Angeles Wants Google Transit Facebook group.

More than intent needed to ride Gold Line extension

I applaud the Gold Line Construction Authority and Citrus's College student efforts to raise the attention of public transportation investments in the Foothill corridor. However, their "I will ride" campaign should be an "I would ride" campaign. Students support the proposed line as, it would serve the Citrus College campus. These students probably easily envision walking, biking, or driving to a gold line station, taking the line to Citrus Ave, then walking the 1/3 to 1/2 mile to their destination on campus. However, most of these students will be gone in two years. If the these students and the Gold Line's supporters really want to ride the line, they should lobby their local city councils for land use policies which support light rail use, so that they will have ample reason and opportunity to ride when the Gold Line extension is built.
People travel because they want to get from here to there. There would be no sense in riding the Gold Line extension if it does not go where the supporters want to go. No one with a car at their disposal wants to upwards of walk a mile and a half to and from a station to get to their final destination. Thus, it is critical to concentrate housing, jobs, and places people want to go near the future stations, so that someone can get on the train in Glendora and go grab dinner and watch a movie in Claremont. If the “heres” and “theres” in the future Foothill Corridor are not near proposed Gold Line stations, then fixed-route light rail would be difficult to use for such a trip.

For light rail to have enough “heres” and “theres” around stations to be viable (still subsidized by local sales and property taxes, but high enough ridership to offer frequent service), the area around the stations should have roughly twenty housing units per acre. This type of land use allows people to buy or rent near a station so that they easily take advantage of all benefits the line has to offer. With fewer people living near stations, generally a line would require such a high subsidy to operate (at least 4 to and as much as 10 times the price of a ticket), that during times of budget cuts the line’s operator would not be able to offer frequent enough service to get people on the train. No one wants to wait 30 minutes to take a train. Those who did want to near stations would have to pay higher prices for rent and houses because of the low supply of housing in the area.

A previous generation of Citrus College students missed a great opportunity to promote the land uses necessary to give residents access to the light rail line. The Rosedale master-planned community is a new 518-acre neighborhood currently under construction right across the street from Citrus College and adjacent to the proposed Gold Line station at Citrus Ave. When completed, the neighborhood will have about 2.5 houses per acre – far below what will be needed to, in the future, house even a fraction of the 28,000 students currently attending colleges within 1/2 a mile of a proposed station.