TrinityTransit.org: Making rural transit service attractive and easy-to-use
TrinityTransit.org is the new website for the transit service in Trinity County, California. It replaces the previous website that was group of sub-pages at the Trinity County Transportation Commission website.
There are about 14,000 people who live in Trinity County. Despite the small scale of the Trinity Transit service, the agency believed it was important to have an attractive and usable website.
Here’s how our team (Aaron Antrim, Paul Clay, and Selena Barlow) accomplished the goals of making Trinity Transit more visible and attractive as a brand, and of making the service easier for customers to use.
The website shows the Trinity Transit logo and brand by integrating it with the rest of the page. Trinity County is a beautiful, mountainous area. It was tempting to feature the scenery in the foreground of the page but instead we chose to make this image the page background. Almost literally, it provides a “setting” for the rest of the site contents. Customers identify with images of people, so we show a passenger boarding the bus in the foreground.
The primary focus of the homepage is the regional map. Click a route and the timetable for that route appears. The interactive regional map is an example of a design principle we used to guide this project: customers should be able to find the all important information with just one click.
This regional route map shows Trinity Transit service as well as important connecting services provided by KT-NET and Redwood Transit System. This map is the same one that was featured in print materials recently developed for Trinity Transit.
Above the route map is a trip planner form that refers customers to Google Maps. The trip planner form allows the customer to select a particular stop or enter an address, place, or intersection. This is important because Trinity Transit serves remote areas. Some stops are on the side of rural highways. Addresses for these locations, and places nearby, are hard to find. Additionally, many destinations may be more than 4 miles from a transit stop location, which is the limit of driving or walking distance in Google Maps. Thus, in many cases, it may be easiest for customers to select a particular stop location in the system.
A small link beneath the trip planner provides more information about Google Maps and mobile applications. This page lists connecting transit providers with schedule information available through Google Maps, provides a General Transit Feed Specification data link for developers, links to City-Go-Round, a directory of 3rd party transit applications, and provides information about Google Maps for mobile.
Our team made information straightforward. When we edited the site language, we asked “What is the essential information? How can everything non-essential or redundant be eliminated?” This language editing carried down to the level of eliminating individual words. For example, the caption and instructions for the regional map originally read “REGIONAL MAP: Click a colored route in the map to see timetable information.” This was subsequently shortened to “REGIONAL MAP: Click a colored route to view its timetable.” Originally, the submit button for the trip planner form read “Plan trip with Google Maps.” But because the header already says “Plan a trip”, this was redundant. Text that describes the action of the button was necessary, so we changed the text to eliminate the redundancy and provide new information. The new text is “See itinerary in Google Maps.”
The website is implemented using a content management system (CMS), so the transit agency staff can add, remove, and modify news items and edit other content without packaged software like Dreamweaver, and without paying for consultant time. The CMS provides an easy web-based interface for adding and removing news items, and editing content across the website.
Check out TrinityTransit.org and let us know what you think. If your agency would like a website like this, Trillium is available to help. The new website was created as part of a collaboration between Transit Marketing LLC and Trillium.
5 thoughts on “TrinityTransit.org: Making rural transit service attractive and easy-to-use”
I like the minanalist approach. The two things I always want from a transit agency’s website are timetables and fares. A couple of points:
* The timetables for the Weavervilel Shuttle is only available from the ‘timetables’ page. There is nothing on the front page of the website to imply it even exists!
* The fares page is slightly confusing. What’s with all the “zone” things as a column heading? The table provdies you with zones by start and end point, so where the zone boundaries are is moot.
* Similarly, it’s not clear what happens when your start and end points aren’t within the same table. (I’ like to select my start point, and see the fares to all destinations… or select my origin and destination, and see the fare).
[bother, didn’t mean to post just yet]
I like the timetable pages… although do we need to have “AM” or “PM” after every single time? (I find it odd that it’s not the 24-hour clock, but that’s clearly a deliberate feature.)
Thanks for your great comments.
This is a great website! Is Google Transit still focusing on rural areas and implementing it in rural areas? Some folks in Colorado seem to believe they are not going to be continuing this and will only focus on metropolitan fixed routes.
Secondly – I expected to see a map of each route when I clicked on the timetable to orient myself visually. Is there not one because the stops are difficult to map? You might have answered this in the post above but I didn’t catch it. 🙂
I am happy to hear you like the website, Noelle.
I am curious what map display you expected on, or linked from, the timetable pages. An individual stick map for the route? Stop locations plotted in Google Maps? The entire line in Google Maps?
I think an ideal implementation would make every stop in the timetable a hyperlink that brings up a little popup map (Google Maps, Bing, or OpenStreetMap) that highlights the stop location and route alignment. The user could click a “full screen” link to go to a larger interactive map. They could also link to this from the timetable page.
The short answer as to why we didn’t do this is lack of budget. We’re working on a way to automatically generate timetables (a la http://redwoodtransit.org/schedules/weekday/north/), that is generalized, so we can apply it for most agencies. But again, we just didn’t have time and budget to implement for this particular project.
As to your question as to whether Google Maps transit directions will become oriented entirely around metropolitan areas instead of rural areas: I have not seen any indication of this occurring. Further, I would strongly doubt that Google would would abandon serving rural areas with transit data when the company has demonstrated their commitment to broad coverage with other features (for example, Street View), when Google have an active user base in the rural areas, and when Google has already invested a significant effort in welcoming many rural, micro-urban, and intercity transit services to participate in the Google Transit Partner Program.