“Alpha release” of the Flexible Trip Planner

In March we visited Vermont, and heard directly from the public transit agencies in the state about what their main goals for the new statewide trip planner were. We followed up in April with conversations with each agency to understand in depth the services they offer, and how they deliver those services to Vermont riders.

Since then, we’ve been focusing on the core technologies that the project is meant to deliver. Today are happy to announce that we’ve made an alpha version of the flexible trip planner. Based off a provisional GTFS-flex data set for Rural Community Transportation we’ve deployed for QA testing a complete flexible trip planner that includes Hail-and-Ride, Dial-a-Ride, and Deviated-Fixed services.

There are still many bugs to work out, but it’s exciting to see these trips surfaced in exactly the ways we planned.

Hail-and-Ride

One of the most common forms of semi-flexible transit in rural areas is the “hail-and-ride” service. Because designated stops aren’t needed every few blocks as in urban areas, buses will stop anywhere that’s safe along a road. In today’s trip planners, riders are often directed to the nearest fixed route stop, or told no trip is possible.

Google Maps trip example suggesting that user walk a mile

Not any more. Google’s suggested 23 minute walk to the nearest bus stop is cut by more than half in the flexible trip planner.

OTP Flex suggests a walk half as long in this example

Dial-a-Ride

There’s a whole host of possible Dial-a-Ride trips in Vermont that can’t be surfaced in any trip planner today. In Bing and elsewhere, trip planners return no possible results. But every inch of the state is covered by curb-to-curb service, and most of that service is available to the general public at reasonable rates.

Now riders will always know that’s an option if they schedule in advance.

General public dial-a-ride example trip shown

Deviated-Fixed

Deviated fixed routes are exceptionally complex. They contain both fixed route and dial-a-ride-like elements, but the GTFS-flex data model combines these elements in a way that lets the flexible trip planner show those elements all in one cohesive plan.

This deviated fixed example provides curb-to-curb service along a fixed route

Flex-to-fixed connections

But the true power of the GTFS-flex specification and our new OTP code is on display when flexible transit comes into direct contact with fixed route transit. Today’s trip planners will only show connections between fixed routes and walking, biking, or driving modes–they leave out the efficient transit trip that connects the commuter to a fixed route via Dial-a-Ride.

This example connects dial-a-ride service to a fixed-route commuter run

Now the fun part

Up next: weeks of thorough testing before a trip to Vermont in about 2 months to go over the details of how to display certain UI elements on site.

Want to help us test or share your thoughts on design and development? Let us know below.

Thomas brings to Trillium 7 years of experience in small business consulting and management, expertise in financial analysis and modeling, and a dedication to the creation of processes that serve our clients efficiently and effectively. He specializes in project management and business process development, leading Trillium's website projects, consulting with agencies on marketing content, and integrating technology systems into agency business processes. Thomas grew up in Portland, Oregon, and has been biking and riding TriMet as his primary forms of transportation since age 16. He is an avid gardener, learning to love shade-tolerant plants since moving into a house surrounded by large trees. Prior to working at Trillium, he researched and designed a portfolio of private equity investments in Ghana, and developed over a hundred financial models for businesses ranging in annual revenues from $100K to $100M.