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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.