Sunday, December 14, 2014

BUS STORY # 423 (Plan Your Ride: An Update)

Downloaded from Joseph M. Foster: Living the Outrageous Life

This past July, I posted a story called Plan Your Ride. The post described the three options then available on the ABQ RIDE website that enabled riders to plan a trip from point A to point B. Those three options were ABQ RIDE’s own Plan Your Ride, Google’s Maps, and Hopstop. I went on to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each option.



A couple of months ago, Hopstop disappeared from the ABQ RIDE website. This week, I discovered Plan Your Ride has also disappeared. Now, when you click on Trip Planning, you are taken directly to Google Maps. (I’ve found nothing about these changes on the website, nor in my review of the ABQ RIDE Facebook and Twitter postings.)

I’ve used Google Maps for planning bus trips both here and in other cities, and it has proven to be extremely helpful. But there are a few caveats. One is that I’ve found routes best taken using the Rapid Ride don’t always display on Google Maps when there are other options. For example, I can meet a friend at O’Neill’s on Central at 11:30 a.m. by taking the 11 to the Red Line at Nob Hill, then the 66 to O’Neill’s. Google Maps would have me stay on the 11, then walk a mile to O’Neill’s. Or else walk two miles to Central and take the 66 to O’Neill’s. The Rapid is faster, with minimal walking.

Another caveat is that your arrival time must be exact. For example, there is a neighborhood Asian restaurant, An Hy Quan, where I often meet friends for lunch. We meet at 11:30 a.m. Using the now-removed Trip Planner, I knew to catch my 11:07 departure to Juan Tabo, then five or so minutes later, catch the 1 to the stop across the street from my restaurant. The bus usually arrives around 11:32. Trip Planer always gave me options which included arrivals that were a little past my specified arrival time -- 11:32, in this case.

Google Maps is precise. Using 11:30 as an arrival time will not give me the same option. In fact, for this same trip, Google Maps tells me to catch my bus 22 minutes earlier, get off at Juan Tabo, then walk a mile to the restaurant.

A final caveat is that Google Maps doesn’t necessarily have the same schedule for ABQ RIDE that ABQ RIDE is using. I discovered this disconcerting fact earlier this week when I went down to my stop ten minutes before my bus was scheduled to arrive according to Google Maps, and almost missed my bus! I assumed my driver was way early, but when I checked the bus schedule against the actual arrival time, I found my driver was within five minutes of being on time.

I’m not sure how ABQ RIDE conveys its schedule changes to Google Maps, nor how long it takes Google Maps to incorporate those changes when it receives them. I now am sure that whenever I need to be some place on time, I better double-check the Google Maps directions against the ABQ RIDE schedules -- both for departures and transfers. It’s a pain, but not getting where you need to be when you need to be there is a bigger pain.

Still, the availability to riders of a reliable trip planer is an excellent service, and Google Maps is a wonderful tool. And the real key to making all this work is for the drivers to stay on schedule. That’s even more important than a trip planner. And, in my experience, ABQ RIDE continues to do this well.

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Last week, under the Holy Cow! link to the right of Bus Stories, I posted this link: Too few bathroom breaks drove bus drivers to adult diapers. As the report speculated, the Dept. of Labor did indeed come down hard on King County Metro. This week, a Seattle bus driver comments: About Those Urine-Soaked Seats...

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