IOWA CITY — Planning a trip on public transportation is now simple as just Googling it.
Transit systems in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Coralville and the University of Iowa’s Cambus are now integrated and searchable in Google Maps. Users can search their destination and location and get a mapped trip on public transit, which can be displayed based on fewest stops, fastest route times or least amount of walking.
“The best thing about having Google Maps is that you can type in your current address and any other address in the metro area and you can instantly see a few options for how to get there by transit, which we didn’t have before,” said Darian Nagle-Gamm, Iowa City transportation services director.
The project was part of an Iowa Department of Transportation effort to put major public transit systems onto Google Maps, so it came with no local cost. A third-party company, Trillium, which helped convert the systems’ routes and stops data into a format, called General Transit Feed Specification, that could be used by Google or other transportation apps, Nagle-Gamm said.
The Google Maps option was launched earlier this fall, but Iowa City announced the effort in late October after some testing.
All three bus systems in Johnson County still use the Bongo app, which can predict departure and arrival times as well as track the buses in real time, but it does not have a “trip-making feature” like Google Maps, Nagle-Gamm said.
Previously, transit users had to call to ask staff what routes might be best for them or map a trip themselves.
“It’ll help demystify the transit system a bit and help just educate folks on how they can get from here to there across the community with the touch of a button,” Nagle-Damm said.
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In Cedar Rapids, transit riders can still use the Ride CRT website and app to view live routes, but the Google Maps function allows for trip planning, too.
Routes for the 380 Express, a commuter bus established by Iowa DOT that travels round-trip from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City while the Interstate 380/I-380 interchange is under construction, also can be mapped with Google’s transit feature.
With the ease of trip planning, Iowa City staff are hoping public transit will see increased ridership.
“One of the maybe mental barriers, especially with folks who aren’t as familiar with transit, is that you have to figure out what routes you need to take,” Nagle-Gamm said. “If you have that information in the palm of your hands, in a platform that you’re probably already using ... then I think it just makes things all the easier to try to choose to take transit.”
To use the new system, people can either go to google.com/maps or download the Google Maps app on mobile devices. Then users should select the bus icon, enter a destination and choose a trip.
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