Metro Transit Trip Finder and biking distances

On occasion, I must venture into the distant suburbs. On these jaunts, I typically look for a bus-bike combo trip since I won't have access to a shower and am not normally that excited about biking 10 miles in the suburbs anyway.

For anyone who has tried a similar bike-bus combo to the transit-scarce suburbs, you've probably found Trip Finder's 1-mile max "walking distance" frustrating when you are trying to plan  your trip. Recently, I asked about whether they could extend it for biking.

Metro Transit's response after the jump...

Gordon Paulsen, Supervisor in Metro Transit Transit Information Center, responded very quickly with:

We appreciate hearing from you, and I understand what you mean about the online Trip Planner.

Metro Transit does not own or control the Planner; like nearly all transit authorities in North America and Europe, we rent it from its developer.

And there is a reason why the default “walking distance” is set for one-half mile:  that is the point at which the mathematical formula that underlies the Planner works optimally.  While the developer does allow some leeway greater and lesser than that amount, there is frequently some degradation in the software’s ability to choose realistic options.

And the current version of the Planner shows a clear tenancy to display less than optimal trips when the walking factor is greater than one mile.

I am part of a test group that is playing with a future version that allows distances of up to 5 miles (and, in some cases, up to 15 miles) because I have been sharing comments from bikers like yourself with the developer for about 5 or more years.  Unfortunately, I am coming to the conclusion that the test version is not yet “ready for primetime.”

So I am continuing to use some of the other tools on the website to assist callers who are willing to consider walking or biking more than one mile.  The primary alternate tool is the interactive Transit Map.

The map allows a user to find the location they wish (for the origin or the destination) and look for nearest bus stops.  The map allows the user to zoom in far enough to identify specific bus stops (even stops on either side of a street/road) and view the routes which service individual stops, with links available direct to the schedule for that route(s).   You can even plan a trip to or from that stop (and then the bike route from the stop to the real origin or destination is up to the user using our map or other mapping resources.

So I guess this was all a long-winded way of recognizing your needs while not yet having a perfect solution to meeting them!

But I haven’t given up.  You also have numerous allies within the agency who are also intent on improving our tools for those who include biking in the transportation option, so I know our work is not yet done.

I hope you’ll continue to share your questions and concerns with us, and please know that we consider the entire website a “work in progress” rather than a finished product.