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TransitCamp Bay Area 2 Report

September 13, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Bicycle Maps

TransitCamp Bay Area 2
Just got back from TransitCamp 2—definitely a cool experience. Here’s the idea behind TransitCamp:

TransitCamp is inspired by BarCamp. Bar Camp events are powered by participation and collaboration. TransitCampBayArea will highlight the public transit system in the Bay Area Region and will bring together transit officials and citizens to discuss stuff like: getting schedules on the go, the future of the Bay Area transit system, experiences and observations (not complaints, though), the websites, cool ideas for attracting more riders, etc.

Lots of transit-type folks were in attendance: folks from transportation agencies, at least one San Carlos official, transportation advocates of all types, at least one mostly-bicycle advocate (me!), a few regular transit riders, and at least a couple of guys from the Google Transit team.

I managed to corner Joe Hughes. I’m not sure what Joe’s position/title at Google is, but it’s obvious from Googling around that he’s been heavily involved in transportation/technology issues for a while (I found this funny story after a brief search on Joe’s name.). Bottom line, he knew about our website and petition, and thought it was very cool, but couldn’t comment one way or the other on what Google may or may not be doing with respect to bike mapping. He mentioned that when they first released Google Transit in the Portland area, about 30% of the feedback were requests for bicycle route mapping. So, no new news, unfortunately.

One of the folks present at the meeting was Aaron Antrim, who heads Trillium Transit Internet Solutions. I first found out about Aaron and his company when researching Google Transit, right about the time this blog started. I’d meant to cover Trillium earlier, but I dropped the ball. Nonetheless, Aaron’s company is important because he helps smaller agencies get online with Google Transit, in particular, those small-to-midsized transit agencies that don’t have dedicated IT staffs. I’d like to see the numbers, but I have a suspicion that transit ridership numbers started ticking upwards in cities and towns where Google Transit started rolling out. I think it’s that good. It would be difficult to tell now, with gas prices changing so rapidly, but it seems like Trillium provides a great service. The Google Transit Google Group (message board) is filled with folks from various towns all over America asking for Google Transit in their town. At that point, Google can only say, “Please have your town create and publish a data feed that conforms to the GTFS specification, and we’ll make the rest happen.” So maybe Trillium can fill some of the in-between space there.

I’m going to post a few more notes on today’s sessions over at the San Francisco Bike Blog when I get a moment.

2 Comments to “TransitCamp Bay Area 2 Report”

  1. Sorry I didn’t meet you Peter. I was one of the other guys from Google at TCBA2. I’ve been pretty happy using walking directions for bike planning. Most recently I took a trip near Crater Lake and walking directions sent me along lots of quiet National Forest roads. Thanks to the kml output of maps, gpsbabel, cloudmade’s OSM Garmin maps, and my mapping eTrex I hardly needed to take out my paper maps. The only problems were that some paths were a little too sandy for street tires and the path coming south out of Mazama Campground appeared to be overgrown but we took Hwy 62 anyway.,-122.159729&spn=0.937166,1.768799&z=9

  2. Aaron Antrim says:

    Thanks for the mention, Peter. I thought I’d take the opportunity to re-iterate that I think one of the best approaches can take to make biking directions happen in more places on the web is to encourage the significant audience you’ve amassed here to gather data and develop tools.

    On Saturday, Tom was showing me how he downloads Open Street Map data to his Garmin GPS unit, and uses Maplint to highlight some areas that need help. Then, he captures data for streets whose data is poor and uploads it back to OSM.

    And, more specific to bike infrastructure, Brandon Martin-Anderson noted that he has captured information on all the separated bikeways in Seattle and uploaded that info to OSM. And then, it’s available to be used with Graphserver.

    A lot of folks are interested in multi-modal trip planners. It’s one of the most common requests the folks at TriMet in Portland, OR, receive, for example. The best outcome for the long-term, I think, is for bike route information to be available a variety of different ways — not just on Google Maps.

    Oh, I am curious what experience you have had reaching out to cycling advocacy groups. I wrote a letter to the League of American Bicyclists in May suggesting that they should consider online information in assigning their bicycling city designations. Never heard anything back.

    You’ve done an incredible job of building an audience here. It would be great to see the scope of the mission broadened beyond getting Google to offer biking directions.


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