My 3/29/09 Missoulian column
After playing with Google Earth and Google Maps, I was pointed to a little-known service called Google Transit, which provides schedules and information for public transportation in 50 cities all over the world. I tried it out and found that Transit will give you exact directions and tell you how far you need to walk or ride a bike to catch one of Mountain Line’s buses around Missoula.
I called Mountain Line and talked with Stephanie Millar, one of the bus line’s planners, about Transit. She told me that people “love it,” and is sure it has helped increase ridership.
Millar has given presentations to Mountain Home Montana, Missoula Aging Services and other organizations and says Transit is very helpful to service providers as they can sit down with clients and plan travel arrangements with them.
Mountain Line’s participation in Google Transit began when Jordan Hess (currently a University of Montana student) approached the transportation service several years ago and offered to get their schedules and information on the application.
He’s worked on local public transportation issues, so he and Mountain Line arranged a work study with UM’s Geography Department and, after a few months, the information went up on Transit.
At Google Transit’s main page, I find it easiest to click on Montana on the map, then the link to Mountain Line in the box and then one of the example routes already listed on the left side of the page.
You can then type in the start location and the destination. Be sure to click “show options” in order to enter a departure date and time, too. Then click “get directions” and see your route listed. Transit can take a bit of clicking around, but it’s worth the effort.
If you already use Google Maps, you don’t need to go specifically to Google Transit to see Mountain Line schedules and make travel plans. All you have to do is zoom in on Missoula in Google Maps. Then, when you’re close enough to the street, you’ll see bus stop markers. Click on a bus stop and you’ll see a pop-up that gives route information with an option to plan a trip with Transit.
There are some updates to Missoula’s transit maps that will go up this Monday, the day each week that Google updates Transit. And Mountain Line is working on a mobile version of their schedules – for BlackBerry and smartphone users, etc. at mobile.mountainline.com.