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August/September 2000

Riders Make the Connection With Web-based Trip Planner

Lost in the sea of Bay Area transit operators? Trying to stay afloat while connecting on different transit lines? Soon, MTC will throw out a lifeline when it unveils TakeTransitTM, a novel way to plan trips via the Web.

Starting this fall, the TakeTransitTM trip planner will be accessible through MTC's popular Bay Area transit information Web page ( After the user enters a starting point and destination, TakeTransitTM shows which lines to take, and when and where to board them, down to the exact corner of the closest bus stop. The system also calculates the complete cost of the trip and generates detailed maps to show the locations of the transit stops.

Transit riders will be able to instantly plan trips involving multiple routes and operators. And they won't need to know the exact addresses of their origin or destination, as the system is programmed to recognize street intersections and landmarks.

"The TakeTransitTM trip planner is a complex system that currently coordinates schedule, fare, route and map data for over 400 routes and 10,000 bus stops and transit stations. Keeping the information up to date and accurate is our biggest job," said Emilio Escudero, project manager for MTC.

The trip planning system offers several options: It can compute the trip with the fastest possible itinerary, or search for the route with the lowest fare. It also can minimize the amount of walking necessary or the number of transfers.

The transit information Web page, which hosts TakeTransitTM, was created independently in 1994 -- during the Web's infancy -- by Daniel Gildea and Mikael Sheikh, two University of California, Berkeley, undergrads. In 1996, MTC assumed sponsorship of the site, which now receives 88,000 hits per day.

TakeTransitTM is based on a similar trip planning system in use in the Los Angeles area. Implementation in the Bay Area has proven to be a challenge, as the transit network here is much denser and involves more operators than in Los Angeles. In the Bay Area, a form of the TakeTransitTM system has been used by telephone information operators at the involved transit agencies since 1999.

Eventually, the system will allow trip planning to and from any location in all nine counties of the Bay Area. The system now includes the operating area of four of the area's biggest transit agencies -- AC Transit, BART, San Francisco Muni and Central Contra Costa Transit Authority (County Connection) -- as well as Union City Transit, airport shuttles, ferry systems and other connecting carriers. Escudero expects all Bay Area operators to be on the system in 18 to 24 months.
-- Patrick Runkle