Get on board: The GIS center at UNCG makes catching a bus simpler, with Google Transit
Story by Mike Harris
Matt Catanzarite takes the bus to UNCG most days. He knows what riders want and need. And, as part of UNCG’s Center for Geographic Information Science, he’s helped create something that makes catching a bus around town a lot simpler.
It’s an app, called Google Transit. Anyone in Greensboro can now pull out a smartphone or access the application on a laptop, and their best transit options at that moment show up almost instantly.
“It’s a dynamic map,” explains Dr. Rick Bunch, geography professor and director of the GIS center, where Catanzarite is research associate. “It’s a GIS, is what it is. The app is based on the fundamental architecture of GIS.”
The center, part of UNCG’s Office of Research and Economic Development, analyzes and models the geographic aspects of human and natural phenomena. Its many projects range from radio wave propagation modeling with North Carolina’s Department of Commerce to spatial analysis.
Scott Milman and Suzanne Williams in UNCG’s Parking Operations & Campus Access Management brought the Greensboro Transit Authority and the center together. They knew the positive impact the collaboration could have.
Bunch, as well as Catanzarite and Anna Tapp, associate director at the center, worked with GTA. They faced challenges. “It’s not straightforward,” Bunch explains. For example, in using the data, you have to consider the direction of travel. “The data has to have intelligence.”
“It’s a unique combination of location data using x,y coordinates and route scheduling,” Catanzarite says.
“Matt took the data and put it in a format that Google Transit could understand and display,” Bunch adds.
Kevin Elwood, strategic information specialist for GTA, spoke of the expertise UNCG’s GIS center brought to the project. “It was invaluable.”
He likes that GTA riders can now see how much they save each time they ride the bus.
Tapp, a Geography doctoral student, notes it’s particularly helpful for “people who are tech savvy but not necessarily bus-system savvy.” Catching the bus that first time is a lot easier. She wants more people to take a bus, cutting down on carbon emissions. “One vehicle – and not 20.”
In recent months, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) has asked the center to do the same for its riders. That project is nearly complete.
What does Catanzarite like most about the work? “Helping UNCG and the Triad region adopt the latest technology to increase the quality of life for the community.”
“It may seem like a small thing but as soon as local residents get used to using Google Transit, and visitors become aware of the fact that Google Transit is an option, we will be part of something bigger.”
Want to try the Google Transit app? Visit http://maps.google.com. Click “Get Directions” and the bus icon at the top left. Plug in your location and destination. You’ll see all your best options for GTA buses, when and where the buses leave and arrive, and maps of each option. And soon you’ll see it for PART as well.
Photography by David Wilson