Article by Mike Harris
You want to get across town. Which bus routes are best for you at that moment – and when does each run?
Open the new Greensboro Google Transit app. Plug in your location, and then plug in your destination. You’ll see your best options for GTA or HEAT buses/routes, when and where the buses would leave and arrive, and maps of each option.
Greensboro’s version of Google Transit has been beta-tested, and it launched on Jan. 16. Kevin Elwood at GTA (Greensboro Transit Authority) has led the project. Elwood notes the version will even tell you how much you will save vs. the estimated cost of driving.
It was created through collaboration between the Greensboro Transit Authority and UNCG’s Center for Geographic Information Science, led by Dr. Rick Bunch. Bunch is a professor of geography and director of the center.
What is Google Transit? It’s an app to access routes and sites for public transit in Greensboro, Bunch explains. “It’s a dynamic map.” Students – or anyone in Greensboro – will be able to pull out their smartphone or access the application on their laptop, and have the best transit options available at that moment shown almost instantly.
Bunch, as well as Matt Catanzarite and Anna Tapp at the center, worked in a collaborative way with GTA in 2012. The goal was to integrate bus route and schedule information with Google Maps. They all thought they could have the essential work for the Google Transit app done in weeks. But there were 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.” The data must also be correct, complete, and pass Google’s stringent quality assurance and control measures, he explained.
They used data that George Linney at GTA provided. And helped in bringing the Greensboro version of the app to fruition. “It’s a GIS, is what it is,” Bunch explains. “The app is based on the fundamental architecture of GIS.”
Elwood explains that Scott Milman and Suzanne Williams in UNCG’s Parking Operations & Campus Access Management brought GTA and UNCG’s Center for Geographic Information Science together. Milman and Williams knew the project could result in something very helpful for many students – and the Greensboro community at large.
Bunch’s GIS Center, part of UNCG’s Office of Research and Economic Development, is an educational research entity that solves, analyzes and models the geographic aspects of human and natural phenomena. Their many projects since their creation in 2006 range from radio wave propagation modeling with North Carolina’s Department of Commerce to conducting spatial analysis for research partners and companies.
Elwood spoke of the expertise UNCG’s GIS Center brought to the project. “It was invaluable.”
Try the app at http://maps.google.com. Click the bus icon (between the car icon and pedestrian icon) at the top left. Type your location in slot A and your destination in slot B, in order to see your public transit options.
UNCG students and employees with their ID card may ride GTA buses, including HEAT buses, without paying fare. Contact UNCG POCAM for more information.