Archive for July, 2015

Tech Corner: A look at Google Maps with real-time bus data

This month’s tech corner spotlight is on Google Maps. Google Maps has evolved over the years and recently was updated to include real-time transit data including live departure times and service alerts. Choose Your Way Bellevue staffer Geri uses the app frequently for bus and car trips and is sharing five takeaways from  her experience.

How many times do we refer to Google Maps and sometimes not even realize it? If you’re like me and need extra reassurance of where you’re going, even when you already know, then Google Maps is basically glued to your thumb. I use it for almost all my trips but when it came to transit trips, I didn’t trust it. I used to get an idea of a route but would then use apps like OneBusyAway and the Trip Planner app to plan out a route. After learning that Google Maps launched a program to include real-time transit data and transit agencies in the Puget Sound area— I was thrilled! Here are my five takeaways from using Google Maps to plan my bus trips.

  1. 2It is fairly accurate- I’ve used the Google Maps to route my bus trips to and from a class I’ve been taking and the arrival time has been fairly accurate. One time after I set up my route it alerted me that my bus would be delayed two minutes. It will even tell you when your bus is early. Google Maps didn’t have this feature for the transit mode in the past.
  2. It is easy to use- If you’ve used Google Maps before or even not at all, the user experience is fluid. It’s fairly easy to switch from mode to mode (car, transit, walk or bike) with a tap of a finger. The process is as follows: enter your destination, tap the mode icon in the lower right screen, change the mode by tapping on one of the mode icons at the top of the screen, change your depart, arrival or depart times and explore more options. More options include preferences for a specific transit mode and if you want best route, fewer transfers or less walking.
  3. 1Gives you an option for Uber- Even when you choose transit as your route, an option for Uber is included with pickup time and estimated price.
  4. Provides departure times for particular stop– I particularly liked that there are departure times for the specific stop that you are at. I can’t always find this in other apps.
  5. You can add it to your calendar– My favorite part is that you can add your route to your calendar if you have a calendar app or Google (on your phone). Perfect if you have a busy day and need extra reminders.

Overall I really like using Google Maps even more now that I can plan out my bus trips in addition to car trips. Adding your trip to your calendar isn’t too bad of a deal either. Try it out and let us know what you think. What do you like about it and what do you wish there was more of? What other apps have you used to plan your trips? Comment below, on our Facebook or Twitter or email us at info@onthemovebellevue.org.

-Choose Your Way Bellevue Staffer, Geri

Friday, July 31st, 2015 5:54 PM | by geri | Add a Comment

Down the Road: what you need to know about Sound Transit and Sound Transit 3

550If you use transit regularly, chances are you’ve used Sound Transit services in one way or another. But what is Sound Transit? How does it differ from other transportation services like King County Metro or Community Transit?

While King County Metro only services King County, Sound Transit is a unique multi-county regional transportation agency aimed at increasing movement throughout the Puget Sound region. Serving King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, Sound Transit manages key transit programs like Express Bus Services, including routes 550 and 535, and has plans to build high capacity transit across the tri-county region.

Sound Transit is also the agency behind the light rail projects currently operating in Seattle and South King County. Soon, light rail construction will begin on the Eastside with stations in South Bellevue, Downtown and near Overlake Hospital. The goal is to interconnect major population centers to get people like you and me to and from work, home, and everyday activities.

Light rail as a high capacity transit method can move up to 12,000 people an hour—that’s amazing! Imagine if there were 12,000 fewer people on the road on your way to work in the morning. How would that affect your commute? Could you catch the later bus? Maybe your carpool could meet a half hour later? Would you be one of the light rail riders? Since light rail will have its own right of way on designated tracks instead of using clogged arterials, the possibilities are endless.

In a previous voter-approved measure, dubbed Sound Transit 2 (ST2), Sound Transit was given the authority to add an additional sales tax to each qualifying purchase made in the Sound Transit District to fund light rail expansions across the region. In that plan, Sound Transit developed East Link—a light rail extension from Downtown Seattle to Overlake Transit Center in Redmond, with 10 stations including Mercer Island, Downtown Bellevue and the Spring District. Construction on the East Link line is scheduled to start in early 2016 with an expected service launch of 2023.

trainHowever, given the extensive growth expected across the Puget Sound region, Sound Transit has begun planning for the next round of transit investments to expand upon the existing light rail and bus system. Earlier this month, Sound Transit wrapped up a survey on draft proposals for the next phase of Sound Transit 3(ST3), to put on the ballot as early as next fall. The project list included a variety of projects across the region, including expansion of light rail services on the Eastside as well as interconnecting other neighborhoods in Seattle and South Snohomish County. If approved by voters, ST3 would involve an as yet undetermined mix of sale tax, motor vehicle excise tax and property tax increases in the affected tri-county area.

But it’s not too late to weigh in—there will be upcoming opportunities to weigh in on a draft ST3 package. For updates on how to stay involved, visit the Sound Transit 3 website and sign up for the Choose Your Way Bellevue newsletter. Until then, ride safely and be on the lookout for updates on the package.

-Choose Your Way Bellevue Staffer Ariel

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 4:37 PM | by geri | Add a Comment

P1020674

Good Golly– It’s HOT!

You’ve probably experienced the record breaking heat this summer. As commuters, it can be especially difficult to “beat the heat” when planning your transportation for the week. Here are a few tips to keep yourself cool (no matter the mode) in these hot summer days:

  • Stay hydrated: drink plenty of water, especially if you are exposed to direct sunlight. Dehydration is no laughing matter! Doctors recommend drinking 10 ounces of water every 20 minutes when temperatures rise.
  • Plan your trip planning out your commute in advance will help you save time and reduce the time out in the heat while waiting for your ride. Check out King County Metro’s Service Advisories to find out about known reroutes or major stop revisions due to planned construction or events.
  • Check the weather: while roughly 70 percent of Metro buses are air-conditioned (and new bus purchases will all have air conditioning from now on) according to King County Metro, we suggest being dressed for warmer temperatures especially on full buses. Check the temperature forecast before walking long distances. Know the symptoms of dehydration and seek treatment if you begin to experience any of them. Know the signs of heat stroke and seek care immediately if you feel dizzy or dehydrated. We’re not doctors; always contact your health care professional for medical advice.keep cool
  • Travel off-peak: if possible, take morning or evening commutes outside of the highest temperature times of the day to avoid midday sun exposure (and beat the traffic at the same time!)
  • Wear the right clothing: loose fitted cotton clothing will help you stay cool while the sun is hot.
  • Sun protection: remember to also wear the correct SPF to prevent sunburns and to stay away from dark colors that attract the sun’s powerful rays. Seek shade at the bus stop or wear a hat to prevent further sun exposure.

Overall, it’s important to remember to have fun during these bright and sunny days! We don’t see many like this here in the PNW and we might as well enjoy the sunshine while it lasts. Stay safe out there!

-Choose Your Way Bellevue Staffer Ariel

Friday, July 17th, 2015 1:21 PM | by geri | Add a Comment

kids_Vlive music_Vwoman with bag_V
Three renowned art fairs will take over the heart of downtown Bellevue: The Bellevue Downtown Association’s 6th Street Fair, the Bellevue Arts Museum artsfair and the Bellevue Festival of the Arts. Artists have traveled from across the nation to showcase their original creations. But you won’t be traveling that far, so let King County Metro, Sound Transit or the HOV lane get you downtown! For specialized plans feel free to get in touch with Choose Your Way Bellevue via email info@onthemovebellevue.org.

Fair information:

The BAM ARTSfair, Bellevue Square and Bellevue Arts Museum
Friday and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

The 6th Street Fair, Bellevue Connection (Northeast 6th Street and 106th Avenue Northeast)
Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Bellevue Festival of the Arts, Cost Plus World Market parking lot (10300 Northeast Eighth St.)
Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tips for riding transit to downtown Bellevue:

  • Carry your exact bus fare in cash or your ORCA card loaded with a either a pass or e-purse. Bus drivers do not have change. You may pay your fare, and the fare for others traveling with you, using any combination of paper, coin currency and/or transit pass equal to or of greater value than the required $2.50 fare. The rate is 2.75 during peak hours for a one-zone ride and $3.25 for two-zone ride on King County Metro buses. For Sound Transit buses a one-zone trip is $2.50 and two-zone trip is $3.50 during peak hours.
  • Free fares for children: Up to four children ages five and under always ride free with a paying adult on Sound Transit and King County Metro buses. On Sundays, up to four children ages 18 and under may ride for free on King County Metro routes with a paying adult.
  • All buses are wheelchair accessible, but make sure your stop is accessible too.
  • Plan your return trip: Plan ahead by locating the bay where you will wait to catch a bus back to the park and ride, as well as determining when the last bus leaves to get you there. Schedules will be posted at each bay to assist you.

Suggested Park and Ride Options for Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July 26:

The information below is specific to Saturday/Sunday operations. If you plan to utilize a park & ride lot on Friday you can expect more frequent service, an increased fare and fewer available parking spaces due to heavy commuter use. All suggested routes serve the Bellevue Transit Center for incoming and outgoing trips. For specific bus schedules and more detailed information, please visit http://metro.kingcounty.gov and enter your preferred route number in the “Get a Timetable” box in the upper right corner. For Sound Transit routes (535, 550 and 560) visit soundtransit.org.

Park and Ride Most Direct Route Departure Information Return pick-up at the Bellevue Transit Center Fare Additional route options
South Bellevue 
2700 Bellevue Way SE
Sound Transit 550 Bay 1, departs every 15 minutes on Saturdays and every 30 minutes on Sundays Bay 9 $2.50 Metro 241*
Metro 249
ST 555*
ST 556*
ST 560
Eastgate 
14200 SE Eastgate Way
Metro 271 Bay 1, departs every 30 minutes on Saturdays and every hour on Sundays Bay 5 $2.50 Metro 240
Metro 241*
Metro 246*
ST 555*
ST 556*
Mercer Island
8000 N. Mercer Way
Sound Transit 550 Departs every 15 minutes on Saturdays and every 30 minutes on Sundays Bay 1 $2.50 n/a
South Kirkland
10610 NE 38th Place
Metro 234 or 235 Bay A, departs every  15 minutes on weekdays, every 30 minutes on Saturdays and every hour on Sundays Bay 10 $2.50 Metro 249
Overlake Park and Ride
2650 152nd Avenue NEOverlake Transit Center
15590 NE 36th Place
Metro B-Line Bay 7, every 15 minutes during peak travel times Bay 3 $2.50 Metro 249
Kingsgate
13001 116th Way NE
Metro235 I-405 Totem Lake South Bound Freeway Station, departs every hour on weekends Bay 4 $2.50 n/a
Sound Transit 535** I-405 Totem Lake South Bound Freeway Station, departs every hour on Saturday

 

*Weekday service only
**No Sunday service

BIKE

Bike routes will change depending on where you are coming from. Please check this bike route map for routes in the Bellevue area or get in touch with us to plan a bike plan for you, email: info@onthemovebellevue.org or 425-990-3097. Bike racks are available throughout downtown Bellevue, check out our Bike Rack Map to find one near Bellevue Arts Fair Weekend venues.

 

Monday, July 13th, 2015 10:54 AM | by geri | Add a Comment

Want to know the best trip-planning, real-time bus data app out there? Well we have yet to find that out ourselves but Choose Your Way Bellevue staffer gives a good overview of his experience using the most used tech tools out there when it comes to commuting. We’ll be testing out several apps out there to get a feel for how they work. Please help us out by giving us feedback on the apps we feature or what apps we should try. Check out what Jason has to say!

 

One Bus Away 

oba_logo

One Bus Away has been around for a while and it was the first real-time bus schedule app I used. For a long time it was the only way to check real-time departure times. And while it’s no longer the only way to find real-time departure times it is very intuitive and user-friendly. A few thoughts on One Bus Away:

  • One Bus Away allows users to customize the names of their bookmarks. This is great for stations with multiple stops or platforms.
  • When viewing nearby stops in map mode users can toggle between a map and a list.
  • One Bus Away isn’t a trip planner, its use is limited to providing real-time scheduling information when you already know your route and your starting point.

Trip Planner

trip_planner_logo200x196King County Metro’s Trip Planner is a new smart phone application available as a free download on Apple and Android devices. The Trip Planner is best used for scheduling trips and viewing real-time trip departure times for all King County Metro and King County Metro operated Sound Transit buses.Trip Planner

I use the Trip Planner for mobile trip planning. So far I have been pleased with the accuracy. The App works quickly and has been great for quick route inquiries in areas where I am unfamiliar with the local service. Some of the highlights include:

  • The locations auto fill with choices as I type, ensuring I don’t receive an incorrect address error message.
  • The next departures feature is well organized and allows a user to easily change the planned departure time.
  • The App provides both cash and ORCA fare information
  • While the App shows all regional buses, real-time information is not available for Community Transit, Kitsap Transit or Pierce Transit operated routes.

Bus Finder 

BusFinderInHandWhile King County Metro was busy launching the Trip Planner App, Community Transit was announcing its own trip planning web app, Bus Finder. With the launch of Bus Finder, commuters riding Community Transit buses and Community Transit operated Sound Transit buses are now able to view real-time departure information for the Community Transit Routes. A few thought on the Bus Finder App:

  • The Nearby Stop search is well organized
  • The web app functions the same on my phone as it does on my PC
  • The Favorites list loads the most recently view stop on top of the list
  • Only Community Transit buses are listed for each stop

While I am happy to have access to the real-time data, I do find it a little annoying that I have to check both apps in order to plan my trip. I call this my morning Tap—tap—swipe routine.

Tap—tap—swipe

That’s the process my finger goes thorough while I decide how and when to leave my home or office to catch the bus. My two main bus options, the Metro 342 and the Sound Transit 535 are operated by King County Metro and Community Transit respectfully. While I can pay the fare on either bus by tapping my ORCA card, I can’t use the same app to view real-time trip information, hence the tap—tap—swipe routine. As a regular commuter with a solid understanding of when the buses are scheduled to arrive and by setting up bookmarks in the King County Metro “Trip Planner” and the Community Transit web app “Bus Finder”, it really isn’t that big of an issue to view the real-time trip info. However, it would be great if I could see both buses side by side in one app, without having to open both apps. Hopefully at some point in the near future I’ll be able to use one app for all my mobile trip planning needs, but until then—Tap—Tap—Swipe.

Mobile and Web Apps make planning your commute so much easier, but I still haven’t found “the one.” What app do you use? Check back to the blog for future app features!

-Choose Your Way Bellevue staffer Jason

Friday, July 10th, 2015 2:10 PM | by geri | Comments (2)

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