UC Berkeley Researchers Launch New Trip-Planning Program

Campus Project Hopes To Encourage Usage of Public Transportation With Its New Website

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A project launched Tuesday by UC Berkeley researchers may just save the next stranded individual from hitchhiking his or her way home.

Researchers from the UC Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies developed a pilot program called Networked Traveler that allows travelers to plan a trip based off of accurate real-time data, costs and carbon emissions in an effort to increase usage of public transportation.

The program will focus on transportation systems along the US-101 corridor between San Francisco and San Jose - including BART, Muni and Caltrain. Feedback from users will help researchers determine if more accurate information - and a more accessible way to obtain that information - will encourage commuters to take public transportation more frequently.

"Our approach is to focus on the real-time information because from previous studies, we know that one important reason that people are not using transit is frequently a lack of real-time information, lack of accessibility and lack of reliability," said Liping Zhang, lead developer of the project.

Although the essential principle of Networked Traveler is similar to that of NextBus - a website that uses GPS and predictive software to give real-time bus arrivals - the UC Berkeley project is more integrated in its approach, Zhang said.

"For our project, we wanted to go one step further," he said. "We're more focused on integration of different sources. We tried to integrate the real-time transit, the real-time driving time, the traffic, even real-time parking data, and we compare them. This can hopefully serve the purpose better."

He added that the program has a trip planner capability so that Networked Traveler can personalize the bus or train schedule according to a particular traveler's plan.

Networked Traveler is accessible online at networkedtraveler.org, as well as through a free smartphone application.

The availability of Networked Traveler on mobile phones was of special interest to one of the project's funding sources, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Zhang said.

"They want to learn whether in this communication age, if we can adopt a system that uses mobile phones to promote the transportation system," Zhang said.

Zhang said the pilot version will continue for a few months, although it is likely that Networked Traveler will be available for much longer since the California Department of Transportation, another funding source, has expressed interest in using the program to further encourage the use of public transportation systems.

Eventually, Zhang said the data will improve the next generation of 511.org, a trip-planning website for the Bay Area.

"We know that transit is under-utilized, and we want to encourage people to use transit more often," he said.


Claire Perlman covers research and ideas. Contact her at [email protected]

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