Transcript Staff Writer
Public transportation users in Norman no longer have to rely on old-fashioned maps to tell them how to get from point A to point B.
Cleveland Area Rapid Transit is now featured on Google Transit, providing a high-tech alternative.
CART users can go online and type in their starting point and ending destination into Google Maps using the Google Transit feature. The program maps out several routes so users can choose the one that works for them.
CART is one of only 39 public transportation systems in the U.S. on Google Transit, and it's the first one in Oklahoma, said Kris Glenn, CART spokesperson.
Becky Aguilar, executive director of the Community Services Building, has used the new feature and said Google Transit is helpful.
"It's very easy to use and you don't have to be completely computer literate to use it," she said.
She did say she had to familiarize herself with the program for a while, like making sure she selected her route from Norman and not another city. But it didn't take her long.
"It was easy to access, but you have to use it a couple times just to get used to it," she said.
To use Google Transit, users can go to CART's new Web site, ridecart.com, which was launched last week at the same time the new Google Transit feature was added. Users may click on "Google Maps" at the right side of the page.
The feature also is accessible through Google Maps. When searching within CART's service area, the public transportation option will pop up in addition to driving directions.
Users can enter their start and end address and desired time. Then Google Maps will produce several options for users to choose from, including different combinations of walking and riding the bus.
The feature is free for users and CART.
"It's just something we think is extremely useful to people," said a Google spokesperson, who asked that her name be withheld as a matter of company policy.
Google Transit began as a pet project of some of Google's engineers, the spokesperson said. They wanted to see if they could enter public transportation information into Google Maps for easy searching. It was such a hit, Google launched it in 2007 as a feature of Google Maps.
At that time, it only included major metropolitan areas, Glenn said. After positive reviews in the larger markets, Google began extending the service to other urban areas, he said.
As CART became aware of Google Transit in late 2007, CART staff decided it would be a good resource for Norman and began consulting those at Google as to how to participate, Glenn said.
Google agreed to feature CART on Google Transit in March of this year, sending CART staff the specifications of how to upload its transit system into Google Maps. CART staff then plotted the GPS coordinates of all bus stops in Norman and recorded the times of the stops in addition to its days and hours of operation. With that information sent to Google, the CART system could then interface with Google Maps.
Glenn said he's received several e-mails and phone calls since the launch of CART's redesigned Web site explaining how much of an asset Google Transit is to those who wish to use CART.
"Additionally, many of those people calling and e-mailing tell me before they experienced Google Transit, they had no idea it was so convenient and user friendly to ride the bus," Glenn said in an e-mail.
Last week when Aguilar found out about CART's partnership with Google Transit, she sent out an e-mail to all the workers in her building telling them about the new feature. With gas prices nearing $4, she said it's worth it to use public transportation.
"I encourage people to use the CART for environmental and financial reasons," she said.
Julianna Parker 366-3541 firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcript Staff Writer
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