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BART Releases Multimodal Trip-Planning Feature in Its App

The Bay Area Rapid Transit District recently launched a multimodal trip-planning tool that considers transit data from more than 30 transportation operators across nine counties in the San Francisco metro area.

Trip-planning across California's Bay Area is getting easier for anyone with the BART app.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system has released an upgraded trip-planning application that considers transit data from more than 30 transportation operators across nine counties in the San Francisco metro, providing easy door-to-door travel.

The multimodal trip-planning, developed by HaCon, a division of Siemens Mobility, will now consider biking, walking, car routes and current traffic conditions when calculating routes and travel times.  

“One of the goals of our trip planner is to take the hassle out of commuting by allowing users the opportunity to take a complete look at their journey,” said Chris Filippi, a media spokesperson for BART.

“BART wants to make it as easy as possible for the public to access our stations,” Filippi added in an email. “The trip planner supports that objective by showing how many different ways riders can get to BART."

The move by the transit system, which serves 48 stations across 121 miles of track and transports about 170,000 passengers a week, is in line with the direction taken by a number of other agencies to integrate public transit systems into the larger network, with transit serving as the backbone.

Transit agencies, like BART, ought to lead the conversation around multimodal travel, trip-planning, and ultimately — payment, said Darnell Grisby, director of Policy and Research Development with the American Public Transportation Association.

“Most Americans — in fact nearly 80 percent — view public transit as the backbone. And that includes current and future technologies like Uber and Lyft, bike-share, car-share programs. So, the American people are voting with both their sentiment, but also voting for ballot initiatives to increase funding for public transportation,” Grisby told Government Technology in a recent interview. “So, I think the American people view us as being the backbone of the future.”

Working bike-, car- and scooter-sharing platforms into the BART trip-planning app is certainly on the horizon, say officials, though when this will happen is still an open question.

“At this point there’s no specific time frame for when transportation modes such as ride- and bike-sharing will be incorporated into the trip planner,” said Filippi.

Still, officials with HaCon praised the initiative taken by BART to integrate other public transit modes into its platform.   

"With its forward-thinking approach to offering multimodal travel chains, BART is one of the first U.S. transit agencies to provide complete end-to-end itineraries,” said Michael Frankenberg, HaCon CEO, in a statement. “The new BART Trip Planner is one of the first big steps into ‘Mobility-as-a-Service’ in the United States.”

Los Angeles Metro has overhauled it Transit Access Pass (TAP) card, now known as TAPforce. The account-based platform allows riders to move effortlessly from one transit system to another across Los Angeles County, and also now includes interoperability with Metro Bike Share, a new app-based bike rental system in downtown Los Angeles, the Port of L.A. and Venice. The program includes about 1,400 bikes positioned at 90 stations.

Other cities — Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; and Portland, Ore., to name a few — are actively involved in projects to introduce multimodal trip-planning and payment all with one app.

The HaCon system used by BART, which took about four months to develop, is a baseline software platform that can be customized to meet the differing needs of transit agencies, explained HaCon officials. 

“So the backbone of a number of systems are built on the same platform and customized to meet the needs of the riders,” said Kara Evank, a spokesperson for Siemens.

“The benefit would be that it can be built to have interoperability across transit systems, if they agree to share data,” she added. “Without that agreement, they are standalone apps.”

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.