Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moving Around Town: Public Transit

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Anyone that has dealt with public transportation knows it can be a little tricky. Of course, as with anything, practice helps: the more you travel in this way, the more comfortable it becomes. Whether you are an experienced public transit traveler or a complete novice, there are new tools and new policies that should make public transportation all the more easy to use.

Most people have heard of Google Maps (, but many are not aware of the new transportation options available on the site. In addition to the expected car option, Google also provides the choice of selecting biking directions, walking directions, and directions via public transportation routes. Simply type in your beginning point and your end destination, then click the symbol of the bus, and Google will calculate your route, including walking directions to the bus stop, the bus number, time estimates, and additional walking directions to your destination in case the final bus stop is not directly in front of your end point. Even better, you can customize the given route by inputting the date and the time you need to arrive or leave by, in addition to other options.

As someone who almost completely relies on public transportation to navigate the Triangle (and the State as a whole), I use Google Maps to quickly and efficiently plan my trips. For example, last week I used it to obtain directions from my residence to the North Carolina General Assembly to participate in the World MS Day advocacy events and I easily made it from my home curb to the bus stop nearest the Capitol, following the walking directions to the entrance. It was hassel-free, easy to use, and a major time saver, as I simply input where I needed to go and the time I needed to be there. Overall, Google Maps is a really great resource that provides some excellent tools for individuals that rely on public transport to more easily organize their day and get moving!

For those with smart phones, Google Maps can be accessed through a mobile application, which will read the directions aloud. What's more, iPhone users have access to all sorts of apps designed to benefit those with visual impairments. Specifically the VizWiz iPhone app enables users to take a picture and/or ask a question about their surroundings and get a quick response. So, whether trying to figure out your location or simply ensuring that you have picked out the blue sweater you wanter to wear, you can use VizWiz to facilitate and navigate your daily life. From indoor GPS to HopStop (an app used for trains), check out the article "How the Blind are Reinventing the iPhone" to learn more about how the iPhone and mobile media apps in general can improve your mobility.

Complimenting these new tools, moving about should become easier and more accessible in Wake and Orange Counties with the possible addition of new buses and additional and expanded routes. The Regional Transportation Alliance Spring 2012 Transit Poll results were released mid-May and revealed a surprising amount of support for such policies, as seen in the chart below. 

Support for 1/2c sales tax for transit in Triangle: Results since 2010
Orange County                                                                              
2012      59.6   For,  32.5  Against,  7.9  Unsure    
2011      59.2   For,  37.6  Against,  3.2  Unsure                        
2010      61      For,  35      Against,  4     Unsure    
NOTE:  2012 Margin of error:  +/- 5.6%  (n=302)               
Wake County  
2012      50.2  For,  43      Against,  6.8  Unsure
2011      51.0  For,  45.1  Against,  3.9  Unsure
2010      55     For,  41      Against,  4     Unsure
NOTE:  2012 Margin of error:  +/- 4.4%  (n=501)

WakeUP Wake County conducted a similar poll and released those results today, May 31. Of further good news, the Raleigh City Council passed a resolution in support of the Wake County Transit Plan that: "includes a 'core plan' to double and improve bus service connecting all 12 municipalities and to develop commuter rail service between Durham-RTP-Cary-Raleigh-Garner, which can be funded with the approval of a ½ cent sales tax increase and a $10 vehicle registration fee increase, and also an 'enhanced plan' which would create light rail between Cary through Raleigh."


 NBC 17's coverage of the resolution and the transit plan is above. The Council's resolution also supported the addition of a transit referendum on the November ballot.

 So, what are you waiting for? Get moving!


Wake County Transit Plan Update: As of June 18, the Wake County Commissioners Board majority indefinitely halted the Wake County Transit Plan and, with a 4-3 vote, opted not to hold a public hearing on the matter. According to transportation officials, it seems unlikely that the plan will appear as a referendum on the November ballot.

Check out the Raleigh Public Record for additional information.

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