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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Taking the Bus. Still Annoying?

posted by on August 8 at 8:20 AM

I asked for it, but I’m not sure I got it.


Eric de Place is so psyched about it, however, that he posted about it at both grist and Sightline.

He writes:

Riding transit just got way, way, easier. A new website called SpotBus is wildly better than existing online trip planners. For one thing, you can enter destinations like a normal person — “Ballard,” or “Ikea,” or “ferry,” or whatever — not some arcane intersection. It’s so much faster and more intuitive that it feels like giving up your old gimcrack five-disc CD changer for an iPod.

I’m not so sure he’s right. Give it a try and see what you think yourself. But I followed his advice and entered some landmark destinations as a test (the Grand Illusion, Woodland Park Zoo, Pioneer Square) and there’s an annoying pop-up menu that comes up right away trying to predict what you’re going to write. This touchy pop-up offers you a bunch of places you don’t want (Grass Lawn Park?) or it doesn’t respond when you click on the predictive text.

Again, give it a try yourself, but I was doing battle with the finicky pop-up thingy. I kind of like the old Metro Trip Planner better.

RSS icon Comments


Bitch about Metro & Sound Transit all you want (I sure do, and you Stranger slobbos do it even more), their website is pretty good.

The Trip Planner almost always gives good results:

Posted by Trannie Rider | August 8, 2007 8:27 AM

No shit. Trip Planner is fine and what's better? The bus tracker software.

It allows you to set an alarm for when the bus you want is a certain distance form your stop, al but eliminating guessing and waiting and all that. I set the alarm for a few blocks away and walk to my stop when it rings, never fails. Awesome!

Posted by Bus Master | August 8, 2007 8:31 AM

@2 - I love Busview. It is the one thing that tempts me to get one of those electronical Internet gadgets you carry around with you.

Posted by Levislade | August 8, 2007 9:04 AM

Spot Bus uses Trip Planner info, so I do not see how someone would think it is superior.

I was expecting a map link, bus shelter info, bus route travel trivia, traffic conditions, nearby amenities, sidewalk walkability indexes, crime stats for my route... Now that would be something to boast about.

Posted by Miss Stereo | August 8, 2007 9:10 AM

Not good! Personally, I find trip planner to be tedious. I don't ride the bus all that frequently, but when I do I generally use trip planner as I'm one of those people who gets anxious about not knowing exactly what bus I should catch at exactly what time. And as someone who isn't completely familiar with bus lines and stop locations, trip planner doesn't let me enter specific enough locations. For instance, last week I needed to ride the bus from downtown (near Pacific Place) to the UD (the VW dealership). I didn't know what bus route to look up, so I just typed these locations into trip planner. Not helpful. It came back with random locations from anywhere from Lakewood to Renton as to where I might be trying to go. Granted, I'm familiar with Seattle, so I am able to mess around with locations until I get what I'm looking for, but if I weren't, I could see trip planner being a nightmare. Having said that, when I typed "Pacific Place" to "Trader Joe's" into this new website, it took me straight to Metro's trip planner, asking me if a bunch of random places were the places I was talking about. Blech.

Posted by Callie | August 8, 2007 9:18 AM

SpotBus has been around for years.
Big whip.

The Yahoo Widgets for Metro are pretty handy to have at work, though.

Posted by Finishtag | August 8, 2007 9:21 AM

Hmmm... Re-reading what I wrote yesterday, I'm starting to wonder if I didn't oversell SpotBus a bit. It worked semi-magically for me the first few times I used it, but the more I play with it, the less awesome it seems.

Still, I'll stand by my claim that it's better than Metro's trip planner, which I find incredibly aggravating with it's astonishing powers to make no logical assumptions whatsoever.

Posted by Eric de Place | August 8, 2007 9:33 AM

I've had pretty good luck with Google Transit.

Posted by Ben | August 8, 2007 9:33 AM

The pop-up thingies are no problem if you leave your stupid mouse alone. Just start typing, and when the list pops up, tab to the one you want, hit enter, tab to the next box. That took me four seconds to figure out.

However, the list of destinations is woeful. You really need a complete address, since that's what the actual database has in it, and what your results are going to be listed by. So if you don't know the address, or the cross street, you won't be able to understand the results, if for instance you don't know where precisely Thackeray Pl NE is.

If you have the psychic ability to determine which local landmarks may be listed, you might be OK. I see Wallingford QFC and Wallingfor-Wilmot Library on there; the latter hasn't been the correct name for the Wallingford branch for almost a decade now, since they moved, so your psychic ability will have to extend to reading the past as well. The QFC is good, because that's the kind of thing that sticks out in people's mental maps even if they don't shop there.

But the neighborhood links? Worthless. "Ballard" is huge.If I'm trying to get to that place on Market -- you know, that place -- a bus that drops me at 85th and 24th, or down by Fred Meyer, isn't going to be much help.

They need to get with the program and tie it to Google Maps. But even Google Maps is riddled with horrible data errors, especially their scraped business listings.

Posted by Fnarf | August 8, 2007 9:37 AM

The solution is simple: make it illegal for a business to close without notifying all statewide transit authorities and Google first.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | August 8, 2007 9:41 AM

That's my favorite bus route service. Although it appears to be having a few technical difficulties. I dunno?

Posted by Nay | August 8, 2007 9:50 AM

@8 has it right. rocks. We're one of the lucky cities that can use it. All the data of metro's site, plus Google's world-class UI.

Posted by Westside forever | August 8, 2007 9:57 AM

I do like busmonster's (Thanks 11) route view. I don't know that Google Transit can do that, where you pick a route and see where it goes. (I don't think they have it, but they may have added it since I last looked.) I may have to play around with it a little. is handy, too. It'll give estimates of how late your bus is.

Posted by Ben | August 8, 2007 10:09 AM

@2 - this is the only reason to get a cell phone, IMHO.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 8, 2007 10:51 AM

Matthew, the reason Google's data is bad isn't because businesses close, it's because they scrape the data from inaccurate sources. There are a TON of businesses whose pinpoints on the map are off by miles, because the database is wrong -- street name, city name, state. And it's extremely difficult to change it, since Google doesn't want you to contact them for any reason.

Not to mention the vast numbers of businesses that aren't in there at all, or where Google can't tell the difference between a shop and an office.

I do still use Google Maps every day. But check your answers.

Posted by Fnarf | August 8, 2007 11:31 AM

Trip Planner? Yikes! tried to get from T-Town to Soundview Drive in Fed Way. Trip Planner brought me to downtown Seattle and then dropped me somewhere off the end of West Seattle. It WAS Soundview Dr. Just not the one I was looking for. And that was with a specific address. I'd double-check the planning if I was you (and I'm not)...

Posted by fnord | August 8, 2007 12:10 PM

I like Google transit as well.

It knoew where gasworks was, but not "the ferry"

Buses show up on google maps too.

Posted by mattro2.0 | August 8, 2007 12:36 PM

It's not working well for me. First, it put me right on to Metro Trip Planner. I put in Alki Beach (near where I live) and Seattle City Hall (near where I work) and it gives me the following message....
" Trip Planner Message #20003--No stops within walking distance of origin"
Huh? That's weird. What I really want is real time bus monitors at major bus stops (you know those cool tv monitors that tell you when the next #37 bus is coming)

Posted by Barb | August 8, 2007 1:05 PM

Alki Beach is like five miles long. YOU know what you mean, but Metro doesn't.

In the future, when we are all wearing GPS tracking devices, we'll just ask "when's the next bus?" and a holographic map will display in space right in front of us. Unfortunately, while we're looking at the map our bus will roar by and cream us into a red, twitching pulp.

Posted by Fnarf | August 8, 2007 1:09 PM

Metros Trip Planner frequently doesn't have addresses in it. I have to go to a map find a nearby street and enter a fake address on that street into Metro Trip Planner to get it to find a (series) of buses for me.

Always check it's results, it's not to be trusted either.

Posted by K X One | August 8, 2007 7:05 PM

So far, the bus tracker has worked like a fucking charm for me. I get to sip an extra cup of coffee in my pad while waiting for my coach.

Posted by Deacon Seattle | August 9, 2007 2:33 AM

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