Google Transit has just expanded its trip-planning service--again. This nifty service now includes nearly 20 US cities and Japan, providing a useful tool in areas where the trip-planning services offered by public agencies leave something to be desired.
Here are some of the newest features:
A few glitches still remain, of course: during a quick search for my route from work to home, Google failed to notice a major bus route that stops four blocks from home, suggesting instead that I take an 11-minute hike from a stop several blocks down the road. But the service is faster and more informative than the buggy tool offered by my local transit agency, and probably yours as well.
Several similar, though less functional, tools exist to calculate your walking, running, and cycling distance, like Geodistance and Jogrun. Created as tools to enable runners to figure out how long their routes are and how long they'll take to run, bike, or walk at a given pace, these tools are also useful for cyclists, pedestrians, and others who want to know how far away their destination is -- these groups typically aren't well-served by traditional mapping software.
This is all great for local travels and commuting, but what if you want to bicycle long-distance? the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, in coordination with the Adventure Cycling Association, has developed a draft of a nationwide system of bike corridors, which would connect state and national bike routes and trails across the United States. (Via Green Car Congress.) The goal is to give cyclists a one-stop tool to travel by accessible road or bike path anywhere in the US. The European Cycling Federation is attempting to develop a similar system in Europe, which would connect the entire European continent with twelve bike routes totaling more than 65,000 kilometers.
There's a decent bike-route mapping site for the LA area at BikeMetro.com. It's not as nice as the Google maps, and the site does go down sometimes unfortunately, but it lets you choose your tolerance for both traffic and hills, and gives pretty reasonable suggestions.
Actually, the best thing about Google transit now is that it is built in to Google Maps in the cities where they have data. ...So if you're in Seattle and you go to get driving directions from point A to point B, it'll give you those directions plus a link that says "Take Public Transit", which flips you over to transit directions. (It also lets you compare time & cost of transit vs. driving.) This encourages people to take transit by showing them that it's an option.
If you are wondering where the process for creating a US Bicycle Route System is, feel free to call Adventure Cycling 800-755-2453. We are about a year away from getting AASHTO approval of the Corridor Plan. Corridors are not routes - only desire lines 50+/- miles linkiing destination points. It will be the states that determine the routes (roads and trails) that make up the system.
In the future, it will take a united effort on the part of all transportation minded people to get the plan instituted. Stay tuned!