A reader who works for a North American transit professional organization writes:
Often transit centers only provide access to one provider and exclude others, or only provide access to local providers but not to regional providers. That silo system carries over to the information that transit agencies manage or make available to their customers in most cases. Do you have some good examples where services and customer information is more regional ie all the options in the region whether public or private.
My response: On the information side, I think the future is for transit agencies and transit providers to have a declining role, and for “aggregators” like Google Transit to take over. Transit agency trip planning websites, for example, will gradually be supplanted by Google Transit or its successors, whose structure is easily expanded to include intercity as well as intracity trips. You could even imagine Google Transit coming together with intercity travel websites such as Expedia and Wotif. Over time, the greater convenience of the aggregators will probably prevail; I suspect transit agencies will gradually stop investing in trip planning because there’s no point in spending public money to do something that the private sector is doing better.
But I look forward to comments on this, especially from people who are working on these issues.
UPDATE: Interesting feedback from John Downs, Planning Manager for the Fresno Council of Governments in California:
Although [Fresno’s main transit system] FAX has been on Google Transit for a couple of years, we are in the final stages of setting up a regional trip planning service using software from Ontira Communications. This web-based software provides features that exceed those of Google Transit including Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) and the ability to send a text message requesting schedule information for a specific bus stop. In our case, that will provide real time bus arrival information from our AVL/GPS system.
The program also allows our paratransit customers to schedule trips without the assistance of a customer service agent. The system will automatically call them to remind them of their schedule as well as call them to let them know when their bus has arrived to pick them up. These are great features for our customers, but they also reduce the demand on our customer service agents which means a cost savings for our system.
We will continue use Google Transit, but, at least for now, there are some significant features that other trip planning programs offer that make them valuable to transit operators and their customers.