Written by Christine Dunn:
Anyone who has taken a bus ride lately will notice that public transportation has embraced modern technology and SamTrans is no exception. Accessing SamTrans schedules is easier than ever before thanks to high-tech advances.
SamTrans schedules are available in a wide variety of formats, from traditional paper schedules to smartphone apps, to meet the needs of current customers and potential riders.
“We want to make taking SamTrans as easy as possible,” said Executive Office of Customer and Marketing Rita Haskin. “SamTrans appreciates the feedback from its customers, which has prompted us to offer schedules in a variety of formats.”
As always, printed schedules are available on SamTrans buses and throughout the community, including city halls, libraries, recreation and senior centers, community colleges, BART stations and airports.
Schedule information also can be found in several formats at key SamTrans bus stops. Major transit centers, such as the Colma BART Station and Redwood City Transit Center, are equipped with real-time electronic signs that tell riders when the next bus will arrive. Other transit centers feature kiosks with printed bus schedules, known as guide-a-rides.
Lo-tech alternatives are still available for accessing schedule information. The SamTrans Customer Service Center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.weekends and holidays. They can be reached at 1-800-660-4287. Customer service center representatives are trained to help with trip planning and answer questions about riding SamTrans.
Accessing schedule information on the internet has become a routine part of many customers trip planning process, with most visit to SamTrans website spending time on the fares and schedules pages. In addition to the SamTrans website, www.samtrans.com, riders also can go to 511.org, the Bay Area’s trip planning service. 511 offers both schedule information and real time information. Users also can use the website to plan trips on SamTrans and connecting neighboring transit systems. Calling 511 allows customers to be connected to SamTrans and other Bay Area transit agencies or they can request real-time bus information through an automated system.
Recently, SamTrans partnered with Google Maps to provide SamTrans schedule data on maps.google.com. The interactive planning tool combines the latest SamTrans data with Google Maps, integrating transit stop, route, schedule and fare information to make trip planning quick and easy. Google Maps has been used for many years to get turn-by-turn driving directions; now people traveling in the SamTrans service area are able to get step-by-step transit directions. Customers can access the information from their desktop computers or from their mobile devices.
It’s hoped that the planning tool will encourage more people to take transit. Commuters who might be using Google to get driving directions are more likely to consider transit as alternative if the information is just a click away.
SamTrans riders can use the Street View function to learn about the bus stop, determine if there is a shelter and check out any nearby amenities, such as shops or connecting transit providers.
SamTrans also provides its official bus schedules, maps and fare information in an open General Transit Information Feed, or GTFS. This allows developers to design additional SamTrans “apps” for smartphones. Roadify offers a SamTrans-specific application. Available free apps are listed at www.samtrans.com/mobile.
For the more technically savvy, SamTrans now includes QR Codes on maps inside its bus shelters and on the printed pocket system map. The mysterious squares with the squiggly lines are showing up on everything from packages of your favorite cookies to posters in neighborhood movie theaters. Riders can use their smartphones to download expanded information from the code onto their phone.
Offering schedule information in a variety of formats is one way SamTrans is working to increase ridership, improve the customer experience and take more trips off the roads.