Muni working on app for smart-phone users

Take a crowded bus to the Mission district or walk a few blocks to get there on BART? Drive down to the Marina, where the parking situation is poor, or hop on a bike?

Those tough travel decisions could soon be made a bit easier by a new phone application that promises real-time information on cost, distance and time estimates for all forms of transportation.

While smart phone technology already maps individual travel options, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is working on creating the first application that provides all that data under one network.

By entering a destination point, local travelers would see when the next taxi would be available and how much it would cost, or how long it would take to drive and what the parking situation looks like at the moment.

It would also provide travel projections and scheduling for regional public transit, information on car-sharing opportunities, and details on how to pick up a nearby bicycle (once The City’s bike-sharing network is established). The traveler would also be able to use the service for booking and payment procedures.

By next year, the SFMTA plans to have all services in place for real-time travel and payment information, and the agency is talking with several private technology developers to design the application, said Nathaniel Ford, the agency’s executive director. At least 10 different applications provide Muni riders with real-time transit information. Programs such as Cabulous provide taxi patrons with a live look at available cabs. Google Transit offers an array of travel projections. The SFMTA’s application would bring all that information together.

“Whether you are looking to take a taxi, drive, walk, bike or take a bus, our goal would be to develop an application that puts all of these options in one place,” Ford said. Travel patterns and behaviors documented by the new smart phone application could also provide insight for public planning agencies, said Tilly Chang, deputy planning director for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a transportation planning group.

Supplementing each travel decision with its carbon footprint information would be the ideal next step for the SFMTA’s smart phone application, Chang said.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said the agency is studying an application developed by the Institute of Transportation Studies, a UC Berkeley research group. That program, called Path2Go, focuses on the U.S. Highway 101 corridor between San Jose and San Francisco, and offers travel-time comparisons between auto, bus, and Caltrain routes. It also calculates each -traveler’s carbon footprint.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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