511 Enhanced Trip PlannerSM - FAQ

GENERAL

What is the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner?
How is the Enhanced Trip Planner different from the current Transit Trip Planner?
What makes the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner unique or different from other similar tools?
What are the advanced features of the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner?
What information does the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner provide to help me select the best trip?
Will the Enhanced Trip Planner offer additional features in the future?
When will these additional features be available?
What if I want more information or I want to talk to someone at 511?

TIPS & TROUBLESHOOTING – Entry Form and Alerts & Announcements

What can I enter in the search boxes for Point A and Point B of the Entry Form?
How else can I find a location if the right match doesn’t appear through a text search for start and endpoints?
Sometimes when I click on the dark blue information buttons (shown as “i”) on the entry forms, the popup box comes up blank.
Why does the calendar only allow me to plan trips up to 3 weeks in advance?
What is the difference between Basic and Advanced Options on the Enhanced Trip Planner?
What are the Basic Option defaults for each type of trip?
How do each of the default mode trip selections work in general? Why does it appear that they are not always followed in the itineraries output?
Why are all of the mode choices pre-checked? (Drive Only, Drive to Transit, and Transit Only)
What are some of the ways to use Advanced Options for Drive Only trips?
What is the difference between Freeways and Highways on the Enhanced Trip Planner?
How does Drive to Transit work in general?
What are some of the ways to use Advanced Options for Drive to Transit Trips?
What are some of the ways to use Advanced Options for Transit Only trips?
Are Car Sharing locations included?
How do I plan a reverse trip for a Drive to Transit trip, to return to my parked vehicle or station where I was dropped off in the trip that I took initially?
Is there a capability for walking trips or bicycling trips?
Which Bay Area Transit Service providers are included in the public transit trips for the ETP?
Is there a carbon calculator to help me determine my trip’s impact on the environment?
Why does the Alerts & Announcements text sometimes load more slowly than the rest of the main page for the Enhanced Trip Planner?
Why does the Entry Form page only show one announcement for Traffic and one for Transit?
Why does the website take me to a new window when I click on Traffic or Transit links after “More Alerts”?
Why does a news ticker sometimes appear across the top of the page and at other times is missing?
Why does the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner sometimes show locations that are not precisely located at the intended point when I click on the map to set a trip plan point?
I am manually clicking on the map to set my point A and point B. How can I easily change one of the points if I accidentally click on the wrong place on the map?

TIPS & TROUBLESHOOTING – Trip Plan Itinerary Output

Why does the first result coming back from the Enhanced Trip Planner show just a summary of one trip for each type of trip selected?
Why can’t I see more detail of each trip when the results first come back?
Why is the response time slow at times when I use the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner?
Why do some of my trips seem illogical or unintuitive when I believe that there are easier ways to take them?
In the stop information bubbles on a trip itinerary on the map, a stop ID is sometimes listed. Is this stop ID the same for all the routes that serve that stop?
How are these Stop ID’s used?
What is the difference between Station Parking, Park & Ride, Bus Hub, Regional Transit Hub, and Nearby Parking, used in Drive to Transit trips?
How do you view additional parking information for Drive to Transit trips, and what parking details are provided on the trip plan itineraries?
Why does the trip planner sometimes assign me to transit stations that have no parking lots for Drive to Transit trips?
Why doesn’t the trip planner calculate trips that include Nearby Parking lots directly when it uses starting transit stations without their own parking lots for Drive to Transit trips?
Is the cost of parking included in Drive Only or Drive to Transit trips?
How does the Drive to Transit Drop Off option differ from Drive and Park in the itinerary output?
How do I see more Transit Only trips if I don’t like the first 3-4 that come back when I plan an itinerary?
Sometimes the walking maps for transit trips don’t show all the needed street names. How can I view these?
Why do some walking segments exclude turn-by-turn details?
Some walk times shown on the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner seem to be longer or shorter than what the walk time is in reality. Why is this the case?
Why are there no real-time trip planning info for transit or driving trips, or for parking availability?

TIPS & TROUBLESHOOTING – Mapping

What are the main features of the Enhanced Trip Planner mapping system?
How can the map be made more readable on smaller screens?
Why doesn’t the Clear Layers link on top of the map clear the trip plan route?
What is the Trip Route tab on the map that only appears after a trip plan is displayed?
How do I interpret the different color and shape symbols on the trip plan route displays on the map?
How does this map differ from others on 511 website sections?

TIPS & TROUBLESHOOTING – Other Trip Planner Features

How far from a location does the 511 Trip Planner search when the “search nearby” function is selected from a feature on a map bubble? Is there a certain radius for this feature?
What is included in the “Search Nearby” data?
Does the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner have auto-refresh capabilities so that trip results shown on the screen are always up to date?
The e-mail feature is not successful in sending the trip itinerary to some e-mail addresses. Why can’t it send the e-mail?
How does the Printing function work?
Why is only the top line of the browser page footer showing?
What is the current compatibility with mobile devices? Is the Enhanced Trip Planner designed for smart phones and tablets, or simpler mobile devices?

GENERAL

What is the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner?
The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner is a door-to-door trip planner for Bay Area travelers that provides directions, pricing and time estimates for taking a trip on public transit, driving or a combination of both.

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How is the Enhanced Trip Planner different from the current Transit Trip Planner?
The current 511 Transit Trip Planner provides information for transit trips only (including walking portions). The Enhanced Trip Planner offers information and comparison options for the following types of trips:

  • Transit, with walking portions included
  • Driving to transit stations/hubs, then riding transit
  • Driving only
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What makes the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner unique or different from other similar tools?
A unique feature of 511’s Enhanced Trip Planner includes a combined driving and transit option that allows users to compare a trip of driving to transit facilities, parking or dropping off transit riders there, and continuing their trip using transit. Another unique feature is the estimated pricing comparison for each trip, including information (where available) about rates at adjacent major parking facilities.

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What are the advanced features of the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner?
Advanced features of the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner include the ability for you to select:

  • The type of transit and/or specific agency
  • Walking speed (for transit trips)
  • The fastest or shortest routes and ability to avoid freeway travel (for driving trips)
  • The desired maximum distance to drive and park or drop off at a transit station (for drive to transit trips)
  • A specific transit station to drive to and park at (for drive to transit trips)
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What information does the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner provide to help me select the best trip?
The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner provides a comparison of the cost and time of taking transit, driving, or a combination of both. An overview of each type of these trips will be displayed, along with other alternatives in each of these categories for your trip itinerary request.

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Will the Enhanced Trip Planner offer additional features in the future?
Features still to come include a map display of typical driving speeds by day of the week and time of day to compare with upcoming trip plans, real-time transit departure times tied to trip itineraries, and a carbon calculator to determine the environmental impact of your individual trip.

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When will these additional features be available?
Additional features are anticipated to be available later in 2012.

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What if I want more information or I want to talk to someone at 511?
Please visit: http://www.511.org/about-511-suggestions.asp

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TIPS & TROUBLESHOOTING – Entry Form and Alerts & Announcements

What can I enter in the search boxes for Point A and Point B of the Entry Form?
The Enhanced Trip Planner will search for addresses, intersections, and landmarks. Entering addresses or intersections first will generally have a higher likelihood of finding a match.

Landmark listings are somewhat limited on this system, but include a variety of features such as civic facilities, hospitals, ballparks, transit stations, parks, and a limited number of businesses. 511 does not currently have a comprehensive and regularly updated list of businesses to search for by name in its database, but is working to include this in a coming update to the Enhanced Trip Planner.

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How else can I find a location if the right match doesn’t appear through a text search for start and endpoints?
A dropdown menu is provided to help you locate rail stops, ferry terminals, and landmarks. This is most useful if you can’t recall or aren’t aware of the names of facilities you’re searching for, but may recognize them on a list.

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Sometimes when I click on the dark blue information buttons (shown as “i”) on the entry forms, the popup box comes up blank.
There is a time-out on this feature, so that if you’ve left your browser sitting idle for awhile, it may bring up the popup box without text. Try refreshing your browser page at this point, and the text should display in the popup box upon retrying.

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Why does the calendar only allow me to plan trips up to 3 weeks in advance?
511 regularly receives schedule changes from transit agencies that are included in the trip planner. These schedule changes are often not available from the agencies until sometime between 3 weeks and a few days before the changes take effect. To enable trip planning further out than 3 weeks creates a greater risk of not incorporating upcoming transit route schedule changes for trip planning in advance.

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What is the difference between Basic and Advanced Options on the Enhanced Trip Planner?
Basic Options include some pre-set defaults to provide the most commonly selected types of trips for driving and transit. Advanced Options provide some preferences and features that allow users to customize their trips more specifically to their needs.

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What are the Basic Option defaults for each type of trip?
For Drive trips, the defaults are Fastest Trips and all road and highway types.

For Drive to Transit, these two defaults are the same as Drive Only for the drive leg of the trip (which creates a drive trip from Point A to the transit boarding location).

However, the Drive to Transit trips also include a default to find a transit station for boarding that assumes parking at or near the station, and a 5 mile search from Point A to evaluate the best trips from transit stations where the transit leg of the Drive to Transit trip begins.

For Transit Only trips, the default preferences are the same as on the 511 Transit Trip Planner: Fastest trip, Adult fare, Maximum walking distance of ½ mile or less, Medium walking speed, and evaluate trips on all applicable transit modes and agencies.

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How do each of the default mode trip selections work in general? Why does it appear that they are not always followed in the itineraries output?
Based on the default preferences, the Enhanced Trip Planner will attempt to find trips that best match those criteria. There are cases however, especially with transit, where trips cannot be found with the given locations, desired time of travel, and default preferences. In these cases, the trip planner may relax some of the criteria in the preferences to deliver at least some trip itineraries. When this occurs, the trip planner will provide messages indicating reasons for these adaptations, when possible.

Examples of this are:

  • ½ mile walking distance is too short to reach a transit vehicle stop, so the distance is automatically extended
  • The trip plan is too late at night, after scheduled service ends, so trips are given for early the next day
  • A request is made for a trip leaving at 10 am but the first one given leaves at 2 pm because no other transit alternatives are available near there earlier
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Why are all of the mode choices pre-checked? (Drive Only, Drive to Transit, and Transit Only)
Part of the intent of the Enhanced Trip Planner is to make users aware of quick, at a glance alternative choices for their trips, and help compare the costs and times of the trips. The pre-checked modes allow this to happen without the user having to think about this. Users can uncheck these if they don’t want certain modes coming up in the trip option comparisons.

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What are some of the ways to use Advanced Options for Drive Only trips?
You can check a box to Avoid Freeways if you don’t want to drive on Interstate Highways due to congestion or other factors. The default setting to find a Drive Only trip is Fastest trip, but this can be changed to Shortest trip in Advanced Options. Sometimes Fastest and Shortest trips will be the same, and other times will provide different routes.

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What is the difference between Freeways and Highways on the Enhanced Trip Planner?
This is mainly an issue of how the basemap data categorizes road types. Freeways are limited access Interstates. Highways are sometimes limited access expressways, but can also be arterial roads that go through cities with stoplights and cross-streets (with a State, County, or Federal highway designation). The “Avoid Freeways” option thus only limits trips from traveling on Interstates and roads designated as Freeways in the basemap, not from Highways that can either have separated grade limited access segments, or travel through city streets.

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How does Drive to Transit work in general?
Drive to Transit is the newest type of and most complex feature in this trip planner. Both the Default mode and Advanced Options are being tested for effectiveness in this Beta launch. Drive to Transit presumes that a traveler will drive to or be dropped off from a vehicle from Point A to their transit boarding location, and it plans both the drive leg and transit leg of the trip. It assumes a walk at the destination end of the transit trip near Point B after arrival.

The Drive to Transit drive leg to the starting transit station/point is set by default to drive and park within a 5 mile radius of Point A. This will search for stations that either have their own parking lot, and/or have other large nearby parking lots that could be used for parking near these stations (on-street parking and small lots are not included in this trip planner’s search).

Some of these stations are evaluated for trips by the Enhanced Trip Planner even though they don’t have their own parking lots, because of a lack of other nearby stations that could provide alternative drive and park transit locations in these vicinities. This includes some areas in San Francisco and other locations scattered around the Bay Area.

Transit starting points searched by the Enhanced Trip Planner for Drive to Transit trips include a combination of the main rail stations, Park & Ride lots that can easily access transit trips, Bus Hubs, Regional Transit Hubs, and Ferry Terminals.

There are cases where Drive to Transit trips may not provide what may be more intuitive options, and sometimes will yield unusual results. This can be amplified by the location of your trip and starting point. For example:

  • Trips in highly urbanized areas where walk and transit access are much more convenient for getting to longer transit trip boardings, and parking is scarce
  • Trips that start right near or at a transit station, where a drive to the station is not necessary

In the first example above, in some locations like San Francisco where transit stations with their own parking lots are uncommon, Drive to Transit trips are still sent to stations that have other nearby parking lots as possible starting stations. This is because a search for a San Francisco station with its own parking may take the rider far out of the way, and the system tries to show some more viable options whenever Drive to Transit is checked for comparison. In the second example, the Enhanced Trip Planner assumes that if the user is at or very near a station with parking, they don’t need to drive there, and so the user is asking to see a Drive to Transit comparison from another transit station with parking because they may have a reason for not using the immediately adjacent station near where they are starting. Therefore the drive legs to starting transit stations in these cases may go to a different station that is a not in that immediate area, and may seem illogical.

In either case, the user can uncheck the Drive to Transit box on the entry form if they do not wish to see those types of trips returned with the itinerary alternatives, and prefer to simplify the comparison of trip alternatives.

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What are some of the ways to use Advanced Options for Drive to Transit Trips?
The “Avoid Freeways” option is available. Note the “Avoid” checkboxes are independent for each type of trip, and are left unchecked by default.

The “Drive up to” distance option allows users to lengthen the distance they are willing to drive to reach the station of entry for the transit portion of their trip. This is 5 miles by default, and can be extended to 10 or 15+ miles.

It should be noted that the distance search function will often work better in outlying areas where there are fewer nearby transit station/transit starting point options. When the distance search is extended, the Enhanced Trip Planner is not currently able to process all the options within the extended distance to evaluate every possible trip, particularly in dense urban areas that have more potential starting stations for transit trips. In these cases, trips with parking at stations closer to Point A will often be used rather than those at an extended distance.

If you choose to extend the distance search beyond 5 or 10 miles and don’t see results coming back to enable parking at stations further out than the stations close by, you can select a specific station to drive to from the “Select Station” dropdown menu next to the distance search dropdown menu. This will allow you more flexibility in planning a trip to a starting transit station that you might prefer to use after your drive.

Other enhancements will be made to Drive to Transit during the Beta period to improve the ability to target longer distance driving legs through the distance search, so that users can see trip options returned that enable longer drives to stations where the transit legs of the trip begin.

The other main Drive to Transit option is to select “Drop Off”, which will allow a greater number of potential starting stations for the transit portion of the trip after accessing it by driving. This is because it assumes someone else is driving and dropping you off at the transit starting location, and parking there is not required. Drop Off trips can also be searched by distance or customized by selecting a starting transit point from the drop down menu when the Drop Off radio button is selected.

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What are some of the ways to use Advanced Options for Transit Only trips?
The basic options for Transit legs of trips are revealed in both the Basic Options and Advanced Options sections. These are similar to those on the existing 511 Transit Trip Planner, and include trip type, fare type, maximum walking distance between transit points, and walking speed.

The Advanced Options used for the Enhanced Trip Planner are similar to those used on the original Transit Trip Planner. These are a series of preferences to enable you to customize your trip further. They include selection/deselection of transit modes (Train, Bus, Ferry) to consider using on the trip, and the ability to specify particular transit agencies to include or exclude on the trip. A feature to include or exclude Cable Cars is planned for Phase II of the Enhanced Trip Planner, to be rolled out in the coming months.

Note that the Enhanced Trip Planner may override and not apply some of these advanced options when those preferences result in trips that are either illogical or significantly worse than more standard trips along these routes. These will sometimes be accompanied by a message explaining the override logic, but not in all cases.

These Basic and Advanced Options settings apply to both Transit Only and transit legs of Drive to Transit trips. Further details are available in the Information “i” buttons near the Include and Exclude options.

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Are Car Sharing locations included?
There are some car share pod locations included in the search for locations in the Enhanced Trip Planner. But this is neither fully current nor incorporated into trip plans (unless the car share pod is used as a starting or ending Point A or Point B). Further integrating additional car share location information is being considered for a coming phase of the Enhanced Trip Planner development.

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How do I plan a reverse trip for a Drive to Transit trip, to return to my parked vehicle or station where I was dropped off in the trip that I took initially?
For this Beta release, the Enhanced Trip Planner will not be able to create a trip that duplicates your original Drive to Transit trip in reverse, with a drive leg at the end of the trip instead of at the beginning. This feature is being investigated for future inclusion.

On the current Beta website, you can create a return trip in a two-step process. First, use “Select Station” on the entry form to choose the station where your vehicle was parked or you were dropped off originally as your new destination. Then, create a transit trip from where you’re starting your return trip to this station location at the desired time of day. Then, create a Drive Only trip from the station where your vehicle is parked to your final destination by car if you need to see a turn-by-turn itinerary in that direction also.

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Is there a capability for walking trips or bicycling trips?
All-walking trips will sometimes be shown as an option for very short trips as one of the alternatives for transit. But walking itself is not selectable as a separate mode.

Bicycle trips are currently not included, as the network mapping of bicycle trails and road classifications for the entire Bay Area is still under development. Once that network is completed, including optimal bicycle trips in the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner will be revisited. Routes that may be less than ideal, but can give directions for bicycles, can be created by selecting “Avoid Freeways” and considering the driving route shown as a possible bike route. But these may include some Highway segments other than Interstates.

There is a bicycle trip planner on 511 with more limited geographic coverage that includes some classified bike routes, at http://bicycling.511.org/

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Which Bay Area Transit Service providers are included in the public transit trips for the ETP?
There is a link on the bottom of the Enhanced Trip Planner entry form box to a list of transit agencies and their services that are included in the trip planner. These are agencies that regularly provide their schedule and service information and updates to 511 for both the Transit Trip Planner and the Enhanced Trip Planner. The links in this list will open a new browser window and take you to further information about these agencies, which is contained within the 511 Transit website.

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Is there a carbon calculator to help me determine my trip’s impact on the environment?
The Enhanced Trip Planner will be developing and adding a carbon calculator in Phase II of the rollout, during the latter half of 2012.

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Why does the Alerts & Announcements text sometimes load more slowly than the rest of the main page for the Enhanced Trip Planner?
The Alerts & Announcements are being pulled into the Enhanced Trip Planner from the 511 Traffic and 511 Transit website sections separately. This information feed sometimes takes a few seconds longer to generate than the remainder of the Enhanced Trip Planner page.

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Why does the Entry Form page only show one announcement for Traffic and one for Transit?
To reduce the amount of information showing on this Enhanced Trip Planner’s home page at first view. The “More Info” link will allow you to view a pop up window with more detail about the displayed announcement, which will be among the more recent and/or critical announcements for each mode.

These Entry Form page Announcements cannot currently be tailored to show the ones most relevant to your specific trip plans, but show the alerts that are currently the newest or most critical ones on 511. When there are no recent alerts, general information announcements may be displayed here instead. However, alerts that have been entered for specific transit agencies and routes, and incidents on highway routes, will appear within your trip itineraries when available.

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Why does the website take me to a new window when I click on Traffic or Transit links after “More Alerts”?
There can be a large number of announcements and alerts for both Traffic and Transit at any given time. These are featured on the individual website sections for 511 Traffic and 511 Transit, and clicking on More Alerts from the Enhanced Trip Planner page links over to these other sections where the announcements are organized and available in full.

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Why does a news ticker sometimes appear across the top of the page and at other times is missing?
The top ticker appears when there are traffic or transit incidents of large enough impact to warrant highlighting them on 511 and the trip planner.

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Why does the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner sometimes show locations that are not precisely located at the intended point when I click on the map to set a trip plan point?
The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner will approximate the location you are placing when you manually select a point by clicking it on the map. Zooming in more closely on the map before clicking to set the point may improve the accuracy of your intended location placement.

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I am manually clicking on the map to set my point A and point B. How can I easily change one of the points if I accidentally click on the wrong place on the map?
To change a location point that you have placed in the wrong spot on the map, you can click on that point again, and it should get removed. Clicking in the entry box for Point A or Point B will also allow you to then set points for those locations by clicking on the map, except in some cases where multiple edits have already been made to the location. In those cases and where address matches have recurrent difficulties, it is sometimes best to reset the entire form by clicking “Reset Trip”.

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TIPS & TROUBLESHOOTING – Trip Plan Itinerary Output

Why does the first result coming back from the Enhanced Trip Planner show just a summary of one trip for each type of trip selected?
The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner is set up to make comparisons among travel mode types. To simplify the output, the first result coming back will show an Overview of the trip that ranks highest for each mode you’re reviewing in a single layout. These may not always be the trips that you consider best or most desirable from your own personal experience, but it will give a quick overview of some top options.

Each mode next to the Overview tab above the itinerary summaries has its own tab with multiple trip alternatives for that mode. Clicking these tabs will display more options for each mode alternative (the number of trip options delivered initially by mode shows on the tab’s text).

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Why can’t I see more detail of each trip when the results first come back?
The Overview comparison shows each mode as a brief summary. Clicking “Show Details” or just the top darker colored summary bar will expand the detail of the trip. When you use the “Drive Only” tab, it will expand the full detail of the first Drive trip by default. But clicking the Drive to Transit and Transit Only tabs will show summaries of multiple trip alternatives in the initial layout, for a quick comparison view. Then, you can expand the details of the trip alternatives of most interest to you. Clicking a second time on the top summary bars will collapse the trip details.

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Why is the response time slow at times when I use the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner?
The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner is fairly complex and requires a lot of back and forth activity between the host server and your computer network, and within the browser, which can affect the response time. Because the trip planner is constantly being assessed and updated, you are likely to find improvements in response time as the Beta version matures.

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Why do some of my trips seem illogical or unintuitive when I believe that there are easier ways to take them?
The Enhanced Trip Planner uses all inputs to determine which trips best match the basic trip details for driving and/or transit, such as departure time, transit schedules, mode preferences, maximum walking distance, etc. Sometimes trips that may seem most intuitive (for example, a trip starting at a bus stop closest to you) may not be shown, because due to bus schedules or typical traffic congestion, the trip that starts closest to you is not among the fastest trips at that time.

Factors such as your trip departure time matching with transit schedules and walk or wait time between trip legs, and the trip preference options you select, can impact the trips found by the trip planner. The Enhanced Trip Planner will try to find some trips to display if at all possible, even if the only ones available for your transit route do not depart within a short time of your planned departure, or do not follow transit routes that travel during some times of the day but not at other times.

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In the stop information bubbles on a trip itinerary on the map, a stop ID is sometimes listed. Is this stop ID the same for all the routes that serve that stop?
No, the stop ID shown in a stop’s information bubble only applies to the route shown in the header. Other routes under the “facilities” and “routes served” tabs in map bubbles for Rail Stations and Ferry Terminals can have different stop ID’s (found by calling 511’s stop lookup feature at 511 or by visiting: http://transit.511.org/schedules/realtimedepartures.aspx#enable=stopidlookup).

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How are these Stop ID’s used?
Currently, the Stop IDs can be used to look up Real Time transit departures at 511.org, transit.511.org, m.511.org or on the 511 phone system. Later in 2012, the Stop IDs will be added directly to the itinerary text output so that you will be able to access real-time departures for all agencies that make this information available to 511. These IDs are currently shown on the Enhanced Trip Planner in the map bubbles only.

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What is the difference between Station Parking, Park & Ride, Bus Hub, Regional Transit Hub, and Nearby Parking, used in Drive to Transit trips?
Station Parking refers to parking lots owned and/or managed by public transit agencies. These can include train systems, ferry terminals, bus centers, etc.

Park & Rides are parking lots for those either carpooling or using a transit vehicle from those locations. All P&Rs are shown on the map display layer. However, in calculating Drive to Transit options, the Enhanced Trip Planner only includes the locations of those P&Rs that have actual transit connections directly at or very nearby the lots. Also, where these P&Rs overlap with Station Parking or are just another name for a Station Lot, the Enhanced Trip Planner works to avoid providing duplicated trip options from the same location with these different parking classifications as much as possible.

Bus Hubs are locations where buses tend to stage and fan out on a variety of trips from the hub. These locations are a somewhat subjective classification, and may overlap with other facilities like train station parking, ferry parking, etc, if buses use these locations intensively. These are shown as a map display layer, and are also included for Drive to Transit trips. When bus hubs are co-located as part of other primary facilities like train station or ferry terminal parking lots where numerous buses stage, the trip planner will normally assign the trip to the train station or ferry terminal parking lot. Other bus hubs not located at rail or ferry stations may have their own parking lots or nearby parking, and if so, may appear as parking locations found for Drive to Transit trip searches.

Regional Transit Hubs include major transit centers that are currently part of a regional project to improve signage and coordinated transport through these locations. They also have a separate map display layer, and most of them overlap with other transit facilities such as large train station hubs and large bus terminals. These can be selected by distance search for Drive to Transit trips, but those trips often will be shown using the train station or bus terminal name for which they are a Regional Transit Hub designation, when assigning the parking lot for the Drive to Transit trip for boarding transit.

Nearby Parking is the term used in the Enhanced Trip Planner for large private and local government owned lots located close enough to transit stations (rail, bus and ferry) to potentially serve as alternative parking lots when the transit agency lots are full or otherwise unavailable. While this list of lots is not all-encompassing, we have provided them to serve as potential alternative parking locations when lots chosen by the Enhanced Trip Planner are not available or impractical. These Nearby parking lots are shown as a map display layer with a blue “P” symbol on a white rectangular background.

Nearby Parking lots are NOT included in the distance search or dropdowns to assign to trip plan itineraries, but can be displayed on the map as potential alternative parking locations by clicking “Show Nearby Parking” on the itinerary detail output, when lots chosen by the trip planner are not available.

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How do you view additional parking information for Drive to Transit trips, and what parking details are provided on the trip plan itineraries?
When a Drive to Transit itinerary is returned for transit locations with their own parking facilities, the parking details for the assigned lot will be collapsed within the itinerary to save space.

To see these details, click on the “Show Parking Details” link. Within the given itinerary, you will find information such as hours of operation, number and types of spaces, and cost.

You can also click “Show Nearby Parking” there to see other large public and private parking in the general vicinity that you might consider as alternatives.

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Why does the trip planner sometimes assign me to transit stations that have no parking lots for Drive to Transit trips?
The Enhanced Trip Planner is programmed to find designated lots that are associated with selected public transit stations/transit starting points. The Enhanced Trip Planner sends some of the alternatives it delivers for Drive and Park trips (within Drive to Transit) to stations without parking lots (but where other nearby parking lots exist), when there are no other stations that include parking close enough to starting Point A to yield reasonable trips without roundabout access to a starting station. No parking symbol will appear on the mapped itinerary when this type of trip is first returned.

In these cases, the parking details will automatically open for display on the itinerary output, with a note that the station does not have its own parking but users can click “Show Nearby Parking” to see other options around there. These other options may include both public and privately owned parking facilities that are nearby, some within walking distance. They will also display other parking facilities further away that might present opportunities for users to choose a different station near a different preferred lot to customize their parking location for a Drive to Transit trip.

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Why doesn’t the trip planner calculate trips that include Nearby Parking lots directly when it uses starting transit stations without their own parking lots for Drive to Transit trips?
The Enhanced Trip Planner calculates its Drive to Transit trips by including all factors such as drive time, parking location, walking time from parking to transit stations, and transit schedules, and doesn’t know the user’s tolerance for using nearby private, often more expensive lots. Therefore, it limits its initial review of parking options to the main transit agency lots and park and rides, if these exist along the most viable trip routes. Also, if the Enhanced Trip Planner selected parking facilities that are not right near the transit station, it might put the user on a short bus connection to the desired train station, yielding a less desirable trip for example, when they could just park at the train station.

So, users can elect to show other Nearby Parking lots after planning their trip, but these won’t be included in the initial itineraries for distance searches, and cannot be selected directly.

Instead, in these cases it sends the trip to the general station location (that doesn’t have its own parking lot), and allows the user to click “Show Nearby Parking” to display other lots on the map. The user can apply this information to consider using one of these nearby lots, but should build in extra time to park at and walk from these nearby lots, because that part is not built into the overall trip plan showing in the itinerary. Or they can choose another station that does have parking, from the dropdown list, to create new itineraries for that trip.

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Is the cost of parking included in Drive Only or Drive to Transit trips?
No. Instead, information about parking rates is given where available for parking lots at transit stations, ferry terminals, etc. that are assigned for Drive to Transit trips, and for Nearby Parking lots as alternatives, where this pricing information has been collected by 511.

Among the reasons for this are:

  • It is not certain that the traveler will use the lot assigned
  • Some lots have variable rates (e.g., per hour or time of day) and it is not known how long a customer will be parked there
  • There are often other nearby lots or on-street parking that might be used instead, and will have different rates
  • The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner data collection effort is not currently resourced to frequently update all information about changing and variable parking rates

Instead, the other trip costs are provided and shown with a: + “P” symbol on the itinerary output, which indicates that you should add an estimate of your parking charges to the total to derive a full cost comparison among trip types.

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How does the Drive to Transit Drop Off option differ from Drive and Park in the itinerary output?
The Drop Off feature in Advanced Options assumes that the transit rider will be driven to a starting transit point and dropped off by the driver. Thus no parking is necessary, which expands the number of transit station starting points for both distance search and drop down menu selections that enable users to choose a specific starting station. No parking symbol is shown on the map for the assigned station for these trips.

The number of Drop Off transit starting points is still limited however, as the trip planner evaluates most rail stops, ferry landings, park and rides and bus hubs for these trips. There are too many bus stops in the region to enable the trip planner to review all possible starting points for Drive to Transit without overwhelming the trip planner’s processing capabilities. The list of locations seen in the dropdown menu in Advanced Options for Drop Off trips represents the rough extent of facilities that the trip planner will search for when using a distance search for these Drop Off trips.

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How do I see more Transit Only trips if I don’t like the first 3-4 that come back when I plan an itinerary?
On the Transit Only output, links for Earlier Trips and Later Trips will appear near the top of the itineraries. There are also links for First of Day (earliest valid trips of the day) and Last of Day (last valid trips of the day), plus Main Trips, which takes you back to the original set of itineraries delivered.

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Sometimes the walking maps for transit trips don’t show all the needed street names. How can I view these?
The walking maps on the itinerary output can be rather small, and the street names appear automatically at certain zoom levels. If you’re not seeing the street names that you need, you can zoom in and out of these small walking maps on the itinerary form by clicking or scrolling the mouse.

These maps will also appear on the Print version, in slightly larger size as well, and can be interactively zoomed and positioned for a better view on the screen and in printouts.

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Why do some walking segments exclude turn-by-turn details?
The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner will not show turn-by-turn details for some short walking segments, cross platform train transfers, transfers between vehicles at the same stop, or for segments with some details unknown.

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Some walk times shown on the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner seem to be longer or shorter than what the walk time is in reality. Why is this the case?
Walk times are largely based on the Advanced Options you input before planning the trip or their default values if you don’t choose to customize them using Advanced Options. Make sure that your desired maximum walking distance and your walking speed are correctly entered to obtain appropriate trip results. Regardless of advanced options, walk times calculated by the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner may still be slightly different than walk times in real life, as it needs to use some assumptions on speed and walking route to make its calculations.

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Why are there no real-time trip planning info for transit or driving trips, or for parking availability?
The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner is being developed in phases. Phase I is represented in the initial Beta release, and uses schedule data for transit trips. Driving trip times use a combination of historical average travel time (on freeways monitored for speed by 511), and posted speed limits adjusted to account very generally for time of day traffic patterns by type of road.

Phase II will be under development during the latter half of 2012, and will include some real time data such as real-time transit departures tied to trip plan itineraries. Parking availability will be shown initially for a limited number of parking lots included on the Enhanced Trip Planner as “Nearby Parking”, which are ones monitored under the SF Park program. This will be the only real-time parking information initially available to 511.

Driving trips will not be calculated and adjusted based on real-time conditions, as complex modeling of rapidly changing conditions is required to attempt to accurately provide this, particularly for trips not starting at the immediately current time. However, real time traffic incidents will be integrated into itineraries as messages, to show where they might have an impact on a planned trip, although this impact will not be quantified in the trip itinerary details.

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TIPS & TROUBLESHOOTING – Mapping

What are the main features of the Enhanced Trip Planner mapping system?
The Enhanced Trip Planner map is designed as an expandable slippy map for easy zooming and panning on a series of map tiles. Its primary purposes are to display trip plan routes, points, and associated information in map bubbles, plus show a variety of Traffic, Transit, and Parking features that the user can control using check boxes from dropdown menus on tabs in the upper right corner of the map.

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How can the map be made more readable on smaller screens?
The map is designed to extend automatically on large screens, filling empty space towards the right side. On small screens, however, it can get fairly tight and create bunching on some of the navigation tools like the map layer tabs and zoom bars along the top. In these cases, clicking the green and white arrow symbol or “Expand Map” link in the upper left corner of the map will extend the map upward and across the page for more viewing area. The same link will reduce the map size back to its default position when clicked after expanding.

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Why doesn’t the Clear Layers link on top of the map clear the trip plan route?
The Clear Layers link is designed to quickly remove all the map layers that you have drawn by using the tabs on the map to draw Traffic, Transit, and Parking symbols and lines on the map through checkbox activation. These can be viewed separately, or overlapping with trip plan routes you are displaying. But clearing them will leave the trip plan routes intact, which are removed by the Reset link or by creating a new trip on the trip planner entry form.

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What is the Trip Route tab on the map that only appears after a trip plan is displayed?
This tab allows you to temporarily hide the trip plan route line. This can be useful when you’re trying to display overlapping map layer features like traffic speed conditions, other transit route lines from checked map layers, or parking locations on the map at the same time as a trip route, and you want to see these other features more clearly.

It can be useful to display live traffic conditions together with a trip plan route if you’re considering leaving on a trip shortly, as these conditions can help inform your choice of driving vs. transit, if road congestion is an immediate factor.

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How do I interpret the different color and shape symbols on the trip plan route displays on the map?
There is a Legend link on top of the map that will pop up a legend showing the symbols and color codes for different mode routes and types of transit stops. These can also be matched to the information in the itinerary text on the left side of the page.

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How does this map differ from others on 511 website sections?
This map is similar to the new expandable liquid map on the 511 Traffic Beta website in style and operation. It does have some differences in that it doesn’t provide as many traffic tools and focuses more on showing public transit map features. These maps are both different than those on the 511 Transit website.

Over time, the 511 mapping is expected to evolve into more of a single, consistent style.

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TIPS & TROUBLESHOOTING – Other Trip Planner Features

How far from a location does the 511 Trip Planner search when the “search nearby” function is selected from a feature on a map bubble? Is there a certain radius for this feature?
The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner will typically start with a one-half mile radius to reveal locations near the original point of interest. This distance can vary and be extended depending on the amount of nearby features and the types of locations being searched.

Initially, nearby landmarks from the 511 database will appear near the selected point when “Search Nearby” is clicked. This can then be filtered further using the Search box.

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What is included in the “Search Nearby” data?
The landmark data in Search Nearby is not a comprehensive list of all features and businesses nearby, but a list of some key landmarks maintained by 511. Additional business listings will be added in subsequent phases of the Enhanced Trip Planner development, but this list is more limited for now.

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Does the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner have auto-refresh capabilities so that trip results shown on the screen are always up to date?
No, the 511 Enhanced Trip Planner does not currently auto-refresh, except for the ticker announcements. For future phases, we are planning to implement this for particular features, such as Live traffic conditions.

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The e-mail feature is not successful in sending the trip itinerary to some e-mail addresses. Why can’t it send the e-mail?
The 511 Enhanced Trip Planner should be successful in sending an e-mail to recipients who do not have restrictions on incoming mail. Depending on the recipient’s e-mail options/configuration, it may be considered as spam mail and therefore be blocked.

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How does the Printing function work?
Printing is set up to offer several variations that get displayed on a preview page before printing. The itineraries can be printed with or without the accompanying itinerary maps, and you can also print just the map and what you currently see displayed on it.

The Print version of the itinerary will expand the details for trip basics, preferences selected, walking directions, detailed drive and/or transit directions, transit schedule alternatives around the planned trip time, and parking options as applicable.

By default, the Print version of the itinerary will show both text and maps, but these can be chosen to display or not display as preferred.

Separately, the Print Map link on the upper right hand corner of the map will print whatever you see on the map at the current moment, including map layers you have activated and displayed through the map tabs for Traffic, Transit, and Parking on the map.

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Why is only the top line of the browser page footer showing?
Because the map is anchored to a point near the bottom of the browser page to maximize the viewable map, the footer has been made extendable upward if users desire to access links from the footer. The arrow on the left side of the footer will extend and collapse the footer for better viewing.

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What is the current compatibility with mobile devices? Is the Enhanced Trip Planner designed for smart phones and tablets, or simpler mobile devices?
The Enhanced Trip Planner was initiated some years back under a federal grant, before mobile devices and smart phones had exploded with the degree of popularity seen today. It is not specifically designed or developed to work seamlessly on mobile devices generally or on specific mobile platforms, though it may work in part on various mobile devices.

As a rather involved, complex product, transitioning the Enhanced Trip Planner to work effectively on mobile platforms may be a significant undertaking. Because trends are pointing towards a future more and more dependent on application compatibility and performance on mobile devices, this will be another area of focus and investigation for the Enhanced Trip Planner in the future.

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