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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

UTA 2 Go Trip Planner

The UTA trip planner remains as frustrating to use as ever. It's a great idea with (unremarkably) poor implementation.  The UTA trip planner relies on recognizing addresses*. The software that runs the trip planner relies on matching the address you enter to an address in its database.

The geodatabases used for the software are typically derived from U.S. postal files--great for keeping track of where to send mail, less useful for finding a physical address. Further, differences in notation may confuse the software. "150 S State Street" may be parsed as:
  • 15000 South, State Street
  • 150 South, State Street
  • 150 South State Street

But UTA is hardly alone--this is characteristic of most transit planning tools.
I recall Portland's as being remarkably different, with one reason: It did not rely on addresses, but on intersections. I recall it as being something like this:

START: "23rd @ Burnside"
END: " Burnside @ NE 6th AVE"

Needless to say, there are vastly fewer intersections than addresses, making it much easier to for the software to find a match, making finding a start and end location much faster.

 *The trip planner also recognizes some landmarks. Finding out which ones are acceptable is a matter of trial and error. "U of U" is not, while "University of Utah Bookstore" is.