No more fumbling with maps, looking for arrival and departure times or wondering exactly how to take the bus to get where you want to go.
That information and more will be available by laptop, smartphone, iPhone or Droid as part of the $30,000 website redesign for the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority.
The CARTA board saw a demonstration of the Google Transit service during its monthly meeting Wednesday.
"This is lightyears ahead of where we are," said Christine Wilkinson, interim executive director.
The new website with Google Transit will be operating in about two weeks, she said.
During the demonstration, Google Transit functioned like a mass transit version of MapQuest, which offers directions and travel times for drivers.
The Google Transit user types in a starting point and a destination and receives detailed, written directions on how to ride CARTA to get from point A to point B, including any walking distances and walking times between bus stops. Google Transit also provides the user with comparative costs for using the bus versus driving.
In one scenario, CARTA staff used Google Transit to show how to ride the bus from Charleston International Airport to the Holiday Inn located just across the Ashley River. Google Transit estimated driving the same route would cost about $7, more than triple the cost of bus fare. Google Transit also compares drive time to bus time. In that case, taking the bus was significantly longer than driving.
Clemson Area Transit recently added Google Transit to its website to become the first in the state to offer the service. Mass transit in Atlanta and Charlotte also use Google Transit.
Detailed mapping and data collection necessary for the CARTA system to become part of Google Transit was done with help from the
Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments, Wilkinson said.
Google must approve the mapping and data work before Google Transit is added to the new CARTA website, Wilkinson said.
Google Transit will take the fear out of riding the bus for people who have never taken CARTA. It will probably be the most helpful tool on the new website, said Michelle Emerson, CARTA marketing coordinator.
The commonly asked question for CARTA is, "When is the bus coming?" Google Transit can provide that information, she said.
CARTA will continue to have maps and printed route information for riders who prefer them.
CARTA had 394,000 passengers in August, up 10 percent from the same time last year, Wilkinson said.
CARTA and Google Transit
CARTA bus service and Google Transit are teaming up. With Google Transit, a user types in a starting point and a destination and gets directions on how to ride CARTA to get from point A to point B. The service will be available at www.ridecarta.com in a few weeks.