Bus ridership increased 20 percent in two years in the Clemson area since the advent of Google Transit, a high-tech route information service that will debut here in two weeks.
The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority will become only the second bus service in the state to offer Google Transit.
Al Babinicz, chief executive officer at Clemson Area Transit, predicted that local residents will be drawn to Google Transit.
"They will try it. Gas prices continue to go up," Babinicz said.
"The educated population, the high-income population also is going to see CARTA is convenient, CARTA runs on time, CARTA is clean and efficient," he said.
Two versions of Google Transit are planned. One will serve mobile users and the other will be for laptop and desktop computers. CARTA also will offer Facebook updates and Twitter feeds for real-time information on bus service, said Christine Wilkinson, CARTA interim executive director.
Google Transit provides detailed written information on how to get from one place to another on a bus.
The user decides where he wants to go, types in the information on laptop, smart phone, iphone or Droid, and Google Transit spells out the route, maps it, gives departure and arrival times and provides a comparison of the cost of riding the bus versus driving.
"Google Transit is a tool that is very useful to our passengers, but it's not the all-important silver bullet that's going to transform mass transit," Babinicz said.
CAT provides free service to Oconee, Pickens and Anderson counties. It had 2 million riders last year.
CARTA's website ridecarta.com is being redesigned and will include Google Transit as well as video snapshots of drivers and other staff members. It also will have testimonials from riders.
Googe Transit functions like a mass transit version of MapQuest, which offers directions and travel times for drivers.
The Google Transit information even includes how long it will take a rider to walk to the nearest bus stop.
CARTA spent $30,000 to redesign its website. The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments assisted with data collection and mapping necessary for CARTA to add Google Transit. Google provided Google Transit software for free, Wilkinson said.
Google must approve the mapping and data work before Google Transit is added to the updated CARTA website, she said.
CARTA will continue to have maps and printed route information for riders who prefer them.
CARTA had 394,000 passengers in August, a 10 percent increase for the month compared to 2010.
Last year it had a total of 4.2 million riders. It is the biggest public transit agency in the state.