RIDE Solutions Launches New Transit Tool with Google Maps

ROANOKE, VA (Dec 11, 2012) – RIDE Solutions has partnered with regional transit providers Valley Metro and RADAR to provide up-to-date routing and schedule information via Google Maps. The Google Maps service will now provide transit options for trips anywhere in the Roanoke Valley and Alleghany Highlands region in addition to the Smartway and Smartway Connector routes between Blacksburg and Lynchburg.

The trip planner can be found at ridesolutions.org, valleymetro.com, and radartransit.org, as well as directly through Google Maps. The tool can also be accessed through smartphones and tablets through the Google Maps app or web browser. “Trip planning via Google Maps will allow us to reach out to new customers and provide them with an alternative to driving by overcoming the biggest fear about riding the bus: the fear of missing it,” said Jeremy Holmes, RIDE Solutions Program Director. “Through Google Maps, we can now tell you your exact bus number, arrival time, transfer and rate information, everything you need to know.”

Planning a trip is easy. From the RIDE Solutions home page at ridesolutions.org, simply enter the basic trip information by either street address, cross streets or major landmarks along with the trip date and desired arrival or departure times – for same day service or many weeks in advance. The Trip Planner will then display several options from which to choose. Each option will include directions to and from the nearest bus stop; applicable route numbers including any transfer information; and, total travel times for each trip option.

“This is truly a regional effort,” says Wayne Strickland, Executive Director of RIDE Solutions’ parent organization, the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission. “Not only does the tool support all the major transit services in our region, it allows you to plan a single trip across all of them. Now, you can plan a single bus trip from Blacksburg, to Roanoke, to Lynchburg, all with the assistance of Google Maps.”

RIDE Solutions worked with Portland, Oregon-based Trillium Transit to build the data that supports the Google Maps tool. The trip planner now supports Valley Metro, the Smart Way Bus, the Smart Way Connector, the Star Line Trolley, the Mountain Express, and the shuttles for Ferrum and Hollins universities.

RIDE Solutions is operated by the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission in partnership with the New River Valley Planning District Commission and Region 2000. It is a grant-funded program that provides multimodal trip planning services – including carpool matching, bicycle commute routing, transit assistance, and telework consultation – for citizens and employers in the Roanoke, Lynchburg and New River Valley regions and surrounding areas within southwestern Virginia.

Downtown Roanoke Gets Bigger

Yesterday, Roanoke City Council voted to expand the footprint of what constitutes Downtown Roanoke.  The new area encompasses Jefferson Street down to River’s Edge and the Carilion Complex:

The council unanimously voted to expand the city’s downtown service district to include 72 taxable parcels in the Jefferson Street and Riverside corridors. That area includes the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, River’s Edge Sports Complex, the former flour mill and scrap yard properties, the former Victory Stadium site and a variety of properties between Jefferson Street and the Roanoke River.

The action tacks on the service district’s tax rate of 10 cents per $100 of assessed value to properties in that area. That rate generated about $400,000 annually under the previous service district; the expanded area will generate an additional $135,000 annually, according to a city staff report.

It was noted that the expansion now included the bulk of the length of the free Star Line Trolley route.

Kudos to Meridium For Considering Their Alternatives

Roanoke company Meridium recently sent out an invitation to tour their gorgeously renovated new building in downtown Roanoke.  The trifold invite reads, “From soap, to sofas, to software,” tracing the building’s storied history.  Now, the revitalized structure – with it’s sloping roofline and steel-and-glass encased stairwell that echoes both the Taubman and the new MemberOne building, each of which is visible from the other – is home to one of the valley’s fastest growing companies.

I’m not really concerned with all that, though.  What I like is this line in the invitation:

Because parking is limited in and around 207 Bullitt, please plan to use on of these options for visiting us on May 3:

Star Line Trolley:  Park at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital or in the Crystal Spring neighborhood and take the Star Line Trolley to the corner of Elm and Jefferson.

The piece then lists two nearby parking garages.  This is exactly the right thing to do and something that more downtown businesses, especially “destination” businesses like music venues and museums, should do in their communications and on their website:  note parking, yes, but note alternative ways to get to the destination that might be more convenient for their customers.  For example, if I lived in the Crystal Spring neighborhood and planned on driving down, this would serve as a great reminder that I should just hop the trolley.

So, kudos to Meridium for considering their alternatives and sharing that information with their customers.  I hope other downtown businesses follow suit.

Welcome, Moona

There’s a third participant in the Car Less Brit experimentMoona Cancino, who is chronicling her adventures here.

Like Chris Howell before her, she was inspired (or perhaps cajoled) by the Car Less Brit to join the slowly swelling ranks of those abandoning their cars (or at least leaving them behind as much as possible) and taking advantage of cleaner, cheaper, friendlier transportation options.  Though the Experiment was never intended to be a bicycle-specific phenomenon (River has made some efforts to highlight the other modes available in Roanoke), it has, for reasons I intend on exploring at a later date, largely focused on the bicycle.  I was glad, therefore, to see the following comment in Moona’s second blog entry:

I have just as many adventures walking as I do biking.  So I would simply like it to be known that walking is my first love.  It is much simplier than riding a bike.  I never have to fix a flat, true my tires, or grease the chain.  I can go as I am.  Really you can, I’ve meet a few naked walkers on my travels!  Yes, I may write about riding my bike in Roanoke, but Roanoke has embraced me in all different modes of transportation.  Remember this experiment is not simply about riding your bike and being crazy.

Right on.

Good luck to the Car Less Brit and the Car Less Moms.  We’ll be watching!