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New interactive website delivers personalized transit itineraries to the best parks and recreation spots in the Bay Area
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Planning car-free adventures to Bay Area parks and trailheads has become as easy as, thanks to the nonprofit Bay Area Open Space Council. The new interactive website identifies hundreds of trailheads and campgrounds on a Google map and links directly to MTC’s 511 Transit Trip Planner. Once users enter their start location and choose a destination, they can print a detailed trip itinerary with a map, transit times, fares and walking directions to and from the transit stops.

Transit and Trails also highlights “exceptional” trips that have been tested by its makers and volunteers, including the Open Space Council’s Ryan Branciforte who compiled the data for the map and has hiked most of the featured trips. Ryan and site developer Jereme Monteau’s favorites include the 17 mile, one-way, two-day hike from Sausalito to Stinson Beach via Tennessee Valley, Muir Beach and Pantoll on Mount Tam; and a 16-mile, one-way, two-day hike from Walnut Creek’s Howe Homestead Park through Shell Ridge Open Space and Diablo Foothills, over Diablo summit and down to the Donner Canyon trailhead in Clayton. Overnight camping is available on both of these hikes. But you don’t have to be a world-class hiker to find this website useful. Many of the trailheads are easy hikes that cater to families with young children, as well as those who prefer short, easy walks or casual park visitors who just want to sit down and relax.

Development of the website is ongoing, and soon it will facilitate community input and social networking, as well. Users will be able to update the map, add photos, discuss their favorite trails and use the site to invite friends to outdoor adventures. Addition of a carbon calculator, that will allow users to measure the positive impact they are having by reducing their carbon footprint, is also planned.

Using the website is simple. Once on the site, type in your start address, designate a search radius and the map will display all trailheads and campgrounds within that area. You can then click on individual sites to get information on what facilities are there, as well as use the Google map satellite photo and contour features to “see” the actual trailhead – in some cases the entire trail. To get transit information, click on “Go to this trailhead” or “Go on this trip” and you are given the option of choosing MTC’s 511 Transit Trip Planner or Google Transit. Both provide route information, but the 511 Trip Planner covers most agencies in the nine Bay Area counties and gives actual bus, rail, and ferry times, fares and walking instructions. (Google Transit is currently limited to trip planning information for San Francisco and parts of the East Bay and South Bay.) The MTC 511 Trip Planner shows potential transit options for your trip and you can print out the itinerary(s) for the one(s) you choose.

Transit and Trails is the result of a collaboration that began in the mid-1990s when the Open Space Council created and GreenInfo Network designed the first “Transit to Trails” map with support from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District). In 2001 and 2009, the map was updated and printed in Bay Naturemagazine, with support from the Air District, MTC and others. The new interactive version has tapped into the expertise of many Bay Area organizations including the East Bay Regional Parks District, Bay Area Hiker, GreenInfo Network and Save Mount Diablo for trail and campground information, as well as MTC for help in connecting with the 511 Transit Trip Planner. The site is in BETA (a software testing format) for the first few months to see if any minor bugs surface and while users test out newly added features.

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