Monday, January 31

Green Journey Planning

If you want to travel by train and bus, or you want to cycle and walk, it can be tricky to work out the route. So I thought I would take a look at a few web sites that do a lot of the work for you.

Google Maps
The updated journey planning features on Google maps include route planning for walking and driving. I use Google Maps a lot when I need to get to a place I haven't been to before, this is partly to see if there is a rail station near by so that I can then work out a rail journey and costs via the National Rail Enquiries web site. But it is also useful for planning bus journeys and walking.
The walking route planner probably makes my 'walk to Waterlooville' map application redundant. The new route planner allows you to put start address and end address, you then click on the 'Get Directions' button and your route is drawn on the map, complete with time to complete the journey, distances to walk and directions. If you are unhappy with the route you can move the start or end addresses and Google Maps alters the route.

I just wish they would add cycling.

Cycle Streets
If you want to plan a cycling journey then the best site for that is Cycle Streets. This works on similar principles, however the amount of detailed information about roads, hills and carbon emissions saved is outstanding!
First of all you type in your start and end points, the site then gives you the option of different cycling speeds, Unhurried (10mph), Cruising(12mph) and Quick(15mph). It then calculates the journey based on your chosen speed.
The results give you a choice of a Balanced route, Fastest route or a Quiet route. The Quietest route may not be the most direct since it will avoid busy roads. The results also show you a profile of the terrain indicating whether the journey is hilly, the distance to travel, a comparison with walking and a list of directions complete with mini maps showing the stretches of roads that you have to cycle along.
The break down of directions also state which roads are busy, whether it is pedestrianized, cycling is permitted, residential, a footpath etc.
Probably the most comprehensive journey planning app on the web!

Travel Line
Like most journey planning map sites this one requires you to enter your start and end points. The difference with this one is that it will produce journey plans using multiple modes of transport. These include Bus, Tram, Coach, Rail, Ferry and Walking. Although walking isn't option that can be selected, it assumes you -for example- have to walk between a bus stop and a train station.
After entering the start and end locations, you put the details of leaving/arrival dates and times and click on the go button.
The site will then work out a number of journey plans, complete with bus numbers, bus and train operating companies, service times (train, bus, ferry etc), walking directions and the time the journey will take.

I have one or two gripes with this site though. One is that it doesn't include cycling as one of the modes, eg. you could cycle to a train station or ferry, then lock the bike up or take it on the train or ferry.
The second is that it assumes that the walking parts of the journey are short, this can result in ridiculously long and convoluted routes being calculated taking public transport services. eg. if your destination is 1 mile away from a rail station, instead of suggesting you walk it from there, it will suggest a convoluted bus route that will require say about 3 buses and a 6 mile deviation. So instead of taking 1 hour, the calculated route may be 2 hours!
There maybe ways of forcing it to consider walking, admittedly I have only used it once so I might have not seen all the options. Also any sensible person would see errors like that and choose to walk.

Despite these problems, it is a very good way of finding out about services that operate in areas that you are not familiar with.

(Added: In retrospect I was probably a bit unfair. Despite some flaws,  Travel Line does produce some nice maps that can be printed to help on the journey and will even animate the journey, showing icons of buses etc. travelling along the route)

National Rail Enquiries

This site is the main place to find out about train journeys, including ticket prices for specific journeys, train times and the number of changes you need to make for a specific journey. Like most of the planner sites, you give it the start and end points (rail stations in this case) and the leaving/arrival times/dates.

First Bus and Stagecoach
These sites provide downloadable bus timetables and bus route maps for different areas. They are more 'traditional' in the way they provide information.

For many journeys you can use a combination of these sites for planning. Google Maps can be used for a walking section of a journey, whilst National Rail Enquiries can be used on a rail section and Cycle Streets can be used to work out a cycling route to the station.

Hope that is useful. Many keen internet users will already know of these sites, however many are not aware of all the options. If you know of other useful sites, leave a comment.

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