Mac Daniel in the Sunday Globe takes another look at the T’s new trip planner and mentions us.
The MBTA’s new website failed at first but is now up and running well. It’s quite a change, and all in all, despite some quirks, it’s a step ahead of the T’s last Web portal.
But there are problems. First, according to the charlieonthembta blog and others, the trip planner, which suggests routes using MBTA services, initially ignored the Orange Line for any trip taking place on a Friday. Go figure. This was fixed late last week.
But you can still get some surprising results if you don’t properly tune the trip planner — one of the site’s most useful features.
We put in our home address in Andover as the starting point and the Globe as the destination. The site lets you choose options from three categories. We wanted our trip to “minimize transfers” and “use all services” and said we would be willing to walk a half-mile, the planner’s default setting.
The planner produced two itineraries — two very long and wrong itineraries that surprisingly ignored a key part of our normal trip — the Red Line.
The first route: Haverhill commuter rail to North Station to Orange Line to Ruggles to the No. 8 bus to JFK/UMass. Total time: 122 minutes.
The second: Haverhill line to North Station to Orange Line to Jackson Square to the No. 41 bus to JFK/UMass. Total time: 119 minutes.
Change the settings to “minimize time” and “use all services” with the half-mile walking distance, and the planner has you taking the Orange to the Red Line, getting off at Andrew, and taking the No. 16 bus to JFK/UMass. Total time: 98 minutes.
The quickest trip, which used commuter rail and the Orange and Red Lines the way we do, was found by minimizing time, using rail only, and setting a walking distance of three-quarters of a mile. Total time: 89 minutes.
Why the differences?
Seems this trip planner is so sensitive that the walking distance selected can have a big impact on the trip.
T officials said that when the trip planner ignored the Red Line, “It yielded [that result] because it literally found the closest T service 1/2 mile or less to 135 William T. Morrissey Boulevard, the Globe’s address.” That happened to be a bus stop.
“We in fact have a T bus that goes closer to the address than any Red Line station,” officials said in an e-mail .
Seems the JFK/UMass bus stop is 0.44 miles from the Globe and the JFK subway station is 0.6 miles away.
“Therefore, the trip plan was correct based upon the walking distance parameter specified,” officials said.
Officials acknowledged that they need better instructions on the trip planner page to alert readers about this sensitivity. Your suggestions are welcome, dear readers. Officials were working to make the change. You, too, should make a note.
Over at the Boston Community on Live Journal Stan writes about using the trip planner to go from Prudential Station to 640 Tremont St in the South End. It is a doozy.