Regional public transit website, mobile app in the works

Want to figure out how to best get from Pasadena to Burbank using public transit? There soon could be an app for that.

When it comes to traversing the disparate public transportation lines from Burbank to Glendale and on to Pasadena, all the maps, times, costs and routes can seem overwhelming. But local officials are working on a website that will offer residents a range of easy-to-decipher options based on user profiles.

Officials also plan to create a mobile application with a check-in feature as they attempt to make it easier for commuters to use public transit when traveling along the east-west corridor.

“We have lots of information about commuting in and out of downtown Los Angeles … it's travel information in the east-west direction that's missing,” said David Kriske, Burbank's deputy transportation planner.

Users of the site would create profiles selecting preferred forms of travel and when and where they plan to go. By using an underlying database of alternative travel options in the tri-city area — from the Glendale Beeline to the carpools based at Pasadena's large businesses — the website then generates commute options.

“Most people are creatures of habit. You have tunnel vision on how you commute. It's all routine-based,” said Derek Fretheim, president of Acire Inc., an Irvine-based firm building the website. “The hardest part is taking them out of their comfort zone, their routine.”

It doesn't help that there are multiple maps, websites and other places offering information about light rail, trains and buses, not to mention bike routes and related facilities, he said.

Officials hope to change all that by creating an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand website that does all the search work.

“This is really an opportunity for us to see how technology can really help us change the way we drive,” Fretheim said.

The site, projected to cost $754,000, is scheduled to launch at the end of the year, with plans to follow that up with a mobile application and a check-in option.

At first, the plan was to create the site just for Glendale, but it morphed into a regional program to have greater impact and reach. The project received $417,397 from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, with the remaining $337,390 to be split among Glendale, Burbank , Pasadena and Acire.

Glendale — the lead agency on what is for now called the Arroyo Verdugo Commuter Management System — approved the arrangement on Tuesday. A new name is in the works.

For Pasadena, the website will make it easier for businesses to follow the city's traffic-reduction ordinance, which requires new developments of larger than 75,000 square feet to provide incentives for employees to carpool or use public transportation, said Traffic Administrator Mark Yamarone.

Businesses often don't hire a transportation coordinator to figure out alternatives for employees, but that's where the new website could be useful, he added.

“We sort of just recognized right away what a benefit that will be,” Yamarone said.

So did Metro, said Rufina Juarez, a transit project manager for the country transportation agency.

“This project is very innovative,” she said.

And it's not just for work commuters, Fretheim said. For example, if going to the Rose Bowl, users of the website could input details about the trip and get information on who else nearby also might be driving there to coordinate a carpool.

There have been other sites that create transportation routes, such as www.hopstop.com, but none in the same personalized way, Fretheim said.

The goal is to change how people travel — even if just a little bit, Fretheim said. If that happens, the site could be expanded to other cities.

“It might be pie in the sky, it might be ambitious, but you never know until you start,” he said.

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