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Multi-Mode Nerds: Handy Transit Schedules

by Noah

Bikes, Buses and Trains, oh my! My multi-mode commute can get confusing at times. I don’t have one set bus route. There are 3 different bus routes and probably a dozen different stops I will use depending on errands I plan on running, the time I get out of work (road congestion taken into consideration) and distance I feel like riding from the bus to get home.

Anyone who relies on public transportation is at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. I used to make frequent visits to the site containing bus route maps and schedules and I even thought about printing some of the schedules out to keep at home and at the office. A few months ago, a thought crossed my mind: With the latest PDAs, mobile phones, and trendy personal media players having the ability to display pictures, it’s easy to store the schedules on them. I quickly took screen shots of my three most-used bus schedules and stored them on my mobile phone. Not only did I save paper and expensive ink, I now have the schedules with me virtually everywhere I go.

While I know there are quite a few tech-savvy writers and readers here, this tip isn’t for everyone. It’s easier than it sounds, though. After all, almost anyone can figure out how to use the camera on their phone, if they have one.

Method #1: Find the bus or train schedules online or in print somewhere, and take a close-up snapshot of your computer monitor or paper schedule with your camera-equipped phone. My LG Chocolate VX-8550 supports zooming in on images, so I can enlarge the image on my tiny screen to look at parts of the schedule in a readable fashion. If your camera phone doesn’t support zooming, then get really close and take a few pictures that you can read as-is. Don’t forget to re-name the files so you know what route they belong to!

Method #2: Find the schedule online, capture an image of it to your computer, then e-mail it or upload it to your device. This results in a much clearer image of the schedule to look at. If you have a Mac running OS X, you can hold Command-Shift-4 and draw a box around the schedule to save a screen shot to your desktop. If you’re running Windows, I recommend AnalogX Capture, a free screen grabber. Of course, Linux/BSD/UNIX users get some love, too. The “import” utility that comes with the ImageMagick software package lets you save screenshots as well, almost exactly the same way as the OS X grab utility works. You will probably need to save the files in JPEG format for maximum compatibility with consumer electronics devices.

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5 Responses to “Multi-Mode Nerds: Handy Transit Schedules”

  1. Anne says:

    I’ll admit to be a bit geeky in that regard myself. I mostly use the browser on my (pda) phone to look up when the next bus will be arriving. In the Denver area we have the mobile-specific gortd.com which will give you the next couple of times for a given route+stop+direction. That’s what I use most often, but it isn’t great for longer-term planning.

    I have a spreadsheet combining the times & stops of my usual routes that I loaded on my phone, that comes in useful occasionally.

    Nextbus.com is also really cool but it only works for one of our routes.

  2. Dust says:

    Also Control Print Screen on Windows Machines captures the screen and places the capture on the clipboard. Then you just open up your favorite graphic editor (or Microsoft Windows Paint) and edit the image. I think it’s ALT Print Screen for devices run Sun OS.
    Then you don’t have to download a separate screen capture program.

  3. Fritz says:

    Pretty clever idea, Noah. I have my transit schedule memorized (eight morning train departures between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.; five evening train departures for the return between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., along with all the connecting bus schedules), but here’s another idea: Copy the text schedule from the transit agency website and text message it to your phone. You may have to experiment with formatting, but it seems like it would work. This assumes familiarity with the route, of course.

  4. Meep says:

    If you have an iPod you can just save the routes as text and access it through the Notes menu. Also, there is a schedule for the BART for your iPod,
    Another thing you could do is use the browser on your phone to go to a website that has a scaled-down version of these things. I have yet to do that myself just out of sheer laziness… and I used up too much data last month…

  5. Jett says:

    You guys should see what Atlanta has put together: http://trip.atltransit.com/. This is an on-line trip planner that has the transit schedules along with detailed bicycle route information provided by local cyclists. I’ve found that it matches the routes I would choose quite well.

    This would not be of interest outside of Atlanta commuters except for one thing: The underlying engine is open source and could be setup for other cities.

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