Reroute.It clarifies costs, benefits of travel choices
When choosing between walking, biking, hailing a cab, taking the bus, or driving my own car for trips around town, a new app aims to put the relevant costs and benefits of these choices
Reroute.it is an open-source program featuring a minimalist interface with simple instructions to enter the two ends of a local trip. It seeks to answer such routine questions as: Does the time saved by taking a taxi outweigh the mitigated costs and environmental impact of riding a bike or walking? Reroute.it makes such decisions a bit clearer by stacking all of the information together in one place.
From my office in Georgetown to my apartment in Arlington, I could burn 487 calories by walking home or fork out $11 for a cab ride. But the four-mile walk would take 72 minutes, while a cab ride should take 12. However, the program has yet to factor our region's notorious rush-hour traffic into the travel time variable.
What seems even more appealing is a bike ride: at 26 minutes, travel time is half that of walking, and I would still burn around 143 calories. With a Capital Bikeshare station right outside of my office, and another one near my home, I'm tempted to take the app's word and try out a new method of shortening the evening commute.
Reroute.it has its limitations. It does not allow for a combination of modes: when I'm trying to get home from 17th & U St NW in DC to Arlington, I can't choose to walk the 1.1 miles to Farragut West, the closest Orange Line stop, and then Metro home, or even half a mile to Dupont Circle with a line change. Instead, I can either burn off half of my day's meals with a 96-minute walk home, or spend 42 minutes on an unspecified type of transit.
The transit variable utilizes Bing Transit Routes API, which pulls route information from data provided by participating transit agencies. Here, both WMATA and the DC Circulator have provided their data to Bing, making it difficult to tell which method of transit Reroute.it is referring to when it provides travel time.
Currently, the only cities whose transit fare data are incorporated into Reroute.it's approximations are San Francisco and Seattle. As a result, the cost of riding public transportation is always listed as "not applicable" in any DC-area search. As I used Reroute.it this week, I mentally set a flat transit cost of $4 for comparison purposes against alternative means.
From a cost perspective, Reroute.it's most helpful contribution might be displaying the approximate cost of driving, parking excluded. Using AAA's 2011 average cost per mile calculation, currently set at $0.585, the app highlights a cost that drivers frequently forget, or don't know how, to factor in.
Until Washington-area transit agencies share their fares with Google's General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format, Reroute.it will never be able to program its transit costs to reflect the actual cost of traveling via Metro or bus.
Reroute.it provides an innovative service in drawing disparate data together into one interface, drawing much-needed attention to the benefits and drawbacks of varying forms of transportation. Some simple improvements, and cooperation from local agencies in sharing data, could greatly increase the app's utility. With wide use, Reroute.it can help further encourage a proper balance between multiple modes of transportation as viable and popular ways to get around the area.
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