LODI -- While behind the wheel of a Lodi Grapevine bus, driver Lisa Mead often hears from passengers that they are using the Internet to map out the best routes.
"A lot of them are looking for ways the buses connect from city to city," she said.
Lodi has teamed with Google to get the city's bus schedules on Google Transit with the goal of making public transportation more accessible. Google Transit makes Lodi's bus and train schedules searchable and linked with the transit schedules of other cities to help people plan trips, said Julia Tyack, Lodi's transportation planner.
The mapping software will allow Lodi residents to see possible routes with times, similar to directions on Google Maps. It also has cost comparisons with the amount it would cost to drive versus taking the bus.
People with Internet access on their phones can use it as they travel, or residents can go to the library or somewhere with Internet access to map out routes in advance.
The city plans to start promoting the new service by passing out fliers and doing demonstrations on how it works at bus stops or on the bus, Tyack said.
Lodi city staff will be responsible for updating schedules as the routes change permanently or when construction disrupts a route.
"That is why it is such an effective program," Tyack said. "When we make changes, we are required to update Google, so people are getting up-to-the-minute information."
Even though she drives buses in Lodi, Mead said she still has to use the Internet to check schedules of other cities when she is traveling. She has not yet used Google Transit but said she might use it on her next trip.
"I use the Internet when going to the Bay Area," she said. "Otherwise, I'm lost."
Staff members are working to get all of the routes updated. For example, with the Lodi Avenue reconstruction project, Tyack said she is working with Google to make changes for the third phase of the project.
To get the project online, Lodi teamed with the California Center for Innovative Technology, which is part of the University of California at Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies.
It converted the city's schedule, routes and fare data into a format compatible with Google software.
It was free for the city to get the transit schedules online because the California Department of Transportation funded the project.
The center is targeting other smaller cities in the Central Valley to participate in the pilot program. Tyack said she hopes more cities will participate so passengers will have even more options when they travel.
"Hopefully, if we can get everyone on board, you can go anywhere on public transportation," Tyack said. "It's cheaper and better for the environment."