Sometimes I get disproportionate pleasure out of the oddest things. For example, I really love King County’s web tool for planning your bus trips. I first found it last year when my brother Gary was visiting from Thailand. He used it throughout his stay to get wherever he needed to go, including a trip from my house in the heart of Seattle to Bothell, a suburb to the north. I was reminded of it earlier this week by my book club friend Nancy who bussed from her store on Mercer Island to our book club meeting in the Wallingford neighborhood. (For those who don’t know Seattle, these are not particularly direct trips.)
I love this tool because its utility is so high. You enter just a few bits of data into a straightforward interface – in addition to time and start-and-end points, you can specify how much walking you’re willing to do and whether you want the trip plan optimized for fastest/fewest transfers/minimal walking. It spews out just what you need: several possible scenarios to choose from with the key information to help you choose between them. The lack of mapping is a notable omission and suggests this application is getting long in the tooth. But it was designed well to work without maps and I hope they don’t ruin it when they inevitably modernize.
My joy in this tool is admittedly “disproportionate” because I don’t even take the bus! But I do clearly recall my frustration at collecting, deciphering and navigating bus schedules when I was a poverty-stricken, bus-riding college student. And this is just the kind of application we now take completely for granted.