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As the population in the region increases and road capacities decrease, public transportation becomes more of a visible option.

One key factor in a commuters' choice to use public transportation is access and convenience of securing information on the available options. If the process to access public transportation information is too cumbersome, commuters become discouraged and chose not to use public transit.

The Central Maryland Regional Transit Corporation, in coordination with the Maryland Transit Administration, has developed a new model for disseminating transportation information, the backbone of which is a centralized database and call center that will serve as a one-stop shop for public and private transportation services.

The Transportation Resource Information Point, or TRIP project, funded through a Job Access Reverse Commute grant, is funding software development and personnel to establish the one-call, one-click transportation resource center.

The project includes the cities of Baltimore and Annapolis, and the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, and Howard in Central Maryland.

"We have created a database, which includes the transportation services currently available in Central Maryland," said Michael Owino, TRIP's Mobility manager. "The TRIP website provides valuable public transportation information to commuters throughout the Baltimore area."

The TRIP database not only includes public transportation, but private transportation services as well. Taxi service companies, private charter bus companies and even medical transportation providers are included in the database.

The goal of the project is to improve access to information available to commuters.

"The website is the heart of the program as it enables easy access to public transportation options throughout the Central Maryland area," said John Powell, chief executive officer for CMRT. "Instead of requiring residents and visitors to contact multiple agencies to identify public transportation options throughout the region, individuals can access TRIP."

A key TRIP component is the planning tool. Users can input origin and destination information and plan their entire trip using public transportation. Users can also view service alerts, news and announcements that could affect their trip. If public transportation is not a viable option, users can obtain rideshare information, which offers other transportation options.

An additional feature of the TRIP website is a real-time view of public transportation arrivals and departures. CMRT has partnered with NextBus, Inc., which utilizes global positioning system technology to provide accurate times.

CMRT's customer service center, which currently manages calls for Howard Transit and Connect-A-Ride bus systems, handles regional calls. Call center assistance ranges from planning trips for riders who do not have access to a computer to helping commuters obtain fare media.

For more information on the Central Maryland TRIP Project, visit www.mdtrip.org or call 877-331-TRIP (8747).

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