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Last fall my niece and I used a combination of bicycles, buses, and ferries to visit some friends about 20 miles away. Our multi-modal trip was so much fun that when we finished, Lily said, “I wonder if we could take public transportation all the way down to Sacramento to see grandpa and grandma?”

It was an appealing idea with one big obstacle: exactly how do you figure out all those local transfers? It’s easy in Chicago, where the main transit website links the city and suburban buses, el and commuter trains and can calculate any itinerary within about 40 miles. It’s not as easy where I live now: getting to or from Seattle means three buses, three counties, three transit systems, and three websites. Grrr!

Enter Google Transit, launched by Google “to make public transit information as easy to find as any other geographic information.” Type in your start and end locations and it tells you how to get there without a car!

Yes, yes, yes, and yes!! What an exciting and powerful alternative to our car-based society—a positive way to create more public transit riders, which can’t help but create even more alternatives to driving. Alternatives are the best way out of our current system of overconsumption and a grandiose entitlement. They anchor a competing set of ideals in real practices that we can start to adopt. As a proponent of active transportation, I think Google Transit is a reason to celebrate.

But can it get my niece and me to grandma’s house on public transit? Just for fun I checked. Sensibly, GT told me to take the bus to Skagit Station, enjoy the 815-mile ride on Amtrak, and then switch to the local bus when we step off the train in Sacramento. So I think we will!

Anne Basye, Sustaining Simplicity