- Associated Press - Thursday, July 17, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Anchorage bus routes and schedules are now available to smartphone users through the Google Maps app.

Anchorage officials announced Wednesday that the city’s People Mover bus system partnered with Google Inc. to incorporate public transit data into the technology company’s mapping system, the Anchorage Daily News reported (http://is.gd/UlM9U6 ).

People without the Google Maps application on their phone also can plan trips through the People Mover page on the city’s website.

Search results come with travel time, transfer opportunities, fare estimates and walking directions to bus stops.

“It’s a great expansion of service for those who ride People Mover,” said Lance Wilber, director of the city’s Department of Public Transportation.

Numerous cities have already rolled out the technology. Wilber said Anchorage officials started looking into it several years ago.

The partnership stems from an effort by Brendan Babb, who was part of a team of programmers who in 2012 won the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.’s Hackathon. The event featured programmers challenged to use government data to create apps and web tools. The event has since been developed into Alaska Hackathon, which is sponsored by AEDC and others.

Babb’s team created a working model of the public transportation app. After the 2012 event, he volunteered to work with the municipality to develop the technology. The effort accelerated within the last six months and included a review by Google.

Babb, a research technician for the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, had used the bus-route feature while traveling in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Real-time bus data provided by the BusTracker application is more helpful for those searching routes on a computer. It’s less accessible for mobile users.

Babb said the goal is to make that data available to the public and other developers for the creation of mobile apps.

“I’m excited that the data is there,” he said. “There’s a lot of other applications that can use it, not just Google.”

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Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.adn.com