In newspapers across the wide expanse of America readers awoke to news today that stubborn belly fat in middle age can triple the threat of dementia in old age. Again, Google Transit comes to the rescue.
Ever since I started planning for the adventure of getting the wife to leave her car at home and take transit to work, I've had a gut feeling that something more than bus routes and train connections was governing Google Transit's algorithm for mapping point-to-point transit options.
This something is the difference between getting from Point A to Point B the innovative Google Transit way or going there with the suspiciously self-serving Sacramento Regional Transit way.
Pick up these images: In the one hand, young, creative techno wizards at a company that proudly proclaims "You can make money without doing evil." In the other hand, see middle-aged transit operators and bureaucrats, many of whom, we learned today, are at risk for dementia in old age.
Now, put the images down and go your computer and open up your Web browser. Create two Web-browsing windows. In one, go to www.google.com/transit. In the other, go infoweb.sacrt.com.
In the Google window, put Watt & Whitney, Sacramento as the start address and White Rock Rd & Prospect Park Dr, Rancho Cordova as the end address. Set the departure time to 7:20 a.m. (Any weekday will do.) Click "Get Directions" and then select either of the two "Did you mean" links to get Google Transit's suggested transit options.
In the Regional Transit Trip Planning window, put Watt & Whitney in the "I'm starting from ..." line and White Rock Rd & Prospect Park Dr in the "I am going to ..." line. Specify 7:20 a.m. for the departure time. Click on "Get trip plan" and then select WHITE ROCK RD @ PROSPECT PARK DR, RANCHO CORDOVA and again click "Get trip plan."
Now compare the suggested routes.
Sacramento Regional Transit suggests catching the No. 84 bus, and transferring to the outbound light rail train. RT says to get off at Mather Field station and board a No. 74 bus for the trip to the destination.
Google Transit suggests the same No. 84 bus to light rail. But here is where the two algorithms for mapping point-to-point transit options depart. Instead of getting off at Mather Field, Google suggests continuing on to the Cordova Town Center. From there, the young, creative techno wizards at a company that proudly proclaims "You can make money without doing evil" suggest a walk of about 16 minutes. It will do you good, lower your risk of dementia, make you attractive.
Of course, the middle-aged transit operators and bureaucrats, many of whom are at risk for dementia in old age, will point out that you won't live long enough to enjoy your dementia-free old age if you take Google's suggestion. That leisurely 16-minute walk to your destination includes a brisk dash across Highway 50. In other words, it can't be done. Certainly you can't walk from light rail to White Rock Road and Prospect Park Drive in 16 minutes.
An algorithm, according to the Wikipedia definition, is a type of effective method in which a definite list of well-defined instructions for completing a task, when given an initial state, will proceed through a well-defined series of successive states, eventually terminating in an end-state.
Everyone is working off the same basic data. Perhaps Google thinks it is foolish to throw away that extra $2 that it costs to make a two-transfer trip on Regional Transit. Perhaps Regional Transit really believes that offering routes with just four minutes between transfers is a realistic option and not just wishful thinking.
For a middle-aged man working on reducing his risk of dementia in his rapidly approaching old age, it's all a mystery.
So far the wife has avoided RT's two-transfer penalty by buying a $5 all-day pass. In three trips using RT's suggested schedule of buses and trains, she has only once had to run to make a connection. Perhaps her beginner's luck will hold.