The Nov. 21 turnout of hikers climbs aboard the 554 Sound Transit bus to Issaquah for a day on Squak Mountain.

Turn Off This App Go Outside (TOTAGO) is startup Open PlanIt’s first move toward facilitating local Seattleites to go hiking via public transportation.

Open PlanIt, TOTAGO’s parent company, formed with the mission to increase accessibility of people in urban areas to places such as national parks, inter-city green spaces, or to put it simply: the outdoors.

The app coordinates bus routes required for users to easily get to and from the trailhead of a selected hike. It can also recommend options for hikes depending on where you are, where you want to go, and how much time you have allotted.

One of the core pillars to Open PlanIt is removing barriers to access the outdoors and since, in Seattle, many people do not have cars, the company’s initial focus is on using public transit to enact its mission.

The app also has a unique offline feature that allows users to access information within the app even when they’re outside of phone service range.

Currently, TOTAGO is only available to Android users through Google Play. The TOTAGO team is working toward making the app accessible to iOS iPhone users as well.

Group meetup events have been a successful facet of the app’s growth. Through these events, app users who decide to participate meet a member from the TOTAGO team at a designated bus stop, at a selected date and time, and go on a hike together.

TOTAGO has begun its hiking events by partnering with other Seattle associations such as Seattle Transit Hikers, a group that solely does group meetup hikes on a weekly basis, to gain users and increase participation.

The first two hikes, led by Open PlanIt and TOTAGO founder, and UW alumnus, Adrian Laurenzi, were very successful.

“If there was more people, it would have probably been problematic,” Laurenzi said. “There were over 20 people.”

Group events make it easier on people who are intimidated by the outdoors, and having a guide makes hiking more approachable as a recreational activity.

Emmett Lawrence, an intern for Open PlanIt, said he wants to work toward being more inclusive to people of color.

“To increase accessibility, knowledge, and the approachableness of getting out into different green space to communities who are generally not a part of that; so that means different groups of minorities in particular,” Lawrence said. “If you look at statistics of people who go out and go on hikes, it’s almost exclusively white.”

Lawrence also noted that a component of this could be socioeconomic status or cultural values that inhibit some groups of people from going out and exploring the natural spaces Seattle has to offer.

The app may have launched only a few weeks ago, but the current plan is to take it global, and to grow the program region-by-region or city-by-city.

“Society has a long way to go in making outdoor activities accessible to everyone, which is something we certainly need to do if we’re going to inspire support for protecting our natural resources,” said Lauren Miheli, a volunteer coordinator for The Nature Conservancy on the organization’s website. “But a tool like this one is definitely a step in the right direction.”


Reach reporter Anna DiBlosi at news@dailyuw.comTwitter: @annadib4

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