Google Transit
April 8, 2008 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Although its App Engine rollout is getting the bulk of the headlines today, Google rolled out another small product: an expansion of its Google Transit website.

Although Google had previously included the location of subway stops on its maps, it now lets you know how to go from one address to another via public transit in 37 different cities across the U.S., Canada, Asia, Europe and Australia. It will even tell you exactly how much gas money you're saving.

Over the past few months, Google reps have been heading out to different cities and setting up partnerships with various city transit agencies, including Perth, NJTransit and the Chicago Transit Authority, the latter of which rolled out their announcement this morning with "loud, pulsating music, pyramids of large colored cubes in Google’s color schemes" and "futuristic ergodynamic chairs."

(Chicago's mass transit agency recently expanded their own online "bus tracker" website, to boot, and gets extra points for not neglecting to make it accessible.)

No word yet on when Google plans to offer mass transit directions for the subway systems at its new colony.
posted by WCityMike (47 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Moncton, but not the TTC or the most successful light-rail line in the Americas, Calgary's C-Train?

I sure hope this is going to grow.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:43 AM on April 8, 2008

I've never even heard of this App Engine thing, so thanks for this.
posted by DU at 11:45 AM on April 8, 2008

Wow. This is so needed. I know other implementations of this exist -- I've used them to get around a few places in Southern California and on the East Coast -- but they really could use the improved human-factors touch Google tends to bring to what they do.
posted by weston at 11:46 AM on April 8, 2008

It is. It started off as a Labs product with just Portland; it's been adding cities as it makes arrangements to get the necessary data streams from the transit agencies.
posted by WCityMike at 11:47 AM on April 8, 2008

Google Transit? I can see how this might be useful if you're in Hampton Roads, Va. or Western Massachusetts, but Washington D.C. is NOT listed.

Is this a result of Heimat anxiety or what?
posted by vhsiv at 11:54 AM on April 8, 2008

How do they still not have coverage for DC?
posted by gsteff at 11:54 AM on April 8, 2008

Still no @#$% NYCTA/MTA integration. Come on NYC, get with it.
posted by Skorgu at 11:55 AM on April 8, 2008

You expect the MTA to get their stuff in gear? Dude. How long have you lived here?
posted by Mikey-San at 11:56 AM on April 8, 2008

I was really hoping they'd replace's obnoxious trip planner, but, alas, I shall have to wait. And wait I will.

Oh, yes. I will.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 12:03 PM on April 8, 2008

Is this less dumb that the CTA's trip planner, or just a front-end to that. A nice front end to trip planner is good, but something which made less asinine recommendations would be great.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:06 PM on April 8, 2008

Just to clarify, the transit agency has to cooperate with Google, and if a transit agency wants to get on there, all they need to do is provide their scheduling data formatted in a certain way. It shouldn't be a huge time- or money investment on any transit agency's part. So, no, it's not Google's fault your city isn't covered.
posted by WCityMike at 12:06 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Robot: it's not a new front end to the CTA trip planner. It's the Google Maps 'brain' at work.
posted by WCityMike at 12:07 PM on April 8, 2008

Not much love for the East Coast :(
posted by AwkwardPause at 12:09 PM on April 8, 2008

Still no DC. Boo, hiss.
posted by brownpau at 12:10 PM on April 8, 2008

Re. the TTC -- transit nerds in Toronto have gotten so frustrated with waiting for the TTC to come up with a decent trip planning site that they're doing it themselves.

There was a "Transit Camp" this past weekend and one of the initiatives discussed was which is supposed to launch in two weeks. From the Transit Camp wiki:

"One of the largest issues that they've had, and are likely to continue to have, is getting data from the TTC: many transit authorities are notoriously miserly with their data, in spite of the fact that it's created mostly with public funding. For MyTTC, they used the route and schedule data that's available on the TTC site, much of it captured manually (and painfully), but TTC hasn't been willing to share any data in a more easily-ingestible form, or to share the data that will soon be generated by global positioning systems on surface vehicles. This, of course, is a political problem rather than a technical problem, and likely others will need to be involved to help resolve this.

MyTTC is attempting to create a platform where the data is fully open (although they are not, at this time, making the code open source): they will be providing full XML and JSON APIs, SQL dumps of the data, and GTFS (Google Transit Feed Spec). In fact, their contacts at Google have said that Google Transit will accept their data in place of TTC's, likely because it's more accessible and complete. They don't plan to monetize the APIs, but would rather have other sites export the data and use it for their own purposes directly
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:13 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

UPDATE: Very cool comment from the CTA's chairwoman on her blog: "I also look forward to programmers and other talented folks getting creative with the application and showing us some new and exciting ways to make our region more accessible."

Nice to hear someone actively encouraging mashups, instead of getting all copyfascist about it ...
posted by WCityMike at 12:20 PM on April 8, 2008

Duluth, but not the Twin Cities? I feel like I should be pissed, but really I'm just amused.
posted by COBRA! at 12:20 PM on April 8, 2008

By the way ... everyone boo-hissing about their city not being in Google Transit — I can't claim credit for Chicago being in here, but I do know that I wrote letters to Kreusi (the CTA's former head), Brown (the chairwoman), Huberman (the new CTA's head), Daley (mayor), and was dialoguing with the Tribune's subway columnist trying to strongly advocate to Huberman that the city make its data available to Google Transit, and emphasizing the big benefit for the little effort required. I don't know for certain anyone heard me, but it can't have hurt.
posted by WCityMike at 12:23 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is Google App Engine HuddleChat a Campfire Rip-Off?

Well, obviously. Just look at it.
posted by influx at 12:23 PM on April 8, 2008

The New York MTA Trip Planner is pretty good.
posted by swift at 12:25 PM on April 8, 2008

Yeah, no coverage for DC, but we do already have WMATA's Trip Planner. It's not a shiny new toy, or anything, but it seems to work just fine.
posted by grateful at 12:35 PM on April 8, 2008

This is very useful - thank you for the link - I love Google stuff (especially the free Google 411 - )
posted by sjjh at 12:42 PM on April 8, 2008

Hopstop's yet to let me down, and it has NYC, Boston, and D.C. I guess there's just something about Google, though.
posted by aswego at 12:43 PM on April 8, 2008

Unfortunately for this guy who just sold his car, no LA.

And looks like no buses in the Bay Area, either.
posted by YoungAmerican at 1:06 PM on April 8, 2008

Cool. Nice to see other people complaining about lack of coverage on yet another cool regional web app.

I thought it was just me...
posted by Samizdata at 1:34 PM on April 8, 2008

thank you for the information, sevenyearlurk! I was wondering how come Toronto is sorely missing. Makes sense. TTC is putting up roadblocks for no good reason, as usual.
posted by olya at 1:36 PM on April 8, 2008

Transport For London's excellent Journey Planner has nothing to worry about. All I can get Google Transit to say is "Sorry, we don't have transit schedule data for a trip..." It doesn't even recognise my post-code.
posted by mr. strange at 1:46 PM on April 8, 2008

Wait, which part is new?
They've been doing the bus trip planning for a while now. Or am I missing something cool?
posted by madajb at 1:50 PM on April 8, 2008

Off topic: God fucking damn it TTC.
posted by chunking express at 2:04 PM on April 8, 2008

In fact, their contacts at Google have said that Google Transit will accept their data in place of TTC's, likely because it's more accessible and complete.

And also because Google probably has a minimum expectation of technical competency that the TTC completely, utterly fails. For chrissakes, this is the fucking TTC website. The OFFICIAL one. You want to trust these people with getting data in the proper format to Google?
posted by chrominance at 2:17 PM on April 8, 2008

Google App Engine and Django both have the ability to use the WSGI standard to run applications. As a result, it is possible to use nearly the entire Django stack on Google App Engine, including middleware. As a developer, the only necessary adjustment is modifying your Django data models to make use of the Google App Engine Datastore API to interface with the fast, scalable Google App Engine datastore.
posted by acro at 2:21 PM on April 8, 2008

Seriously, anyone who's had even the briefest of engagements with the TTC website wouldn't be surprised if the entire world EXCEPT Toronto made it onto Google Transit.
posted by chrominance at 2:22 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

$4.50 and 1 hour 45 minutes to ride mass transit versus $3.80 in gas and 20 minutes to drive my 10 mile commute.

Cool nonetheless.
posted by Big_B at 2:45 PM on April 8, 2008

Oh noes the Googleplex's farm of PhD coders is going to steal this really neat algorithm I thought up to do javascript reveals if I check in my code there.

Even so, design rip offs are lame.
posted by bonaldi at 3:14 PM on April 8, 2008

Thanks for this reminder of how much of a nightmare LA's public transportation is. I really wish Portland would conquer LA and bring us a new age of en-light rail-enment.
posted by mullingitover at 4:59 PM on April 8, 2008

Can someone San Franciscoist tell me why Muni is not on this site? Is it because Muni doesn't use exact times for when buses come and go? Even if the times weren't precise, it would still be extremely useful to get bus suggestions from something less stupid than 511.

Also, I was thinking about Google Transit a few days ago, and it hit me that Google could pretty much singlehandedly save Greyhound. When the difficulty of reading your schedule is an active deterrent from people riding your buses, it's time to fix something.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:29 PM on April 8, 2008

Look, it's been five hours and I'm still waiting for the MBTA. Work with me.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:47 PM on April 8, 2008

First, let's talk about the TTC. The motherfucking commission that is so goddamn stupid that they wouldn't sell or even officially endorse the only TTC-themed merchandise that has ever been popular. The fucking mayor wears one, for fuck's sake. (I can't remember which station he is, but I've been jammed next to him during rush hour. He does, indeed, have great hair.)

This is the agency staffed by union assholes (oh, my NDP upbringing is screaming at me for that) whose heads are shoved so far up their own goddamn rectums that they went on fucking strike for more money mere weeks after the second fare increase in two years. Why was there a fare increase, you ask? Because the TTC didn't have enough money to pay its (according to recent news) over $1B (BILLION! BILLION!) payroll, or maintain even a moderate state of repair on its fleet.

These are the same entitlement motherfuckers who--no word of a lie, heard three of them gabbing about this at Don Mills station while they studiously ignored me, one of the people who pays their fucking salaries, while I was trying to buy tokens--seem to feel that if they work a Saturday they should get time and a half, and if they work Sunday should be double time.

This would be the agency that has sent C&D orders to websites that talk about how to use the TTC more efficiently. Simple things like which door of which car you want to be at so you're closest to the stairs/escalator/elevator at your destination.

This fucking agency goes out of their way, every day, to make signage confusing. To make it hard for people to use the system. You can only reach a live operator at their infoline between 9AM and 5PM. Not much help at 7PM when you're trying to figure out how the hell to get somewhere in Scarborough.

The sheer contempt that the TTC displays for its riders--you know, those people who pay the salaries of everyone that works there?--is matched only by that of major airlines.

Ahem. /rant.

$4.50 and 1 hour 45 minutes to ride mass transit versus $3.80 in gas and thousands per year in insurance and amortized cost of the behicle and maintenance and car washes and pollution and global warming and 20 minutes to drive my 10 mile commute.


Good for the myttc folks. Here's hoping Giambrone and his lackeys don't try to shut them down. You know they will though.

Oh, and re: TTC website suckage. I can't even open the TTC website in Firefox, because those goddamn BING BENG BONG chimes, while charming, crash it. Every. Fucking. Time.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:45 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wish I'd read your comment before clicking on that TTC website, dnab.
posted by jacalata at 9:06 PM on April 8, 2008

RTF Links dnab. amortized vehicle costs are included.
posted by garlic at 9:17 PM on April 8, 2008

God, with all this TTC talk I'm afraid joeclark is going to come out of the woodwork and start railing about their signage and fonts.

I actually happen to quite like Giambrone. While it's fun to rant, the reality is that the TTC is a holy hell of a system and it's not like somebody can ride in there, wave a magic wand and clear out the unions and years of bureaucratic cruft with ease. That said, there are a lot of relatively easy fixes that should be high on their priority list, and fixing the website, opening their data and relaxing their stance on licensing are amongst them.

So I guess dnab is back?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:49 PM on April 8, 2008

I hope MyTTC is good. Really, really hope.

I fixate on the $2.50 to $2.75 fare increase, because it pisses off my sense of simplicity. I liked the idea of being able to look at a $5 bill and think, "There's my round trip." Now I have to think about where two other quarters are.

In the end I think environmental responsibility dictates, along with other municipal changes, making public transit free or at least a nominal fee. Obviously this requires a shift in funding priorities.
posted by Gnatcho at 9:56 PM on April 8, 2008 is really pretty good for San Francisco. It uses googlemaps, too.
posted by rtha at 10:52 PM on April 8, 2008

garlic: However, this is only an estimate and doesn't consider tolls, parking fees, or variations in gas mileage for different types of cars.

So, my point remains. Thanks for playing though.

I actually happen to quite like Giambrone. While it's fun to rant, the reality is that the TTC is a holy hell of a system and it's not like somebody can ride in there, wave a magic wand and clear out the unions and years of bureaucratic cruft with ease.

That's true as far as it goes, but the Toy Train Company needs to take a harder stance against unions ("Want to strike, fine, I'll be on TV for every news cycle talking about how your unreasonable demands mean we would have to raise fares--again!--and how we can't force Torontonians to pay so much more for their own transit"), they need to start holding governments hostage for money--forget strikes. How about actually sending the workers to Queen's Park and blocking the entrances to the legislature with broken-down buses?

Er.. anyway. I'll stop the derail. But, FWIW, I agree with the font-ranting.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:25 AM on April 9, 2008

Wow, what a great thread about Google Transit!
posted by WCityMike at 7:45 AM on April 9, 2008

There are so many Google apps someone needs a site that tells you about all of them.
posted by wsiebler at 5:56 PM on April 13, 2008

« Older Procrastination   |   Sunday Morning Blues Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments