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Google Transportation Technology

How Google Is Remapping Public Transportation 187

Posted by Soulskill
from the eliminating-bus-stop-doubts dept.
waderoush writes "Google wants to 'organize the world's information,' but there isn't a marketplace or a category of knowledge it can organize without remaking it in the process. A case in point: public transportation. Largely outside the media spotlight, Google has wrought a quiet revolution over the last five years in the way commuters get schedule information for local buses and trains, and the way public transit agencies communicate with their riders. GTFS and GTFS-realtime, which Google invented, have become the de facto world standards for sharing transit data, and have opened up space for a whole ecosystem of third-party transit app developers. This in-depth article looks at the history of GTFS and Google's efforts to give people information (largely via their smartphones) that can help them plan their commutes on public transportation — and, not incidentally, drive a lot less."
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How Google Is Remapping Public Transportation

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  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @08:35PM (#39118633) Homepage

    After missing three or four timed-transfer connections, I've given up on Google Maps for transit.

    I'm sure it works sometimes, but since they've made it impossible to check their work (they don't give you access to the schedule data) it's a hell of a lot easier just to check the schedule myself.

    That said it does work okay for short bus trips, but I've already got an app on my phone that tells me when the bus is arriving base on real-time data. No need to bring Google Maps into the picture.

    • by ryanov (193048)

      Well, if it's a tight connection you have to check it... which you can do.

    • by kwerle (39371)

      Google maps has been better than any local transit maps I've used - not that I've used all that many. (San Luis Obispo, CA)

      I'm curious whereabouts you are that your local info is easier to get online.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You do realize that the local transit map and the Google feed are the same thing right? As someone who has actually worked on this particular feed, they're both pulled from the same source. It's not like Google has anything to do with the actual feed data... they should rightly get credit for the feed specification and the medium in which it is relayed to the people. But it's the agencies that create the feeds that get uploaded to Google for use.

    • by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2 AT anthonymclin DOT com> on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @08:47PM (#39118763) Homepage

      That said it does work okay for short bus trips, but I've already got an app on my phone that tells me when the bus is arriving base on real-time data.

      If Google Maps used realtime data, that would be amazing. They're at the point where they can aggregate multiple data sources to plan your trip. For example, traveling cross town in Los Angeles could theoretically mean:
      Starting on LADOT downtown-only bus circuit (DASH)
      Transferring to LADOT regular bus
      Transferring to Culver CIty bus
      Transferring to Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, or back to the LADOT bus.

      That's 4 different bus systems just to get from downtown to the beach, and doesn't take into account the light rail/subway system, commuter heavy rail (2 different systems) or Amtrak. Each municipality and transit provider publishes schedules and routes independently. They all have independently run trip-planning tools and mobile apps. Google really is at the best point in the mix to offer a truly integrated solution that spans providers, making public transportation a NETWORK instead of scattering of independent systems.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by PRMan (959735)
        And yet, driving your car from downtown to the beach is cheaper and more convenient...
        • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @11:45PM (#39120491) Journal

          With gas prices the way they are, I'm not sure I'd buy the "cheaper" argument.

          Figure that gas here in LA is $4.11. Assuming you're heading to Santa Monica beach, that's about 17 miles. So figure you'll use half to three-quarters of a gallon of gasoline to get there. Assuming you're planning on returning, you'll use 1 to 1.5 gallons of gasoline. So figure you'll spend anywhere from $4.11 to $6.17 to get to the beach. This doesn't include parking, etc.

          Now I can take the "Rapid 10" Blue Bus from downtown to Santa Monica for, I'm guessing, $2.00 each way (I thought Google gave fare info, but I guess not). So figure that's $4.00 round-trip. So unless your car gets better than 34 MPG, you're spending less money taking the bus than driving a car.

          As for "convenience," well, that's up to individual taste. I'd submit that driving to the beach is much more convenient for the beginning of the trip (just hop in and go versus waiting around for the bus to show up) but far less convenient at the end of trip (try to find parking versus stepping off the bus at the beach). So it sort of depends on when you want your hassle--beginning or end.

          • I'd submit that driving to the beach is much more convenient for the beginning of the trip (just hop in and go versus waiting around for the bus to show up)

            Especially when it'd be more than a 24 hour wait because a particular city doesn't run buses at all on a given day.

          • by Patch86 (1465427)

            As an aside, it always depresses me to see American's complain about petrol prices. I don't remember the last time petrol here was less than £5 a gallon; I think these days it's more like £6 (about $10)...

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              It's my understanding that your gasoline prices are so high because of taxes. I'd take high gasoline prices in a heartbeat if it meant I didn't have to buy health insurance. Too bad my fellow Americans all seem to disagree.

              • Regardless of one's position on universal healthcare (FYI I'm all for it) fuel taxes shouldn't have anything to do with healthcare funding. That money should go entirely in to road construction, maintenance, and improvement. We do need more of that too though, and in a time where increasing fuel economy tightens the budget on our already severely underfunded road system it pisses me off whenever fuel taxes are reduced with the goal of reducing gas costs.

                But as always in this country, short term gains >

              • by ryanov (193048)

                I'd take high gasoline prices in a heartbeat now. I buy it about 4 times a year because I've chosen to live somewhere with decent transportation, and proper taxation of gasoline could turn Amtrak into more than a curiosity and into a real rail carrier.

          • by Captain Hook (923766) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @06:14AM (#39122717)

            So figure you'll spend anywhere from $4.11 to $6.17 to get to the beach. This doesn't include parking, etc.

            "Rapid 10" Blue Bus from downtown to Santa Monica for, I'm guessing, $2.00 each way (I thought Google gave fare info, but I guess not). So figure that's $4.00 round-trip.

            The calculations holds true so long as you are going to the beach by yourself, but take 1 extra person with you the public transport costs double but the car costs will remain essentially the same.

            Based on that between 1 and 2 extra people would make the car cheaper and fill a car with 4 people and the car will always come out cheaper.... which I think is a great shame, I always said that if they want to encourage public transport they need to find a way to make it cheap for groups.

            • by swillden (191260)

              Based on that between 1 and 2 extra people would make the car cheaper and fill a car with 4 people and the car will always come out cheaper.... which I think is a great shame, I always said that if they want to encourage public transport they need to find a way to make it cheap for groups.

              Perhaps, but either way you've reduced the number of single-occupant vehicles on the road.

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              I always said that if they want to encourage public transport they need to find a way to make it cheap for groups.

              They just raised bus prices here in Springfield to $1.25. That's $2.50 round trip. At 20 mpg it doesn't matter if I'm by myself or in a group, driving anywhere in town is a hell of a lot cheaper than the bus, and a ten minute drive is an hour long bus ride.

          • by hoggoth (414195)

            So for between $0.11 and $2.17 I can have a custom ride go directly to my destination faster more conveniently and more comfortably, and I can bring all my friends for free.

          • by ryanov (193048)

            That is also nowhere near the total cost of a trip by car (which is admittedly difficult to calculate).

      • by 404 Clue Not Found (763556) * on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @10:22PM (#39119763)

        They already do that.

        Check out this set of directions from Rowland Heights to Marina Del Ray [google.com].

        It uses source data from 5 agencies and combines it into one route, taking into account walking and transfer times.

        Too bad the route takes 3.5 hours instead of 49 minutes driving, but that's not Google's fault.

        • Its is not evident from the link. What makes you think they use real time data?

          Or was the point of your post was that Google aggregates data from multiple agencies, which was exactly the same as GP's point - "They're at the point where they can aggregate multiple data sources to plan your trip."

        • Too bad the route takes 3.5 hours instead of 49 minutes driving

          The problem... well stated. The fundamental maths of current public transport technologies mean that they can physically never replace the car in terms of performance. You could spend trillions on it and it would still suck so badly that nobody uses it. (This is what Europe does)

          There are technologies out there where the maths do add up (PRT) and which can outperform cars, but they would replace existing public transport systems which have lobbyists, unions, huge subsidies, decades of waste ec. Egos would b

          • by fgouget (925644) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:53AM (#39123853)

            The problem... well stated. The fundamental maths of current public transport technologies mean that they can physically never replace the car in terms of performance. You could spend trillions on it and it would still suck so badly that nobody uses it. (This is what Europe does)

            Come take the subway in Paris and you will find it so packed you will wish nobody used it. Take a car instead and an hour and a handful of miles later you will wish you had taken the subway instead.
            So no. There are public transportation systems that are both widely used and competitive with cars.

          • by ryanov (193048)

            Says someone it doesn't sound like has ever been to Europe... or NYC for that matter.

    • by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @08:49PM (#39118791)

      After missing three or four timed-transfer connections, I've given up on Google Maps for transit.

      In Perth, Australia Google Maps is more reliable then Transperths own website, not to mention the fact that Google Maps works on my phone. If you want schedule data, just select the bus stop or train station you want that data on.

      • by jonwil (467024)

        Google Transit is great plus Transperth publish their GTFS feed data.
        Only downside is that you cant use Google Transit on a Nokia N900 Linux phone (I keep meaning to write an app for it but I never got around to it and couldn't be bothered figuring out how to parse the GTFS feed properly)

      • by definate (876684) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:57PM (#39119541)

        In South Australia the transit services all use Google now, and it's really accurate. I'm at uni, so I'm using it all the time, and I've never had a problem. I have friends who have done more serious bus based travel, with multiple transfers, and they've had no problem. It's made their route planning a lot easier, and they can now minimize their wait times.

        I've had nothing but good experiences with the whole system.

      • by Craig Ringer (302899) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:40AM (#39121283) Homepage Journal

        I must second that - I rely heavily on Google Maps in Perth, and in fact it's helped me avoid needing a car for the last five years. I only recently got one to make it easier to get out of the city, go windsurfing, and get around on sundays.

        The only issue I've ever had with Google Maps transit in WA has been the odd special-occasion public holiday or special event where Transperth appears to have failed to inform Google of the schedule changes. That can be annoying. On the other hand, Google Maps had perfect data about all the New Years' Eve special and adjusted services, so they're clearly getting it pushed most of the time.

        I cannot possibly praise Transperth and Google enough for Google Maps Transit. It's fantastic, and it's a real shame that so few people seem to know about and use it. It was a real lifesaver when I last visited Auckland, too, as I could just use Maps instead of having to fart about with a different city's transit systems and timetables. Fantastic!

      • by idji (984038)
        A few years ago Google Maps had integrated wonderful public transport information for Vienna, Austria. And then it suddenly vanished, and so now on Google Maps when you click on an underground station, you are just shown a link to wienerlinien.at and the comment "Note: Public transit coverage may not be available in this area.", rather than station info.
        • by mjwx (966435)

          A few years ago Google Maps had integrated wonderful public transport information for Vienna, Austria. And then it suddenly vanished, and so now on Google Maps when you click on an underground station, you are just shown a link to wienerlinien.at and the comment "Note: Public transit coverage may not be available in this area.", rather than station info.

          I think that it would be because the public transit authority (not sure if public, private or any combination of the above in Vienna) has probably revoked Googles access to the data. I know Transperth in Oz has made the data that Google uses available in XML form.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @08:52PM (#39118823)

      It would be better if every agency made their GTFS feed public, that's for sure. I never figured out why more don't do that, since it really doesn't require any additional work on the part of the outfit to post the zip file on their website somewhere.

      I would encourage anyone who lives in a city who is on Google Transit but doesn't put the GTFS feed on their website to call, send email, come to transit board meetings, etc and encourage them to post the data publicly . If you live in a city where the data is already posted, create works that extend the data (or help others do so) to help make the format more useful for everyone. Even if Google stops supporting Transit in the future, the GTFS data is still invaluable for anyone who creates software that helps other transit riders get around easier.

      • Zip file?

        Give me an easily crawled listing of individual files, an rsync-able directory, or an RSS feed. Something where I don't have to constantly re-download data that *hasn't* changed along with changes.

        • by Kalriath (849904)

          That's not how GTFS works. Basically it's 8 CSV files in a zip file. Agency, Calendar, Calendar Dates, Routes, Shapes, Stop Times, Stops, and Trips. A very ugly, hard to parse format.

    • by rykin (836525) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @08:54PM (#39118843)
      In my experience, the bus is never on time. However, because I am in a city, it tends to run every 10-15 minutes, so missing one bus isn't that big of a deal. Google has been nice for helping me get places in which I didn't know how or if I needed to transfer. It will give you directions such as "Ride bus 1 to this street, walk a block, then wait for bus 2". It has simplified the Public Transit process about as much as Mapquest* simplified getting from point A to point B in your car (before GPS was common). Sure, it can have errors, but more often than not, it's good.
      • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:56PM (#39119529)
        This is similar to the NYC subway system. On weekdays for most lines, trains basically run every 5-10 minutes. Its always amusing when tourists walk up to me and ask what time the next train is scheduled to arrive. The flip side of that, of course, is the unpredictable delays due to track fires, random line work, winos pulling the emergency brake cord, express trains suddenly turning into locals, etc.
        • I'm quite familiar with NYC and primarily use the subway to get around (though I'm not a local, I go there frequently and have many friends there, I'm originally from Buffalo) and the thing that always trips me up is when I need a specific letter train (not just anything on a certain color line). It's not always guaranteed to show up at all on a given day, and the signage at the stations will tell you but are usually quite ambiguous - enough so that someone not familiar with the schedule would not be able t

          • by ryanov (193048)

            Sounds like you would benefit from the Weekender: http://www.mta.info/weekender.html [mta.info]

            Doesn't help full time, but there are seldom major reroutes except late nights or weekends.

            One really needs to read the paper signs in the stations. They're almost always there now and they are easier to understand than they used to be.

    • by txoof (553270) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @08:55PM (#39118857) Homepage

      Where I live, the local bus company's web site [kolumbus.no] is terrible. It's difficult to use, forces you to fill in forms over and over again when you make changes, can't figure out where you are or where you want to go half the time and frequently has issues figuring out transfers at all. Worst of all, the bus company never seems to have current route information posted at the bus stops.

      Since Google started supporting transit directions in Stavanger, Norway [g.co], my life has been so much easier. I especially love the Android (Gingerbread) integration. I have shortcuts on my home screen that will show me the best route and next three busses from wherever I am to my home, work and down town. It's amazing.

      If you regularly use public transit, it's worth your time to see if Google supports your city.

      Now the only thing missing is real time route information. I can't wait until that feature comes to town. Sadly the bus drivers are rarely on time and make a sport of speeding away when they're early and you're sprinting for the bus.

    • by Wraithlyn (133796)

      Clearly you don't live in Calgary. Google Maps Transit was a godsend... forget schedule information, you needed it just to figure out an efficient ROUTE thru Calgary's masochistic spaghetti-maze of local bus loops.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Living in a city that lives and falls with it's public transport system (Hong Kong - the public transport sytem here is considered one of the best in the world, if not simply the best), I had never heard of this whole Google attempt. I just tried it and it seems to work, the route that I tried I got several known-good connections.

      Before I have seen bus stops appear, and bus routes. But this just doesn't work well: you can click a bus stop, see which routes call there, and see the routes on the map. A typic

    • For Tri-met in Portland I find that lists the approximate time of arrival - the bus still might be slightly early or slightly late and its still best to show up a bit before if you can.

      I'm kinda glad they run at all :).

    • Do you know what would be even greater? If public transport would actually run on schedule.
      • by ryanov (193048)

        If more people would ride it and quit fucking up traffic with their shitty driving, maybe it would.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      I have two basic problems with it.

      Firstly, it simply doesn't have all the public transport companies' data. Looking at my home town, it lacks the local (government owned, almost monopoly) bus company, and instead suggests you just walk everywhere (hours and hours of walking for some routes I've just tried). I know this is daft because I know my local transport routes; it'd be downright an issue when travelling somewhere unknown, where you don't know what you're missing.

      Secondly, compared with the main railw

      • by xaxa (988988)

        The British government has funded http://www.transportdirect.info/ [transportdirect.info] , which should have everything. It's very rare that I need to plan journeys outside London or a couple of other cities, so I've only used it a couple of times. I don't know if it really is complete.

        (Also, I find http://traintimes.org.uk/ [traintimes.org.uk] much nicer than the real National Rail site. URLs like http://traintimes.org.uk/WAT/Putney [traintimes.org.uk] work (with the code or the full name), and you can add times, dates, etc.)

        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          Excellent tip, particularly on that first one. Very many thanks indeed.

          (Which underlines Google Transit's lack of suitability- it performs considerably worse than transportdirect.info on a few test routes I've just tried. If they can't out-perform what's already available, they're not ready for me to use them)

      • by ryanov (193048)

        But that's not the way it works: the transit provider supplies the data. Google is there to receive it. If you want your local authority to have it, request it (and/or offer to help them do it).

        I do agree with you that there are issues with the trip costs. In the US, the analogy is Amtrak. It will suggest it a lot of times because it is faster (even if only by 20 mins on a 60 minute journey) but it costs at least 3 times as much -- sometimes 6 times as much as public transit. There should be some sort of di

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @08:44PM (#39118727)

    I'm a dispatcher with a small transit agency out in the Midwest on Google Transit, and I have to say its been great for us and our riders. New passengers are typically unfamiliar with locations around towns or unfamiliar with the local bus schedule, and giving them a trip planner that is already built into a familiar interface on Google sure makes life easier on them. The GTFS feed itself is also useful for external developers of programs that provide extra service to passengers, like Android or iPhone applications, or even members of the public that just want a well-documented view of exactly how the buses in a town operate. The fact that all of this is free is just icing on the cake.

    A shout out to Bob Heitzman for his wonderful Excel-based tools (https://sites.google.com/site/rheitzman/) that enabled our system and others to get on to Google in the first place. Anyone out there who works for a small public transit system should check those out if you're wondering about supporting a GTFS feed. They aren't fancy, but they work well for outfits that don't have the manpower to run a full set of scheduling software.

    • New passengers are typically unfamiliar with locations around towns or unfamiliar with the local bus schedule

      How should new passengers deal with the 36 to 60 hour layovers that are common in places like Fort Wayne, Indiana? There are no buses from roughly 6 PM Saturday evening to 6 AM Monday morning, or 6 AM Tuesday morning if Sunday or Monday is a major holiday.

  • GTFS? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by backslashdot (95548) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @08:54PM (#39118855)

    GTFS? Get The Fucking Subway?

  • hmm.. the standard, i would of assumed that TCIP was the standard that google is not adhering to. GTFS is interesting and good in it's own way, but it's devoid of information that's useful to transit systems, such as Run information and timepoints. Without that information it will only be a subset of the information needed.

  • Buses US only? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sneeka2 (782894) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:26PM (#39119205)

    Somebody please tell this to the Japanese. While their bus service is decent enough, getting information about routes and timetables here is virtually impossible. All the Japanese bus company websites are still Web 0.8, there are many many private bus companies even within the same city and there's no one service that aggregates all the information.

    Google Bus would be a great service here. They have already done it for trains, which works really well.

    • by Gothmolly (148874)

      The problem is that their schedule is printed in all these weird squiggly characters. No wonder nobody can read it !

    • Err, I posed as AC a second ago, and forgot to post the link :) Anyways, all Japanese people I know use this site to route (mostly between train stations?), but it gives you all things including normal buses, high speed buses, shinkansen, walking, water ferries, etc. I don't know if they have an english version though... http://transit.loco.yahoo.co.jp/ [yahoo.co.jp]
      • by Sneeka2 (782894)

        If only it was this easy. Nope, even Yahoo does not provide bus route information. High speed buses, sure, but normal buses no.
        At least it does not find my local bus connection and has me walking 15mins to the closest train station instead.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      The reason their sites look basic is so that you can read them on mobile phones. Of course now everyone has smart phones they could be more complex, but they have been using them since before 2000.

      The best option for smartphones is to get an app. The official ones are pretty good and will do something similar to what Google does, i.e. plan a route from A to B using multiple different types of transport and walking if necessary.

      But yes, it would be nice if they integrated with Google. The data is available t

      • by Sneeka2 (782894)

        I don't know, this don't look like a mobile-optimized site: http://kokusaikogyo.ekiworld.net/kensaku/web/ [ekiworld.net]

        And again, I have yet to find one app that has all the bus information. Navitime doesn't even recognize the name of my nearest bus stop, which is served by two different companies, 30mins walking distance from Shinjuku. There's hardly any excuse for not having that data.

        The reality is, bus information is simply not well aggregated or accessible in Japan.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        The reason their sites look basic is so that you can read them on mobile phones.

        All web sites should be written like this!

        Of course now everyone has smart phones they could be more complex

        But everyone DOESN'T have a smart phone. I don't; I have a "feature phone" that won't display your "complex" pages (funny it does work with slashdot though)

        Now tell me, what would be the benefit of making them more complex? THIS IS A BUG, NOT A FEATURE. Case in point: I gave up trying to file my taxes online after an hour

  • by eepok (545733) on Tuesday February 21, 2012 @09:37PM (#39119325) Homepage

    Google Transit is not news to those of us who work in transportation. I work in Sustainable Transportation/Transportation Demand Management and my job is to get people to do (practically) anything but drive a car alone. Since I also work at a University, it's also my job to convince students not to bring cars to school (at least for the first few years) and it would be SO MUCH EASIER if I could convince Google to jump into multi-modal trip planning. Why?

    Well, let's assume you're at my University and want to get somewhere 85 miles south without a car. You might be able to bus to the local train station, catch a southbound train, and then catch another bus to your final destination. However, the bus service here is contracting (sharply) due to budget constraints so a bus connection to a train will not always be an option.

    I often suggest biking to the train, riding the train, and then biking to the final destination, but since Google Maps treats transit (bus/train) and biking separately, my suggestion can only go so far. It requires some rather involved planning for a novice to get from our campus to the train station by bike.

    There are other options like OpenTripPlanner which, when coupled with a well-mapped OpenStreetMaps, can be an incredible way to plan multi-modal trips in addition to mapping out literally everything in an area from streets to bike lanes to sidewalks, stairs, and handicap accessible ramps... but it takes A LOT of work to perfect a local map and then to host an OpenTripPlanner server. It's relatively easy, but it's man-hour intense.

    So, come on Google, pretty please.

    • Yes, this! Car+train, bike+train, etc are key ways to make public transport more usable and time efficient, but Maps doesn't understand them.

      Maps needs to not only understand mixed journeys, but which services you can take bikes on. In Perth, Western Australia, for example you can bring a bike on the train (but not bus), except between 7am-9am and 4:30pm-6:30pm weekdays. There are also secure keycard-controlled bike lockups at stations if you want to just ride to the station. If you make use of those facili

  • Unless what any /. reader observes as realtime data, GTFS Realtime is just not realtime transit data. GTFS Realtime updates a GTFS feed with current information if a planned trip was canceled. It is in its current form not telling the actual positions of busses, their punctuality etc. If you want to look more into why realtime is not realtime, go to their usergroup and search for wave. A nice thread on why Google Wave (aka ProtoBuf combined with XMPP) does make sense here - but too complex for Google and th
    • From the article: "To enable all that, Google introduced a new standard in 2011 called GTFS-realtime. It builds on GTFS, but is a different animal, since it includes new feed types for trip updates, service alerts, and vehicle positions, as well as provisions for constantly refreshing this data throughout the day."

      So the article does state that it's also for vehicle positions. I haven't checked if the article is right or not though.

  • by kiwimate (458274) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @12:06AM (#39120673) Journal

    I didn't know it could do this. That's because after waiting seven YEARS for my street to show up on Google Maps correctly, I've long since given up using their sodding software.

    Every other mapping app has had my street listed for ages. Google Maps is the only one that still can't find my address.

  • I recently moved to the Bay Area, and when I arrived I didn't have a car for about two weeks. With my android tablet I've been able to navigate all around San Jose and San Francisco (and in-between) easily. Rather than needing to plan my trip ahead of time I would just look up places and then navigate to them. It worked out great. Of course, it helps to have a useful public transit system.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @01:37AM (#39121263) Homepage

    NextBus [nextbus.com] has been providing real-time bus data for years, and doing it better than Google. NextBus did all the hard work to make this work - they developed the position-reporting boxes that go on buses over a decade ago, got transit systems to adopt their technology, and developed a prediction system that figures out when the next bus will show up, based on live data and history. They even put signs in bus shelters that tell when the next bus will arrive.

    There was substantial opposition in the transit industry at first. Some transit agencies didn't want accurate data on their operation publicly available. Some of them still don't. But the ones that do find it useful. The transit agency gets all the bus data and can evaluate how their operation is working.

    Then some clown writes an article as if Google invented the technology. This is more like the old MIcrosoft tactic of "embrace, extend, devour".

    • by swillden (191260)

      NextBus has been providing real-time bus data for years, and doing it better than Google. NextBus did all the hard work to make this work - they developed the position-reporting boxes that go on buses over a decade ago, got transit systems to adopt their technology, and developed a prediction system that figures out when the next bus will show up, based on live data and history. They even put signs in bus shelters that tell when the next bus will arrive.

      NextBus and Google Transit are different, and orthogonal.

      Google Transit tells you how to use to the transit system to get where you're going, based on published schedules.

      NextBus assumes you know how to get where you're going, but tells you when the bus is actually going to arrive.

      The services clearly have great potential synergy. If Google Transit could plan near-future routes based on actual bus position, and traffic forecasting, it could be much more useful.

      As others have said, though, I think t

  • I have been writing a blog advocating changing the transportation system. The blog gets zero comments and it has been a very lonely writing experience. And every day I dwell on the irony that I am stuck driving an energy wasting car 12,000 miles per year and I am trying to develop the ideas for a low energy low CO2 reorganization.

    So I see the General Transportation File System as a brilliant data structure that makes an expanded world of transportation solutions. The late bus update schemes are interesting

  • Looking at the example image, I see a next bus, I see some "scheduled" times and that's it.

    If I look at a stop in Korea, I see live times of all the buses, I can click an individual route to see when the next 2 buses are (which tells me their current stop, how many stops away they are and the expected arrival time), I can further click to see an entire route list of all stops and see the general position of every single bus on the route as well as which ones are low floor buses.

    This was basically all put to

  • I remember when I first started reading slashdot around 5 years ago there were several stories about public transportation agencies in several cities suing people to stop them from distributing easy to use digital versions of their schedules. These lawsuits were for the most part successful. In those cases where the public transportation agency lost their suit, my recollection is that they changed the way they did their scheduling to make the private scheduling services fail. This was roundly condemned here

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