Thursday July 09, 2009
Metro is the latest major transit agency to enter the Google Transit Partner Program. Google will have access to transit route and schedule data for the nearly 200 bus lines and five rail lines Metro operates within Los Angeles County. Metro also provides its transit data updates to developers on its developer site at www.metro.net/developer.
The announcement comes as welcome news to Metro customers, who have actively requested Metro transit data be made available on Google.
“We have listened to our customers and have provided the Google transit planning resource they have requested,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy. “As the third largest transportation agency in the United States, it made perfect sense for us to join the Google phenomenon. We are extremely excited to now be a part of the most popular online mapping website in the world, and we have high hopes that a worldwide audience will now be able to more easily plan their Metro trips here in Los Angeles.”
There were 25.9 million domestic visitors to Los Angeles County in 2007. Last year these visitors spent $2.85 billion on transportation, including taxis and shuttles in Los Angeles, according to L.A. Inc. The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau. Google’s innovative, cutting edge transit mapping tool is expected to help Metro reach more of these visitors, turning potential riders into active riders.
Web users can now visit www.google.com/transit or access Google Maps, the free online mapping service provided by Google, at www.maps.google.com. Users can simply enter the date and time that they hope to arrive at their destination (or depart for the trip) and Google will provide options showing the amount of time and number of transfers for each option. By using the technology of Google Maps, users do not need to search by the exact address of their origin or destination, and can easily plan trips from landmarks, attractions and businesses. Riders can easily select the most convenient trip.
Google Maps also provides walking directions that enable users to find out exactly how to get to the nearest transit stop or station, as well as how to get to their destination once they leave the bus or train. No other online mapping service puts transit data in the context of so much other useful information, such as other points of interest, areal imagery, business listings, user reviews and street-level views.
“We are pleased to partner with Metro in making the authority’s transit information available on Google Maps,” said Jessica Wei, Strategic Partner Development Manager for Google Transit. “Coupled with Google functionality, users from around the world now have a suite of powerful, integrated tools to better help them plan their transit itineraries. This partnership, as well as Metro’s public release of transit data on its new developer website, establishes Metro as a formidable regional technology leader.”
Metro currently logs an average of 1.5 million weekday boardings on its bus and rail system. However, both peak and off-peak boardings have the potential to increase based on several key free Google-enabled functionalities intended to reach car commuters who may be looking for alternatives to driving. For example, a “Public Transit” link will appear every time a user searches for driving directions within Los Angeles County. Metro transit stop and station icons will automatically appear on transit maps. Daily transit riders also can discover new transit alternatives they didn’t know existed. Google automatically creates agency transfers in overlapping participating transit agency service areas. Google will provide links back to Metro’s website at metro.net so users can find additional information such as service alerts, fares, and destination discounts.
Google Transit, which supports 12 languages, is also expected to help international travelers plan their trips while in the region. Last year, Los Angeles had 4.7 million international visitors, many of those from non-English speaking countries.
Additionally, the free Google Translate feature increases the number of supported languages to 34.
Transit trip planning is available on both desktop computers and mobile phones such as iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, S60, and other Java enabled phones.
Google will provide information on Metro services only. For other municipal operator transit information, visitors should visit Metro’s own Trip Planner on Metro.net. Metro is currently building a more robust Trip Planner engine which should be available in the near future.
The Google announcement follows the recent launch of Metro’s developer website at www.metro.net/developer. Here developers and other interested individuals can utilize public transit route and schedule data for inclusion in new or existing web-based transit planning computer applications. The downloadable data sets are provided in Google Transit Feed Specification and GIS data.