Google launched Google Transit, a public transportation trip planning tool, in 2006. Google Transit works by integrating transit agency data with Google Maps and Google Earth. By integrating transit stop, route, schedule, and fare information, Google makes planning a transit trip quick and easy. Google’s open source format has also sparked a new generation of third-party transit apps, creating further options for transit users. Google Transit and Google Maps are also addressing accessibility concerns – the application is available in 12 different languages and is compatible with screen readers for the visually impaired.
More than 475 transit agencies across the U.S. and around the world now use Google Transit. These agencies submit their operating schedules to Google, which publishes the data as part of its Google Maps service. Transit users can decide how to get from point A to point B by bus or train by accessing a map from a desktop browser or a smartphone. Each trip plan includes calculations of costs for driving versus taking transit. The cost calculator often shows that taking the bus is significantly cheaper than driving a vehicle, providing a financial incentive to choose transit. A carbon footprint calculator is in the works – look for it in the near future.
Veteran and new transit riders alike are taking advantage of the accurate, user friendly trip planning offered through Google Transit. New riders in particular feel more secure that they can use the transit system. In addition, visitors to unfamiliar cities get confidence through the availability of a familiar trip planning interface. Transit agencies using Google Transit benefit from the increased public awareness of public transportation options and from additional ridership. Increasing the accessibility of transit has significant potential to decrease traffic congestion, increase mobility, and reduce negative environmental effects of our transportation system.
New York Governor David A. Paterson summed up the value of Google Transit in this way: “Google Maps for Transit is a truly innovative marriage of information and infrastructure. It is a perfect example of how the public and private sectors can partner together to benefit us all – and it didn’t cost … taxpayers a penny.”