Google Transit (one of the projects from Google Labs) now provides trip planning services for King County Metro riders.
King County Metro Transit has partnered with Google in its implementation of an online transit trip planner that highlights Google’s map features. The Google Trip Planner uses Metro-generated data to find transit trips that are operated by Metro in King County.
Along with an itinerary based on their entries for point of origin and destination, people who use Google’s trip planner have access to a street map, a satellite image or a hybrid of the two in order to see a graphical representation of locations along their route. Google’s Transit Trip Planner also provides transit information for Portland, OR; Eugene, OR; Tampa, FL; Pittsburgh, PA and Honolulu, HI.
I really love that Google is thinking beyond cars in the area of directions and mapping. (Can I tell you how tired I am of the “driving directions” tabs on all the mapping websites? Talk about carist.) I love the potential of this service to simplify and standardize transit trip planning. With a few minor exceptions, I even love the UI. Now, if they could just get their algorithms to work.
Today, I tried five fairly simple trips using Google Transit and, despite the claim that the service uses “Metro-generated data,” none of the results matched Metro’s–or were remotely accurate. I was told to walk for 14 minutes to catch a bus downtown when two downtown routes stop right in front of my house. I was told to ride several miles in the wrong direction to transfer to a bus going in the right direction. I was told to take routes I have never even heard of. Of course, as a frequent rider, I knew that the information was bogus, but I pity the poor fool who actually tries to follow Google’s instructions.
Other Seattle bus riders are having similar problems. Christina from Capitol Hill sent me this:
Have you messed around with Google transit yet? It’s not very good. What can we do to let them know how wrongwrongwrong they are? This is from my friend’s house to Group Health. Seattle.metblogs.com is reporting that sometimes you have to cross a jersey barrier on Aurora to follow the directions!!
Note: I altered Christina’s friend’s address slightly (stalker prevention measure), but the insane route remains intact.
And then there was Todd Bishop’s article in today’s paper:
“It was so far away from anything that was even remotely logical,” marveled Ronald Holden, a Belltown resident whose Google Transit itinerary would have required him to walk 13 blocks and ride two buses for a half-hour to visit his son in Seattle’s Central District.
My advice: For now, stick with Metro’s Trip Planner. It doesn’t have cool maps, but it usually works. When you have time, try the same trip in both tools. If you get crazy results, tell the folks at Google. The great thing about software is that it improves with time–and user feedback.