Are we there yet? A look at Google Transit in the Silicon Prairie (Updated)
Google Transit, a trip planning tool, is now integrated with Kansas City's public transportation system. Screenshot from google.com.
Update: It's been confirmed that Omaha's Metro Transit is currently implementing Google Transit with a scheduled launch goal of late September. For more information, see our post: "Update: Google Transit coming to Omaha in late September".
Drop me off in Seattle, Boulder, Minneapolis, Austin — any city with widely-used public transportation, really — and there's high potential for this traveler to be confused. Luckily, these cities and more than 443 others have welcomed the trip planning tool, Google Transit, to help local commuters and visitors navigate their turf efficiently.
A quick look at the map above could be telling of the public transportation efforts in our region.
Until June, visitors to any of the three major cities in the Silicon Prairie had to rely on printed bus routes, bus websites, custom mobile apps or possibly the kindess of strangers to maximize their travels.
Now, transit on Google Maps has paired with Kansas City to combine the latest live data available from public transportation – including bus routes, stops and up-to-the-minute schedules – with Google Maps.
Des Moines is the next city from the region on the docket, set to follow Kansas City's lead with hopes of incorporating Google Transit in the next year with their working dataset. Omaha, on the other hand, has neither collected nor made steps to share data with the Google program.
Below are some perspectives from each of these cities in regard to Google Transit rolling on to their pavement.
Google Transit Kansas City – Live since June 10, 2011
"Google issued a challenge to transit agencies to join Google Transit in time for Earth Day 2008," KCATA director of marketing Cynthia Baker said. "We decided to take that challenge and set April 2008 as our deadline for unveiling Google Transit in Kansas City."
At that time Baker said 20 agencies where using the service and current KCATA customers were beginning to ask for its services. Prior to using Google Transit, KCATA had used the in-house scheduling system Hastus and the files built into this trip planner were needed to work with Google Transit.
"While KCATA put major landmarks, such as museums and universities, in our Trip Planner, Google Maps gave our customers access to infinitely more data."
Because of the success so far with Google Transit, KCATA has transitioned this service as the only trip planner hosted on its website.
Top changes Google Transit has provided KC riders:
- More mobile friendly version of trip planning
- Real-time transit information with an easy-to-view map
- Forgiving search function (e.g. When searching 300 10th Street, Google Transit gives the choices 300 E. 10th or 300 W. 10th)
- Direct searches for businesses
Google Transit Des Moines – Coming in the next year
DART is currently developing an online trip planner Gunnar Olson Public Information Officer and spokesperson for DART said, "it's in the midst of implementation and [DART] hopes to have it live later this year."
Once the system has collected the necessary information including routes, stops and schedule to share with Google then DART can begin with Google Transit.
Olson said he understandings lag time between collecting DART's data finalized and launching Google Transit Des Moines is up to 12 months but he thinks the process could expedite because, "People ask for it, a lot."
Google Transit has a key market for Des Moines, and as Olson sees it there's a growing segment of his audience "tweeting their way to work, instead of placing a hand on the wheel."
In addition to building an in-house trip planner, DART plans to integrate real-time data with GPS technology on its entire fleet of buses, providing riders with more information on exactly when and where the next bus is available. This information is set to be available at the new DART central station opening in 2012, and will provide these times in a fashion similar to the arrival and departure boards at an airport.
Google Transit Omaha – No time soon [Update: Launching late September]
As for Google Transit to come to Omaha, Phil Braughton a director at Metro said currently, there is not something on the horizon for the program in this city. As for any trip planning, mobile or web application, there are also no plans to be released at this time.
Here's a quick demo on how to use Google Transit for the next time travels take you to Kansas City and in the future other cities on the Prairie.