The progress toward an integrated Google Transit and Google Maps had made a step forward.
Check out the bus stop at Congress and 4th Street in Downtown Austin. That’s right, Google Maps now displays bus stops in Austin.
But wait, there’s more. When you click on the stop, it displays all of the bus routes that serve that stop.
If you visit in the next five minutes (or anytime thereafter), you can click on “View Upcoming Departures” and the info box expands to display the Capital Metro time table that is applicable for that stop, listing the next four departures for all of the routes serving that location plus the last time today a bus will depart.
All this for the low low price of free! This is an extremely useful feature that will become a part of the daily life of anyone using public transit. The new setup won’t tell you how to travel between two stops using the buses yet, that is still contained within the Google Labs’ Transit application.
To be a bit critical, there are a couple of short comings, which, in fairness, may be an issue with how CapMetro packages and delivers their data. First, “special routes” such as the UT shuttles and the free ‘Dillo downtown service (mainly for tourists) are known by the lay person by their names, “Far West”, “West Campus”, “Orange Dillo”, etc. In the background, all of these routes have CapMetro route numbers attached to them (UT Shuttles in the 600 range, Dillo routes in the 400 range). The Google Maps data only lists the route number so that is confusing for people who aren’t a bit obsessed with transportation systems.
The second issue is the time table data appears to be a bit dated. Also in fairness, I’m checking this using a UT shuttle route which has a very dynamic schedule this time of year (“intersession”, “registration” and “summer school” service levels within the past two weeks). According to CapMetro, the Red River (Route #653) is not in service in the summer, being replaced with the dual-route Red River/Cameron Road route (684). According to Google Maps, both buses will stop at the Red River/Dean Keaton stop right around 8 a.m. The problem may be with CapMetro, however, as the closed-for-summer Route 651 (Cameron Road) is not listed on the page at all.
Looking at a normal CapMetro route, the time tables matches the CapMetro site, so this is probably an issue with however CapMetro serves their data to Google.
All of that being said, this is a great addition to Google Maps and as I’m moving soon, I’ll use this quite a bit to become familiar with my new area of Austin- bus stops and all.