Whether you like Google or loathe them, you have to admit that they don’t often do things halfway.
Google has been steadily adding transit information to the maps they serve since 2005. Recently they’ve hit a landmark of sorts – Google Maps now has schedule information for over one million public transit stops around the world.
If you’re wondering how many cities that works out to, it’s about 500 worldwide.
I’m curious about how they selected which transit systems to include and which not to – nothing for Cincinnati, Louisville or the Research Triangle, for example, but Tuolumne County, California is listed? Certainly, that may be reflective of Google’s California-and-cool-city-centric outlook, but it could also be a matter of which transit agencies have been cooperative in the project and which have not.
(I also wasn’t too terribly surprised not to see any Romanian transit systems listed there – though I was curious to see if Baile Herculane’s 24-hour bus service is still in operation.)
Obviously, if you travel without a smart phone, the transit layers on Google Maps aren’t going to be terribly useful for you when you’re waiting for the next bus. Having that information in your hand, whenever you want it – that’s what makes this so useful, naturally. But what impresses me more is that this is a level of data connectivity that was once only feasible in Star Trek – and we’ve got to the point where it is something we have come to expect. We get annoyed when we can’t instantly find out when the next bus comes through downtown Cincinnati: even using Google to search for the Cincinnati transit agency’s website and look up the schedule (which shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes anyway) is now seen as quaint and archaic.
The idea of a Geography of Information – that information has inherently geographical properties – has been one of my research interests for some time. The work being done by Google and other companies in this space has helped frame my thinking on the subject. Here’s hoping they keep pushing that envelope.