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Where's Google Transit?

Back in March, after a campaign by Greater Greater Washington and other blogs, Metro finally released its transit schedule and routing information using the open Google Transit Feed Specification format. However, riders still can't get directions using transit on Google Maps. What's the holdup?

Photo by k is for kristina.

LA recently joined Google Transit, making WMATA and Boston's MBTA the last major agencies not participating in the popular service. In fact, of the transit agencies APTA lists as "Heavy Rail," "Light Rail," and "Major Bus," about 85% of average weekday nationwide transit trips happen on systems working with Google.

Back in March, Metro released its information under fairly restrictive terms of service, which Google won't sign as is. Metro should work out a deal with Google for an agreement as soon as practical. Now that the new iPhone and Android phones support transit directions using Google Maps, Google Transit will make it easier for riders to get from here to there using Metro's rail and buses, and that's what Metro is all about.

Next, we'll look at Google's standard agreement, Metro's license agreement, and the likely sticking points between the two.

Michael Perkins serves on the Arlington County Transportation Commission, though the views expressed here are his own. He lives in Arlington with his wife and two children. 


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WMATA works for us, not for Google. WMATA has released the data. If Google does not want to use the data, that's Google's problem. I still do not understand why this blog is pushing so hard for WMATA to do the bidding of Google, a private, for-profit corporation whose only interest is looking out for Google. Google will not advance the interests of WMATA, Maryland, DC, Virginia, or any of the citizens of this region.

I read the "fairly restrictive terms of service" post. I understand what it is saying. It is indeed possible that the terms of service are too restrictive and that, as a public agency, WMATA should make its data available under a different license. Since I have not researched the implications of the WMATA terms of service, I do not know whether they are too restrictive or not. I do know, however, that if the terms of service are too restrictive, this would impact ANYBODY who wants to use the WMATA schedule data, NOT just Google. Thus, if the terms of use are too restrictive, that is the problem. The problem is NOT that the terms of use are too restrictive for Google.

I agree 100% that the agency should make its data available for ANYBODY to use. If that is not happening due to some restrictive license, that is a problem. For the sake of the public good--for EVERYBODY's sake--if this is a problem, it needs to be solved. If the problem is that GOOGLE does not like the license, that is just too bad. This is a public agency which is here to serve the public good. WMATA is NOT here to advance Google's objectives, no matter how shiny and wonderful Google's tools are. Google exists for Google. WMATA exists for us.

by Omari on Jul 20, 2009 3:15 pm • linkreport

Let me guess. The license made by WMATA is written by a bunch of lawyers that know nothing of the internet and hence useless, while Google wants to own it all.

by Jasper on Jul 20, 2009 3:32 pm • linkreport

I agree w/ Omari. It's not a matter of WMATA participating as Google not 'doing' in this case. As comments on the other post pointed out the clauses in dc's aren't much different than other cities, boilerplate cya. WMATA did their part, Google now needs to step up. Honestly, this should be why the hell isn't google doing something than look for a reason to blame wmata

If you want to complain about non-open systems, try getting the nextbus feed in an open format.

by Mike on Jul 20, 2009 3:46 pm • linkreport

Well, you'll see my write-up soon, and I hope to convince you that what Google wants is far less than "owning it all".

by Michael Perkins on Jul 20, 2009 3:59 pm • linkreport

This is interesting, from google:

'Due to overwhelming interest in the Transit Partner Program, we are currently experiencing a significant volume of partner requests. Although we are unable to accept new partners at this time, we encourage you to sign-up in order to be placed on the waiting list. '

by Mike on Jul 20, 2009 4:11 pm • linkreport

I would like to know why it is that google and mapquest have never properly shown the residential alleys in DC.

The police & 911 often use these resources and they are constantly telling those of us who live in residentail alleys that we either do not "exist" or our addresses are not on the maps.

I have looked up residential alleys in DC and oftentimes they are shown completely wrong.

This is not only a serious public safety issue


How can this be fixed?

by w on Jul 20, 2009 4:49 pm • linkreport

@w: It's not really on topic, but:

Google, Mapquest and other map providers don't develop their own maps; instead, they buy map data mostly from two main providers: Navteq and Tele Atlas. These companies develop their maps using a variety of methods, many of which are quite low-tech: sending employees to drive streets and figure out changes. They also accept user comments about errors or changes in maps in order to improve accuracy.

If you see an error in how an alleyway is represented, check the bottom right of the map to see the name of the company providing the map data. (When I pull a Google map of my neighborhood, it shows the source co. as Tele Atlas). You can contact the firms about corrections at and

by Josh B on Jul 20, 2009 5:12 pm • linkreport

There's a fundamental problem with the idea that WMATA is "licensing" transit data, which is the assumption that it holds said data as intellectual property. This is another example of private market thinking infecting public market goods.

WMATA should be overjoyed that private entities want to make use of transit data, and get out of the business (and I use that term deliberately) of creating or contracting for its own services. I actually like WMATA's trip planning system, but protecting that system from competition (presumably to justify its cost) by restricting public access to the underlying data runs against the entire concept of a public utility.

by Anderkoo on Jul 20, 2009 6:29 pm • linkreport

I don't know what either agreement says, and I'm not a lawyer. But as far as I've been able to find out, it doesn't matter what WMATA's agreement says. I haven't heard of any way to get data on Google Transit without signing a partnership agreement with them. But something I'm sure of is that it's in the interest of transit users, and potential users, to have the Metro system on Google Transit. It's in OUR interest. Google does not seem that interested, but if it does benefit them in some way, I don't see why we should consider that a negative. And I would not assume that WMATA is necessarily going to do what's best for transit users.

by Joe Chapline on Jul 20, 2009 7:36 pm • linkreport

Finally! I've been waiting for some news on this.

by eriks on Jul 21, 2009 12:08 am • linkreport

@ Anderkoo: Yes, WMATA should publish its data without strings. But Google should also accept them as such.

We've talked about this before, and I am looking forward to Michael expose on the subject, but it just boils down to both parties wanting too much ownership of something they should not care about.

WMATA should run transit, have their own planning thing, and be happy others wnat to make aps as well. I will lead to more riders.

Google should focus on making good aps, that is their business. If they can't deal with freely available transit data, somebody else will. Do no evil!

by Jasper on Jul 21, 2009 9:07 am • linkreport

Try using NextBus DC for iPhone for DC real-time bus info.

by Jane on Jul 21, 2009 5:55 pm • linkreport

The MBTA went live today on Google Transit!!! Yay!

by Luke Bornheimer on Jul 29, 2009 2:48 pm • linkreport

And updating my spreadsheet, that means that only 9.5% of passenger trips reported to APTA (of which 6% are WMATA) are on transit agencies not partnering with Google.

If anyone knows of a transit agency in the US (other than PATH) with more than 100k unlinked trips per weekday that isn't in Google Transit, please post in the comments.

I will be receiving the results from my NYC FOI request shortly.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 29, 2009 10:31 pm • linkreport

Valuable post ! I was enlightened by the information , Does anyone know where my company could possibly get access to a template Promissory Note on Demand form to edit ?

by felicity bowden on May 14, 2016 12:45 am • linkreport

Greetings Felicity, I got ahold of a sample a form example here

by Cinthia on May 15, 2016 5:50 am • linkreport

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