Greater Greater Washington

WMATA, ART close to Google Transit participation

Negotiations between WMATA and Google over Google Transit have reached the point of hammering out actual legal language, which means a deal could be very close.

According to our source, Google has sent WMATA a revised license agreement based on the discussions between the organizations.

This should, at the very least, remove all requirements for indemnification, a provision WMATA has insisted they won't accept. Chicago was able to remove this indemnification as well, making it reasonable for WMATA to request this change.

Typically, contracts such as these go through numerous revisions as lawyers on both sides nitpick language back and forth. It may take some time. But the fact that WMATA and Google have reached this point is very promising.

Arlington Transit is also working to get their data included by the end of March. In Arlington's case, there are some data errors in the feed which they have to fix to ensure that each bus stop location and route's path is accurate.

The DC Circulator, Ride On, DASH, Fairfax CUE, and MTA commuter buses already participate in the service, which is free to the transit providers and to users. Those services do not all also release their data publicly, which WMATA does. Once WMATA and ART list their trips in Google Transit, riders will be able to plan trips directly from Google Maps or their iPhone or Android applications on most of the transit services in the region.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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While I am pleased at hearing there's progress, I can't help but express the sentiment that it's rotten that WMATA continues to makes it so darn difficult and time-consuming to get the agency to be responsive to the needs of the community.

Just think how transit advocates could spend our time and energy on something more selfish -- like organizing citizens to press for more funding for WMATA from federal, state and local government.

by Dennis Jaffe on Feb 25, 2010 9:15 am • linkreport

It's sorta hilarious how 1/3 of the new postings these days deal with the arcane legal minutiae of having data released to another party.

It's very inspiring in the discussion on planning and transportation, to say the least...

by MPC on Feb 25, 2010 9:21 am • linkreport

One thing that I wish Google transit would do, but which it doesn't appear to do with other cities, is overlay bus routes on their maps. For instance, when you click on the Kemore T stop, you get Green lines showing the route of the B, C, and D Lines that go through it. But if you click on the Kenmore Square bus stop, all you get is a list of bus lines. For those not familiar with the bus lines, this isn't very helpful.

by Reid on Feb 25, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

So I guess the results from the hugely expensive study wmata commissioned to see if they could make money off their website is in...

by JTS on Feb 25, 2010 10:01 am • linkreport

WMATA abandoned that plan after we persuaded some Board members and John Catoe to change course.

by David Alpert on Feb 25, 2010 10:03 am • linkreport

@David -

Good to know. I remember reading your piece on that a while back. One of the best posts I've seen on this site.

You are a huge asset to this city for reasons just like that. Thank you.

by JTS on Feb 25, 2010 10:10 am • linkreport

Neat that this was posted today. I just replied last week to an email from WMATA from January about Google Transit demanding to know what the continued delays were since it had been 3 months (and 3+yrs) since they had said they would give their data to Google Transit. I also took the time to let them know how tired I was of their seeming general inability to complete projects in a reasonable amount of time.

I haven't gotten a response yet. ;)

by James on Feb 25, 2010 10:26 am • linkreport

Very timely indeed, with the recent inclusion of the Circulator. Thanks for keeping us in the loop, David! :-)

by Matt Glazewski on Feb 25, 2010 10:34 am • linkreport

thinking about this just now, i'm thinking that to fight against google maps integration so hard, one would have to really hate public transit. the whole of your being would have to be against the public good. this has never been about legal language -- it's been about preventing transit from ever becoming a nice way to get around for most people in the region.

it makes me think that we should look to someone who actually _likes_ transit to head up the major DC transit agency. even better, it'd be great to find someone who _loves_ transit -- who wants to see the transit system take its rightful place in the pantheon of great DC public spaces. one need not be experienced at all in transit -- only really smart, in love with customer service, and the prerequisite -- in love with public transit.

transit agency leaders have been the US auto industry's best friends. time for that to change.

by Peter Smith on Feb 25, 2010 1:26 pm • linkreport

Where is the Fairfax Connector is the process?
They seem to be missing.

by Will on Feb 25, 2010 2:44 pm • linkreport

According to my conversations with Fairfax Connector, they have the same or similar legal issues.

They also are not working on releasing their data in GTFS format because they incorrectly believe that doing so would require signing an agreement with Google. They also are concerned that releasing data in GTFS format would put them on the hook to release data in other competing formats. They incorrectly believe that GTFS is a Google-proprietary format.

Unlike WMATA, which is one of the top five transit markets in the country, Google is less likely to bend over backwards to get Fairfax Connector on board.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 25, 2010 2:53 pm • linkreport

Very exciting. I hope this comes out SOON!

by Shawn on Feb 25, 2010 9:55 pm • linkreport

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