Greater Greater Washington

Transit


WMATA says Google Transit in mid-January

For the first time, WMATA is giving a specific timeframe for getting Metro rail and bus trip planning into Google Maps: mid-January.

After over a year of pressure from outside and in, the agency agreed to move forward in October 2009. Last January, they said they were negotiating terms. Circulator got on while WMATA was "very close" in February. WMATA Board member Chris Zimmerman said it seemed like the agency was "asymptotically" approaching implementation.

News on Google stopped mid-year, but there was other, even more welcome progress as WMATA opening up the data for all developers for free. Rail data went online first in August, and the bus data recently joined it last month.

Reader James has been tenaciously asking about this, and today got a response from Victor Grimes in the IT department:

We are still working with Google to ensure that our data is completely accurate before the information is released to the public, a process that entails scrubbing and reverifying all data. This required us to wait for the completion of our BUS Stop Data Repository reconciliation, which was accomplished on November 30.

We are now in the process of updating the database that holds the Metro website Trip Planner. With all updated information and the addition of the Metrobus schedule changes that will take effect in late December, we anticipate going live with Google Transit in mid-January.

I'm not sure I agree with WMATA's need to double and triple check all data before going live, since after all the same data is already on the trip planner and has been for years, but this is very welcome news.
David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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This is amazing news! I can't wait to test it out. Thanks to everyone who pestered WMATA to do this ;-)

by Matt Glazewski on Dec 13, 2010 1:14 pm • linkreport

How do we reconcile that statement from WMATA with the fact that the bus and rail data has been on Bing for a while?

by Kevin Beekman on Dec 13, 2010 1:17 pm • linkreport

@Kevin

Good question.

by Adam L on Dec 13, 2010 1:43 pm • linkreport

@Kevin,

I'm assuming Bing just took the data WMATA made available in the past year and was willing to accept the onerous indemnification clause WMATA imposed.

Google wouldn't play ball on the clause, which required it, effectively, to be 100% financially liable if someone were to sue WMATA for, say, stepping off a bus in a bad area at the wrong time of night, because the data about the connection was bad.

This past summer, WMATA and Google signed some sort of special deal outside of the general agreement the rest of the world has access to.

I'm assuming the special deal was drafted in such a way that WMATA determined it wanted to scrub the data extra hard before handing it over.

by Joey on Dec 13, 2010 1:48 pm • linkreport

I'll believe it when I see it.

by Phil on Dec 13, 2010 1:54 pm • linkreport

Last night, I encountered two Ghost buses on U St, and eventually decided to take the Green/Red line home. Although the trip planner said I had a ~8 minute wait to transfer at Gallery Place, that train never came, and I had to wait 28 minutes for a train to come. (By which point, I might as well have walked home)

It makes me wonder how useful this will be if Metro can't keep to its schedule on a sleepy Sunday night of all times....

by andrew on Dec 13, 2010 1:56 pm • linkreport

WMATA dropped indemnification from their terms and conditions. At one point, it was Google that was being onerous about the indemnification. However, the WMATA agreement requires putting a disclaimer in bold print nearby, which Bing Maps is not doing. Therefore, either Bing has a separate agreement or they are not exactly following the agreement to the letter. (I think WMATA should drop that provision.)

by David Alpert on Dec 13, 2010 1:57 pm • linkreport

Wait. You think that we should use fewer disclaimers? I think we need more. Had I not seen the label warning me against using a hairdryer in the shower, I totally would have. Good thing there was not disclaimer about not using the toaster oven in the shower... it would totally ruin my 5-minute morning routine.

by Adam L on Dec 13, 2010 2:05 pm • linkreport

What about ART?

by Kevin Beekman on Dec 13, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

Kevin,

I remember reading that ART was waiting until WMATA had their data on Google Transit. I have no idea why though.

by James on Dec 13, 2010 2:55 pm • linkreport

Actually, Metro does need to check and redo the data because they had included the Circulator data with their GTFS data. Makes no sense having duplicate data for the same agency. Also, they should include the stop IDs that are used by NextBus as an added benefit (with a link to the predictions). The GTFS data is not the same data that is in the trip planner, but it close to it (minus the school routes of course).

by K Conaway on Dec 13, 2010 3:52 pm • linkreport

@K Conaway - I like the NextBus stop idea, except that many of the NextBus stop ids still do not correspond to the actual stop location and, like everything else data, WMATA is in no hurry to fix them.

Along those lines, it's been a few years now that Alexandria hasn't had a South Washington St in RideGuide, making it useless for the tail end of the 10A and 10B routes. I suspect we never will get that one back.

by Craig on Dec 13, 2010 6:36 pm • linkreport

@Craig, that's odd. I can pull up addresses like 100 and 300 South Washington Street for Alexandria in the trip planner. Maybe it's for specific addresses or intersections that it doesn't work.

by Wes on Dec 13, 2010 7:53 pm • linkreport

I want to get excited about this, but can't, because something else will go wrong first.

by Gavin on Dec 13, 2010 9:00 pm • linkreport

Will Fairfax Connector data also be released? WMATA has the Connector data for the trip planner.

by Transport. on Dec 13, 2010 10:26 pm • linkreport

Having been sent to non-existent bus stops and given flat out wrong directions on where to exit a metro station to get to an address by the trip planner, I understand the need to double check the data.

by Kate on Dec 14, 2010 1:08 am • linkreport

Do we happen to know whether the WMATA data includes the other DC-area agencies that are in WMATA's trip planner, such as Montgomery County Ride-On, which has been absent from Google Transit as well?

by Mark on Dec 14, 2010 10:36 am • linkreport

@Mark

I'm pretty sure that Google uses the data for Ride-On already (but not Metrobus obviously). Maybe some other bus systems as well.

by scoot on Dec 14, 2010 7:50 pm • linkreport

Montgomery County Ride-On has been on Google maps for over a year now. There was a press release issued by Montgomery County at the time it was implemented.

by Philip on Dec 20, 2010 9:01 am • linkreport

@scoot and Philip

Interesting. You're correct. I suppose that the 1 (Ride-On; in Google transit) and the J1 (WMATA; not in Google transit) are technically two different bus lines, but I don't think of them that way.

Does anyone know whether Google transit takes into account live developments such as temporary re-routes, snow routes, and holiday service?

by Mark on Dec 22, 2010 2:59 pm • linkreport

Mark -- it all depends on which data the transit agency makes available. The data format (GTFS) can support those features.

by Derek Morr on Dec 26, 2010 6:09 am • linkreport

So what's happened? January has come and gone and I still don't see Google directions using metro. I use Google directions every day in Sacramento CA and it works great.

by IndyMudPuppy on Mar 25, 2011 9:16 pm • linkreport

Looks like Microsoft BING has the WMATA transit data up already!

by James on Mar 28, 2011 3:34 pm • linkreport

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