In a ceremony this morning at Grand Central Terminal, Google and the MTA announced a partnership designed to bring New York Metropolitan area transit directions to Google Transit, a feature of the popular Google Maps. Users will now be able to find comprehensive directions for New York City Transit, the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and the area’s bus service in one place.
First hinted at thirteen months ago, the service is now available online at both a special page on the MTA’s website and at Google Transit. “It is a very complicated transit system, and it just got less complicated today with the advent of Google Maps for transit,” Gov. David Paterson said this morning.
Currently, New York commuters enjoy numerous trip-mapping options. Independent sites such as HopStop, onNYTurf and Gypsy Maps offer up their own versions of integrated directions for intra-city travel. New York City Transit’s TripPlanner provides an MTA-sanctioned source for directions.
But the new service is the first to offer integrated mapping and directions across all three services. With the MTA’s making comprehensive schedule data available to Google and NJ Transit and Port Authority’s PATH service already on board, New Yorkers can now find directions from one end of the Metropolitan Area to the other.
The key feature here is the inclusion of schedule data. Over the last few years, many of the directionally-minded website developers — with Will at onNYTurf leading the charge — have tried to wrangle to-the-minute schedule details out of the MTA, but the agency has been reluctant to part with this proprietary data. Publicly available schedules, particularly for the subways, are incomplete. But now, users can set a departure time and find the most accurate scheduling information around. Incorporating all of the current features of Google Maps — walking directions, street view, local points of interest — the new service is a step above the others right now.
Both MTA officials and Google executives were quick to praise this partnership. “At a time when the MTA is facing mounting fiscal challenges, we are thrilled to be able to offer this service to our customers at no cost to taxpayers,” MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger said. “Google Transit will encourage ridership and underscores the importance of the MTA to the region’s economy and environment.”
“By being able to access station and schedule data for the largest public transit system in the United States via Google Maps, users are exposed to the availability and convenience of public transportation and are better equipped to take advantage of all that the New York metropolitan region has to offer,” John Hanke, director of Google Maps and Earth, said.
It wasn’t easy, however, putting together this project. As Sewell Chan at City Room reported this morning, the MTA delivered a large volume of data to Google, and the information giant had to parse it into a usable format. The MTA and Google plan to make the data available to other developers as well.
With the MTA’s preeminent place in the region, this is a very welcome and long-awaited development indeed.