Google Tests Trip Planner

Google Thursday unveiled its Transit Trip Planner, which maps out subway and bus routes in the Portland, Ore. metropolitan area. The product, an extension of Google Maps, tells users how to get from Point A to B by public transportation.

According the search giant's blog, Portland was selected because the city's transit authority is a technology leader, and had the necessary data on hand. "Tri-Met, Portland's transit authority, is a technological leader in public transportation. The team at Tri-Met is a group of tremendously passionate people dedicated to serving their community," wrote Avichal Garg, Google Product Manager. "And Tri-Met has a wealth of data readily available that they were eager to share with us for this project."

Kelsey Group Analyst Greg Sterling said that although the trip planner would make for an excellent addition to Google's mapping product--if it were built out to more cities--it wouldn't necessarily cause a major migration from other mapping products to Google's. "All these bells and whistles and all these different features are a little bit ahead of where consumers seem to be with maps, given MapQuest's market share," he said. "It's the one that's least feature-rich, but it's the one that retains the market share."

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Sterling said that in the end, many consumers prefer familiarity and simplicity over a host of extra features. "These tools are in fact quite useful, but the competition and the accelerated way that it's all coming out is still a little ahead of where consumers are," he said. "At a certain point, you just go with what's comfortable and familiar."

Ironically, Google is not the first to wed Google Maps and public transit info. Shortly after the release of their mapping product, the search giant released the product's API, allowing users to create their own programs incorporating the service. One blog, onNYTurf, produced a flash map that overlayed the New York City subway system over the search giant's map of Manhattan. Another site, Metrostop.org, overlayed Washington, DC's subway system over a Google Maps window. Neither program allows users to receive directions using public transportation, however.

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