In a recent comment, Neil said,
“Can’t help but think it’s a waste of time anyone investing in [web sites & new technology] now that the data’s increasingly in Google Maps. As it holds a pretty good set of Traveline South East and rail data, it’s now my journey planner of choice”It seems a number of local transport authorities are warning Google users about the new public transport option within Google Transit [last reviewed here in 2007] and Google Maps. Nexus, for example, states that Google gets it right only one time in every seven. For the six, either the data are incomplete or the results are “silly”. Nexus is referring people to its own website or Traveline instead. Let’s trust that these sites are actually better!
Enter Google via Maps by clicking Get directions...Google has the ability to produce a truly national journey planner. Currently, you have National Rail plus Transport Direct on the one hand and, on the other, a plethora of regional Traveline sites, each with its unique interface. Some look smart (e.g. Traveline Cymru). Others, less so. Some produce the goods, others less so.
Store My places; select car, public transport or walking; chose or save your location if desired; enter date, time and where to... and GET DIRECTIONS. Simple one screenIf efficient, Google could offer a new, single national bus and rail standard. It has the potential.
- It’s clear
- It’s uncluttered and clean
- You can set a default location and store other places for easy reference
- It’s available on a smart phone
- You can use it for journeys by car, by “public transportation” (whatever *that* is) and on foot
- You can access it via Google Maps by clicking the “Get Directions” button or plunge straight in via Google Transit.
Google.com/transit defaults to Europe but uses the American date and time standard (3rd November rather than 11th March)... whereas Google.co.uk/transit goes British, aside from the reference to Transportation...So, what’s the beef? One issue with Google is that it isn’t fully nationwide, quite yet. It seems to have all (most?) of the rail data within itself, thanks to the independent The Train Line. Bus timetables are lacking except where Google is getting data from a local Traveline partner. But is Google interpreting things right? Here are three tests. No apologies for starting in Dorset!
Poole to Wimborne Minster
There’s no rail option for this journey and the bus data haven’t been loaded. Wilts & Dorset isn’t yet party to Google Transit. Google can’t plan this journey unless you drive (or, I suppose, walk) it.
Lymington to Totton nr Southampton (searching for 1040 departure on weekdays)
Google has data for this journey but only for rail so, as a consequence, Google sends you on a weekday journey at 1040 from Lymington to Totton via the train (because Totton has a railway station):
- Walk to Lymington station (6 mins)
- Train to Brockenhurst (9 mins)
- Train to Totton (14 mins)
- Walk from Totton station to Totton (14 mins).
Traveline SW is better. It gives several options, including the train but its no. 1 choice is the best method: W&D Bluestar’s service 6.
Service 6 is operated by Bluestar, not W&D. That said, Bluestar is effectively eastern W&D and the Lymington workings are from a W&D garage... but the public may not know thatAlternatively, you could go direct to the Bluestar timetable page. You need to know the operator and at least the home page address. But once there, you see a proper timetable and it tells you that you can travel direct between Lymington and Totton in 57 minutes. Simples.
High Wycombe to Maidenhead (searching for 1040 departure on weekdays)
Now, I know neither High Wycombe nor Maidenhead well but I’ve picked these two because Google has bus data available, via Traveline South East. I’m fairly confident that rail isn’t an easy option as it requires a minimum of two changes.
In Google, type in High Wycombe and Maidenhead, ensuring you’ve clicked the public transportation (rail) symbol. Select a time and date on the same screen and that really is it. Ta da! There’s your journey, including a splendid annotated Google map.
Maindenhead (Berks) defaults to Linden SurgeryBut on Traveline, the default for Maidenhead is Linden Surgery. Where is that in relation to the town centre? At least there is a Map button to click. On Google, I don’t get any options: when I type in Maidenhead, I get no choice. Indeed, presumably because Google is driven by adverting, the location Google wants me to reach is “public transport directions to Tenpin Ltd”. This turns out to be some way from the centre of things but may be good if I have my grand-sons with me.
Google Transit sends you to High Wycombe High Street stop R for 1042. Two minutes from the bus station is a reasonable estimate. It then drops you at 1127 outside St Joseph’s church for a three-minute walk, arriving Maidenhead at 1130, five minutes ahead of Arriva’s actual 1135 arrival. But that’s at Tenpin Ltd, not downtown Maidenhead.
Traveline presentation is not as good as Google. But it does offer optionsTraveline SE (who uses enthusiasts to check its data) sends you to High Wycombe High Street stop R for 1042, as above and drops you at 1123 at Furze Platt with a 12-minute walk to the default Maidenhead Linden Surgery. This turns out to be even further away from the action.
Better to try the Arriva timetable, IMO, if you know the operator and service number. A bus no. 37 departs 1040 from the bus station. There’s no time at the high street but it arrives at Maidenhead Bridge Avenue 1135. Hoorah!