TTC leaps into 2008 with new Google Maps deal

TTC leaps into 2008 with new Google Maps deal

A screen shot from the new Toronto transit search tool on Google Maps 

Yesterday, Google rolled out a new service that will surely be of interest to Torontonians. Not Google TV—that’s not coming to Canada yet—and not some time-travelling robot butler army (we assume that’s the kind of thing Google staffers work on in their spare time), but something a bit more immediately useful: Google Maps Transit, a new way to plan TTC trips through the city. After rolling out the tool yesterday, Toronto’s digiterati immediately started testing it, and the reviews are the best the TTC has had in a while (that is to say, they didn’t utterly eviscerate the thing).

The most embarrassing snafu was relatively minor, according to the National Post:

Interestingly, Ms. (Jessica) Wei’s account of her morning revealed that Google Transit had instructed her to alight her southbound Yonge train at College and walk south to Dundas. Mayor David Miller suggested the system knew what a beautiful day it was and wanted her to get some fresh air…which doesn’t explain why Google Transit suggested I alight my southbound Yonge train at Queen and walk north to Dundas. “I wouldn’t say it isn’t accurate,” Ms. Wei wonderfully observed. “I’d say it’s not optimized.”

While we all wait for Google to “optimize” its servers, a few quick tests suggest that, even with its flaws, Google’s offering is going to send the TTC’s own trip planner to the back of the bus. Planning a trip with Google Maps is quick, slick, and matches up with our expectations of what a sensible route planner should do. For example, Google Transit is smart enough to realize that for a trip down to the Entertainment District from Spadina and Bloor, the fastest route is the subway, whereas just a couple blocks south it’s probably easier to get on the Spadina streetcar.

Some of the hitches others have identified include Google treating the Bathurst streetcar as a serious mode of travel instead of a form of torture, and its inability to decide where and when somebody should just get out and walk. But don’t we all struggle with that dilemma every day?

Our biggest gripe is the delay in getting Google to Toronto: New York has had Google Transit since 2008, after announcing it was coming in 2007. Google’s been working with Portland since 2005.

• Chris Selley: Google Transit is going places [National Post]
• TTC and Google show the way [Toronto Star]
• TTC travels to Google [Toronto Sun]
• TTC teams up with Google Maps [680 News]
• The TTC gets Google mapped [Eye Weekly]