Just in Time for Tomorrow’s Memorial, Google Transit Arrives in L.A.

7_6_09_blue_line.jpgHow to avoid traffic and get to the Staples Center tomorrow.  Image: Friends for Expo

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you know that Michael Jackson has passed away and a memorial has been planned for the Staples Center tomorrow.  The city is bending over backwards to try and figure out what to do with all of the cars that will descend on the Downtown for the memorial, to the point that I even watched Council Woman Jan Perry give a five minute interview on the expected traffic crunch and how mourners can avoid the jam without once mentioning the words, "transit," or "bus," or "Blue Line," or "bicycle."

While taking transit to the event may not have occured to the City Council as a way to beat traffic, google and Metro are informally working together to make certain that information is just a couple of clicks away.

After years of its public demanding that Metro share data with google as agencies around the country have already done; Google Transit for Metro has finally launched.  LAist has already covered the launch.  While the routing is still a little buggy, Metro is already claiming this is a test and not to get too worked up over any mistakes.  Amusingly, Metro staff says that they aren’t at the point of making an announcement, despite the service’s available since for the last three days and the news articles heralding its announcement.

Meanwhile, if you want to tryout letting google map your transit route, using the application is as quick as typing "maps.google.com"  into your browser and selecting the transit option from the drop down bar on the left.  I’ve already gotten some feedback on weird routing.  For example, my sister-in-law decided to use google transit to map a trip from her house in Woodland Hills to the Staples Center.  Despite living a couple of blocks from the Orange Line, google transit would have sent her on five different local bus routes on a three hour oddyssey.  Feel free to leave your feedback for Google and Metro or the results of your own experimentation in our comments section and I’ll make certain they are passed along.

  • David Galvan

    As far as I can tell, even with sometimes-weird routing, it’s still way better than the MTA trip planner. And, if you do get a weird route, at least the map is right there in front of you and you can use that to brainstorm a change.

    One annoyance as of right now: L.A. DOT buses (and presumably buses from other municipal agencies) aren’t included, just MTA bus and rail.

  • David Galvan

    As for the memorial: I would usually be traveling from Pasadena to Long Beach using transit around noon on Tuesdays, however I do not want to be anywhere near the staples center during the memorial, so I will actually be driving and taking the 710 all the way, rather than using the gold/red/blue lines. I’m worried that the blue line will be extremely packed or even delayed with the 700K people that are expected to be in and around Staples center tomorrow. Am I chicken little?

  • Spokker

    They are saying that Blue Line service is not guaranteed tomorrow. It can be shut down at any time.

    This is really getting out of control. I wonder if the people who work in Downtown LA are pissed that they are going to have to bum rush their asses into downtown to get to work while these people find the time to go mourn a stranger.

  • David, I actually moved an appointment for Downtown tomorrow because I decided that since I had the option of staying away from that mess, I would.

    Spokker, It’s unreal to me that they would even consider shutting down the Blue Line. Just unreal. It’s like they want people to have no option but to drive there.

    Also, I’m glad to see the Dodger Stadium Parking lot is finally achieving a higher purpose: that of a drive-through.

  • And, don’t plan on taking your bike on Metrolink tomorrow.

    http://www.metrolinktrains.com/news/?id=4101

  • JRider

    As far as the hypothetical trip from Woodland Hills to Staples Center, the person didn’t ask how to get from an Orange Line station to the Staples Center, but rather from their home. It’s no wonder that Google complied with the request and computed a complete transit trip from the home, involving many more buses. It’s not a bug and it’s not an issue with Metro and Google.

  • angle

    An automated transit planning system needs to be sophisticated enough to figure out routes that are efficient and trustworthy, otherwise no one is going to use it. It’s not that hard to build an application that can offer multiple choices depending on a given person’s willingness to walk or bike to a subway station, or deal with variables like how many transfers are reasonable for a single trip.

    It’s already confusing enough to use LA’s transit system if you’re going somewhere unfamiliar – people will just jump in their cars if they can’t easily get reliable and complete information about how it works.

  • Yes, weird routing indeed. I entered my commute to work and instead of taking the rapid (which I already do), it suggests taking only local lines which of course doubles my commute time. I’m hopeful though! As others have mentioned, I think it will prove much more user friendly to new riders than metro trip planner.

  • 72HW

    Really am interested to see how the Jacko Bash affects the city tomorrow, the real circus rolls in a day later though right?

    Anyway, the Google Transit thing is cool – though my daily commute is most efficiently done using public transit in a wholly different way than Google recomends. Rather than putting me on the LRT, it chooses a much slower bus route on surface streets using Metro to hook up with the muni bus line.

    Makes me wonder if other routes might be slowed down by bad recommendations.

  • Wad

    Angle wrote:

    It’s already confusing enough to use LA’s transit system if you’re going somewhere unfamiliar

    The buses that most people use stick to one street.

    You have to find it pretty terrifying that people who can’t grasp this fact are somehow determined in the eyes of the law to have the skilled deemed fit to operate a multiton piece of machinery capable of traveling at high speeds.

  • Davidagalvan

    I find it depends heavily on the time you request. When multiple routes are available, it seems to suggest the route that starts soonest first.

    Also, perhaps the rapids aren’t included in this dataset somehow?

    I used it on my iPhone today to get from Pasadena to long beach, and it worked a treat when I missed a train and wanted to know when my new connection times would be.

    Heck the mta trip planner gives you weird routing too, but the google directions are so much less of a hassle to use. Way better.

  • Google Transit is probably using the normal algorithm it uses to plan vehicle trips, which generally considers a geographically shorter trip than a trip with fewer connections – although that breaks down big time for transit.

  • One thing I don’t like is the inconsistent application of Metrolink schedules. Example: For me to get from Union Station to a friend’s place in Cypress/OC, Google suggests the Orange County Metrolink line. To get to Chatsworth, it recommends the Ventura County Metrolink line.

    But to get from Union Station to Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink? It has me taking the Red Line to a bus, instead of suggesting the much-faster Antelope Valley Metrolink line.

    Also, Google needs to include Flyaway schedules. I shudder to think how many people will think the only way to get Downtown from LAX is a 2-hour local bus ride.

  • Karen

    My street dead-ends into a Gold Line station, but Google Transit has me bus to a different station in the wrong direction to get on board.

    I’m sure it’s just a matter of giving it time to shake out the bugs, though.

  • Looks like more updates have hit the Google Transit system. A trip from my place in DTLA now recommends a much faster trip to Sylmar via Metrolink, instead of the Red Line + bus. This is awesome! Now just add the Flyaway data…

  • FYI – I should have an update on google transit and Metro tomorrow. I have heard that the system is already getting better.

  • Stephen

    @ Karen: That’s a good find. The probable reason for that is b/c Google hasn’t figured out that there is a walking route from your dead end street to the station, so it routes you around. It does the same if I search Union Station and I’m trying to get to the El Monte Busway Station, it tells me to take a bus from Patsauras all the way around to Alameda, because it doesn’t understand the tunnel underneath the tracks.

  • Karen

    I just tried it again, and now I get my station, so there have definitely been some improvements already

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