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December 17, 2008

Google Transit comes to Charlottesville

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Google Transit
Sample trip generated by Google Transit

Google Transit is now available for all Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS) routes. Directions for the shortest distance between two points by bus are fully integrated into the popular Google Maps feature. The user enters the starting and destination addresses, and chooses between walking, mass transit, or driving. Google Maps will calculate the shortest distance for multiple options, show the schedules of pick-up and arrival, estimate a total time for the trips, and give the fare prices. It will even tally the cost difference between busing and driving.

Google Transit was unveiled in Portland, Oregon about a year and a half ago, and it has been steadily spreading to metropolitan areas around the county. Currently, 21 other transit agencies in Virginia have opted to join Google Transit. This is the highest level of participation for any state in the country, surpassing California by almost 30%. This may be attributed to a strong push by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to join Google Transit.

Ridership for CTS is already at all-time high levels. According to a press release, “Over 1.7 million passengers boarded CTS buses from June 1, 2007 through July 31, 2008, a 12.5% upswing in service use compared to the previous fiscal year. Ridership in the first four months of the 2009 fiscal year is up almost 14%, to 658,040 passengers.” There is some evidence to suggest that the enhanced usability Google Transit offers may boost ridership even further. A local transit authority in Duluth, Minnesota saw a 12% jump after joining a year ago.

There is no cost to CTS for providing its schedule and route data to Google. Google Transit does not make use of the real-time CTS satellite global positioning system (GPS) equipment, though GPS data on the expected stop time of each bus is available through the City’s website. University of Virginia’s transit service is not currently available through Google Transit.

Daniel Nairn

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