One of the best things about working at Google is a policy known as “20 percent time,” which you can read about on our jobs page or in this post. Having the freedom to pursue projects during 20 percent of our work week means engineers can pursue a breadth of unique and interesting ideas without having to wait for anyone else.
So not too long ago, a few engineers from San Francisco, New York, and Zurich — all of whom regularly use public transportation — decided that being able to plan local trips without having to go to multiple websites, and done in an easy, intuitive way would be a useful product. So they devoted their 20 percent time to building it. As it happens, a lot of people thought this was a great idea, and our small team quickly grew with “twenty-percenters” from across Google.
Today, we are happy and proud to tell you that their efforts have resulted in a new Google Labs experiment: Google Transit Trip Planner. With it, commuters will be able to easily access public transit schedules, routes, and plan trips using their local public transportation options. This first release covers only the Portland, Oregon metro area, but we are working to expand our coverage very soon. (If you’re from a local transit agency interested in being included in Google Transit, we would love to speak with you. Just write to us.)
We chose to launch with the Portland metro area for a couple of reasons. 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. And Tri-Met has a wealth of data readily available that they were eager to share with us for this project. This combination of great people and great data made Tri-Met the ideal partner.
Public transportation offers a unique type of data that people use in very different ways than most of the data Google has worked with before. We really want to understand how people use Google Transit and the challenges we’ll face as we cover additional cities. To that end, we’d love to hear your feedback!
Try some of the queries you can do in Portland on Google Transit:
[Updated with links to results]
[Via Google Blog]