I’m a big fan of public transportation, and have since before gas was over $2 per gallon. I love to drive and I totally understand the phenomenon of 1 person per car on the freeway, but my choice is public transportation whenever reasonable. And historically it gets more reasonable as more people use it, until it reaches a financial/political ceiling (as it has in many urban areas). At some point it gets too crowded, too slow, and too risky to rely on an overburdened and under-planned public transportation system, which goes underfunded because the policy and decision makers aren’t riding it.
That’s where the green revolution actually helps us. As politicians and municipalities are forced to consider public transportation options and actually rewarded for making them work, we have a chance to break through those false ceilings and perhaps achieve the kind of momentum needed to build long-lasting, efficient transit systems. And Google just added a great feature to mobile maps that smartphone-toting riders will really enjoy.
I have enjoyed bus stop icons on Google maps in Seattle over the past year, but they were not available on the mobile version where I needed them most. In fact, having them on the desktop but not on the phone was doubly annoying. The only reason you need them is to check scheduling and plan a route. If you’re doing that on the desktop, you can simply look at the metro websites and use their trip planners. Once you’re on the streets though, you need an interactive system. Schedules provide info but don’t help you plan your route (unless you carry all the schedules and know all the bus/train routes). Most of the interactive trip planners fail to function well on the mobile device, but Google maps for mobile works great. And now Gogle mobile maps includes bus and train info.
If you haven’t been riding, give it a try. Boot up Google maps, hit “My Location” and zoom in to see the bus stop icons. Click and see the route, the scheduled times. Use it… and it will get better, as will the transportation system. In Seattle metro bus service is free in the downtown areas, and we have several express bus systems to the outlying communities that are amazingly efficient. Riding has never been easier.