This effort to get bicycle directions provided in the native Google Maps interface is based, in part, on the belief that if you want something and you don’t have it, then you should go after it. And that might even require working with other people to get it done.
If your town does not yet have Google Transit available, you might want to think about pushing your city/town to make it happen. There are a number of reasons why getting Google Transit in your town might have a strong side benefit to our ‘Bike There’ efforts – the biggest might be the expertise and experience gained by your city’s transit and public works staff – both administrators and the actual techies who set up the data feed, etc. If we are able to pull off a Bike There feature on Google Maps, the solution is likely to look very similar to the ‘Take Public Transit’ solution.
Google has put forth a challenge on their LatLong blog – get your town up and running on Google Transit in time for Earth Day – April 22. It might be a bit late to accomplish that goal if your town hasn’t started yet, but you never know. And, better late than never.
Also, it appears to be a fairly straightforward process. For you techies, check out the Google Transit Feed Specification. There are already open source tools to help transit IT shops get their feed together. There are discussion forums, a wiki, and other things to help.
I recently attended a conference for technical staff in the public transportation industry. I told them about the great progress Google Transit has been able to make in the past year:
- integrating transit information directly into Google Maps by making stations and stops visible and clickable
- promoting transit as an alternative each time we show driving directions in an area where we have transit data
- expanding coverage from nine agencies in the U.S. to more than 30 agencies spanning three continents
But, of course, we don’t do this on our own: we rely on transit agencies to share their data with us so that everyone — residents, tourists, and lifetime riders — can benefit from having the information at their fingertips. Taking public transport is a great option for people to reduce their impact on global warming, so I issued a challenge to those at the conference: get your agency up and running on Google Maps in time for April 22, 2008 — better known as Earth Day.
We’ve already had several agencies get in touch with us, but with over 200 agencies in the U.S. alone, we still have a lot of ground to cover. So now I’d like to extend this challenge to everyone: if your local agency isn’t already participating, get in touch with them and let them know that you’d like to see their information on Google Maps.
One of the coolest aspects of all this Google Maps-inspired technology is that we’re getting more open government. So, many towns, including Austin, have opened up their feeds completely to the public, which means we can analyze and even use the data to create applications ourselves – whether they are Google Maps mashups, or whatever.