Google Maps Adds Real-Time Transit Data in NYC, Salt Lake City

Google Maps showing real-time transit data in NYC.

UPDATED 4:50 p.m.: Google Maps now publishes real-time data for the NYC subway. Not for all subway lines, but it's another step in the march of technological progress that transit advocates hope will make more people ride the subway, and enjoy the journey more too. Salt Lake City was added to Google Maps today as well.

The NY MTA had previously released the data on its website, smartphone apps and through publicly available data for other people to use for making apps. Now the two main transit routing websites have both integrated the real time information, so a passenger, or prospective passenger, can see exactly which train is coming when -- not just when it is scheduled to arrive -- and if they happen to have a choice between the two lines with real-time data, they can even compare departure times and choose the line accordingly. Or more conveniently  have Google Maps routing functions do the choosing.

That increases trip and trip planning efficiency and just as important, knowing the departure times reliably can also increase perceptions of efficiency, which makes people more likely to choose transit over other modes according to a 2011 study from the University of Chicago, which makes this point with charming academic-ease:

"The provision of real-time transit information might serve as an intervention to break current transit nonusers’ travel habits and in consequence increase the mode share of transit use. Moreover, the results of this study suggest that real-time transit information may be more successful in increasing transit ridership if combined with facilitating programs that enhance commuters’ opportunities to be exposed to such systems before using them."

Like Google Maps. Or HopStop, or other transit routing that can integrate this data.

Google first added real time data in six cities in 2011. Google spokesperson Sierra Lovelace said, as of today, Google transit routing is now in 800 cities. Real-time data is only available in the handful of those where the local transit agencies make the data available, including Boston, Honolulu, San Francisco, London, Madrid, Torino, Italy, and as of today, New York City and Salt Lake City. "While it's not all 800, it is many, and we're always looking to expanded that offering," she said.

Lovelace says there are one billion monthly unique users of Google Maps (including Google Earth and all map services), half of them on smart phones. While Google didn't have a breakdown of the data by city or by feature, there is certain to be a sizable audience that now has access to NYC's real-time data through a platform they already check regularly.

Note the "real departure times" below the times in the screengrab above, as TN reader Steve Vance and Chicago transportation writer, points out, that line is what indicates the difference between real-time and scheduled arrival and departure times.

The NYC subway only releases real-time data on seven of roughly 25 lines (depending on if you count the shuttles and the temporary H train). For now it's only on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 42nd Street Shuttle lines. The other lines have a different switching system which does not produce real-time data in a way that can be exported. There is no timetable for upgrading the rest of the system.

H/T Second Ave Sagas