Apple Draws Protest For Dropping Transit Directions in New Software

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 06:15 PM

UPDATE 6/15/2012: We've been trying to get comment from Apple to no avail. Latest details here.

ORIGINAL POST: Early adopting gadget lovers tend to love transit, but for once, they feel left behind by Apple.

The tech giant rolled out a slew of new products and features on Monday including a new operating system for iPhones and iPads. As part of that upgrade, a new Maps feature is being hailed as the centerpiece. The NY Times technology critic David Pogue called Maps "the gem of iOS6," the new operating system.

But when Apple revamped the mapping application from the ground up it left  transit directions on the side of the road.

That has sparked cries from transit advocates and a petition campaign by WalkScore, the website that rates neighborhoods on how friendly they are to life without a car. WalkScore is calling for a social media campaign to  pressure Apple to restore transit directions.

"We believe that having transit directions on your phone helps public transit work better for everyone, so we’re asking you to join us in requesting this feature from Apple," the WalkScore website reads.

Tech bloggers took note as well. TheNextWeb praised the upgrade, but still focused a post on missing transit routing, lamenting how inconvenient it will be to ride to San Francisco without timetables integrated into a smartphone app: "This could mean that Apple will leave this functionality to third-party apps, but if that’s the case, we’re not sure when that will happen."

There's a new voice activated Siri-centered driving directions feature and walking directions are still there.

Subway and bus mapping became collateral damage in the fierce business competition between Apple and Google. Until this version of Apple's operating system, its products relied on licensing agreements with Google and other map providers. Now, as part of a broader effort to shed Google apps from iPhones and iPads, the Apple Maps app has been rebuilt, and it seems, transit directions weren't the top priority to include in this beta launch.

That move seems out of step with the Apple ethos. Long ago when the company was rebuilding its brand as the hip cool computer for the next generation it heavily courted teens and college students, banking on winning over lifetime customers while they were young and still forming consumption habits. Considering how young people are driving less and taking transit more, launching the new Maps without this feature is a rare moment when Apple's magic touch is slipping from the pulse of the cool kids. Some millennials even cited a preference for transit over driving so that they have more time to use smartphones!.

Apple didn't return calls for comment, so we don't know when or if transit will be added to Maps. The best we have to go on is speculation in from Apple watchers based on hints in the product announcement: PC World says transit directions may have to be third-party apps, not integrated into the Maps app itself. Gizmodo called that solution a "cop out."

Then again, when Google maps launched it didn't have transit mapping either. Google only added them in February of last year, and upgraded to real time directions a few months later.

So when will transit directions come back to Apple products, it's cliche but true: we'll have to wait and see.


Comments [7]


The article has erroneous information- google maps has had transit and even bicycling information for years. The data is provided by over 140 transit agencies using an open source standard called the General Transit Feed Specification. The data would be easily incorporated into Apple's tools if they would just respond to a call. Unfortunately because the specification was developed with google, they may decide they wot take it just to avoid any potential future threats of IP infringement. In spite of it clearly being open source.

To push this to third party apps defeats the purpose- we want maps with choice for travel. Not maps for just driving. They have focused on just one need. Transit travelers and bicyclist should not be second class users.

Jun. 16 2012 09:00 AM
Miles Bader

I think the reason is that Apple values control more than anything else. They don't like having an important part of their system dependent on another powerful entity who is now actively competing with them.

I think that's an understandable urge, but maps are perhaps an interesting case because they involve so much work outside the actual software (of course Apple generally does a good job with the latter). Maybe they have enough money to pull it off, but that's definitely not a given.

And yeah, let's hope Apple gets their shit together before the actual release. Even if they themselves are ultra-suburbanites, many of their customers live in transit-dominated areas, and it will be a big black-eye for Apple if a new release suddenly makes things much worse...

Jun. 15 2012 11:15 PM

There's plenty of transit in California, it's just that Apple has always hewed to ultra-suburban locations. What amazes me is that they can do stuff like this without tarnishing their "green" image. A compan y that cared about real green wouldn't do it.

Jun. 15 2012 04:19 PM

Haha good thing I'm on a Droid

Jun. 14 2012 03:09 PM

Apple charges way too much money to open mutliple apps in lieu of a functional map including public transit.

Clearly it's developed in a state that doesn't have much in the form of public transit. Even more ironic that the company, Apple, is able to circumvent paying state tax in CA.

Jun. 14 2012 12:17 PM

I'll just continue to use Google Maps on my iPhone. Between Google Places app and Safari, destinations are easy to find and the transit directions work pretty seamlessly. Not sure why Apple would even attempt to reinvent the wheel here...

Jun. 14 2012 10:04 AM

Don't get your knickers in a twist. The functionality will be there, albeit through a different back-end process. Think of it like the layers in Google Earth but with content provided by third parties.

Jun. 13 2012 10:35 PM

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