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Google Transit Officially Launches with Metro, Big Blue Bus Coming Soon

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Earlier this week, word got around that Google Transit was up and working in beta mode. Today, it became the real deal. Over 200 bus lines and five lines with more than 2.5 million data points are now on Google Transit, an option found on Google Maps.

"This is a big milestone in Metro history," exclaimed Maya Emsden, the transit agency's Deputy Executive Officer of Creative Services. "We're very excited with our partnership with Google Maps." Perhaps even more excited is the public, many of whom begged Metro to partner with Google.

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Google Transit is a free service for Metro and staff expect it to increase ridership, especially during off-peak times, said spokesman Dave Sotero. Now people who plan their driving directions on Google Maps will have an option to look at what's available via public transit.

In an online demonstration this morning, Jessica Wei of Google showed how it was easy to compare drive time to public transit time using the map's historical freeway traffic data. Let's say you're planning to travel over the Cahunega Pass from Universal Studios to Downtown during rush hour on a Friday morning. The traffic pull down offers real time traffic or traffic by day and time. A ride on the red line is around 25 minutes and Google Maps traffic data says the route is up to 40 minutes with traffic. The choice is up to you.

Today's announcement also is good for locals and tourism as Google Transit is compatible in 40 languages, easily used on a mobile phone, works for the visually impaired and can help you find public transit options by searching the business name instead of address.

On Monday, LAist readers found quirks with the system, sometimes being told a bus line that was slower than another. Wei said many of the complaints and data errors will be fixed by Friday, but says any and all suggestions are welcome. Just go to google.com/transitpartners and report issues via the Contact form for feature improvements and issues.

While Metro is the largest transit operator in Los Angeles County, there is a plethora of partner agencies like the city of Los Angeles' DASH system and Santa Clarita Transit. Only a handful--Orange County, Riverside, Metrolink, Burbank and Thousand Oaks--are currently with Google Transit, but Wei says they are talks with many more.

One of those is Santa Monica.

"Big Blue Bus has been working diligently towards bringing our information on to Google Transit for over a year," said spokesperson Linda Gamberg in a comment on Green LA Girl. "We are finally in the home stretch with the vendor who provides our scheduling software, and expect to be part of Google Transit within this calendar year."

As for what's next, much of that will depend on what developers come up with. Last month in preparation for today's launch, Metro released Google Transit data so individuals and companies could make their own applications and mash-ups. On the East Coast, some agencies have an overlay where you can watch the bus in real time arrive at a location. No word on that happening in Los Angeles yet, but it could happen one day.

Metro will continue to promote it's own Trip Planner on its website, which will include all partner agencies, but will also link to Google Transit.

“We have listened to our customers and have provided the Google transit planning resource they have requested,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy in a statement. “As the third largest transportation agency in the United States, it made perfect sense for us to join the Google phenomenon."