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Metro Publishes Google Data: Is Google Transit Finally Happening?

A Metro local bus in Chinatown | Photo by Fred Camino via Flickr
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Today Metro made a big step with an announcement that will give programmers a new tool to make and computer savvy commuters ecstatic. They launched a new beta developer website (and blog!) with two downloadable data sets--GIS and GTFS, or Google Transit Feed Specification, which is used in Google Transit. "This data set is a collection of tabular data describing route, stop, schedule, and fare information for Metro’s system," Metro said in a news release. "The GIS data is a collection of shapefiles for mapmakers who wish to include a layer of Metro Bus and Metro Rail lines and stops into a map."

For Juan Matute, who runs a Facebook Group urging Metro to adopt Google Transit and the LA Subway Blog, this is great news. "This can only mean one thing, that Metro will soon be on Google Transit," he wrote in an e-mail to LAist. "I know that there are some upcoming schedule changes because of the new Gold Line Extension, so that may complicate the release of schedule data, but I would expect Los Angeles to be able to use Google Transit in the next month or so."

Metro Spokesperson Marc Littman says they're in talks with Google about participation in the program. "We are expecting an announcement by the end of the month," he said.

And even if that doesn't happen, A Google spokesperson said this is a big step for a large transit agency. "We encourage a lot of agencies to publish the data and make it publicly available," she said noting that agencies are encouraged to publish the data, but don't always do so. "This is a pretty innovative step for LA, we're very pleased to see them doing it." With the data there for anyone to grab, third party developers can make their own Google Mashups or applications.

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In March, LAist exposed Metro's slow-to-go approach with Google. Within the agency, small but poweful factions were holding the data's release hostage, according to sources, angering the publc who desired an easy to use transit guide such as Google.

“We have listened to our customers," explained Dave Sotero at Metro. "They have asked for us to publicly release our transit data, and we have responded in kind. We’re eager to see how the development community uses the data to help more Angelenos get out of their cars and onto buses and trains.”