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Los Angeles is Still Not on Google Transit... Well, at Least to the Public

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metrolinkgoogle.jpg
Using Google Transit, a trip from Union Station to Chatsworth on a Metrolink Train. Metrolink is one of the few small LA area agencies using Google Transit.


Using Google Transit, a trip from Union Station to Chatsworth on a Metrolink Train. Metrolink is one of the few small LA area agencies using Google Transit.
Google Transit has been working with Metro's schedules for over a year now, but Metro won't sign the final contract, according to sources.

Washington DC announced yesterday that their transit schedule data will be released, allowing it to go on Google Transit. Last fall, New York City and the local Metrolink joined the ranks of cities and agencies following a growing trend of aligning their public service with one of the world's largest brands. Still, in what the LA Times once called a "technological backwater," Metro is still dragging their feet.

"Google Transit has approached us on participating in their service," explained Metro Spokesman Dave Sotero in an e-mail to LAist last October. "We’re looking at it. In the meantime, we are in the process of making upgrades to our own online Trip Planner." Today, Sotero said there was nothing new to report on the project.

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But Metro has had access to a beta Google Transit map with every bus and train schedule for over a year now, according to a source who spoke under the condition of anonymity. To open it up to the public, Metro just has to give Google the final blessing and sign a contract, the source said. It's just that the Metro powers that be have hesitations such as losing revenue. "If we want to use [our Trip Planner] as a future revenue stream, we don't know the impact of having all the information on a different system," Matt Raymond of Metro told the Times last year. That means they might want to put ads on their website, putting revenue streams ahead of public service.

What makes this worse is that Metro was sued last year for violating Section 508, which makes websites compliant for the visually and mobility impaired. The agency's Trip Planner is unusable for those using a screen reader, which helps disabled people navigate the web. Metro went into a settlement and is working towards compliancy (this means less of the PDF schedules).

Google Transit on the other hand is already compliant to 508 standards and is available in 27 languages. Metro's Trip Planner is only available in English leaving out thousands of residents and tourists.

It took petitions signed by hundreds of people to pressure Washington D.C's Metro to change their tune to Google. Perhaps that will be the changing tone here (along with a Facebook group begging for it), but Metro's new soon-to-be CEO Art Leahy cherry picked from Orange County Transit may also be the key as his transit system has already adopted Google Transit.

For now, Los Angeles County residents have the Trip Planner and two very useful, but hardly marketed, tools that are especially great for use on a cell phone: Rapidbus.net and NexTrip.