Wednesday , October 18 2017

What’s happening with Google Transit for Victorians now that the data is available?

Google Transit
In 2015 I’ve travelled through Barcelona, London, Berlin, San Francisco and of course Sydney, the common thread in all these cities is that I’ve used Google Transit information to find my way round using public transport. For Victorian residents though, Transit information in Google Maps is still not available. Public Transport Victoria (PTV) released their timetable information in a format Google can use, back in March, so what’s happening?

The release of timetable information in a ‘Google readable format’, known as General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) was part of the election platform used by the labor government in the election which brought them to power.

In January, Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan advised that ‘work had started on providing Google with the public transport data it needed’ and in March, Labor premier David Andrews announced that the data was now available.

That was 7 months ago, but a simple search in Google Maps will show you that though the public transport button shows up, there’s no actual public transport directions delivered when you search.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 2.07.22 pm

Ausdroid reader Phillip, a Victorian resident, has been pursuing the release of Google Transit directions with PTV, as well as with the Google Maps team to try and find out when Victorians will be able to join not only the majority of Australia, but the world, in finding their way around their city.

Phillip started at the top, with the Victorian Minister for Transport, who responded to requests for information by Phillip, as well as Ausdroid, by advising that after releasing their timetable information in GTFS, it’s now up to Google as the next step in the process of getting Transit in Google Maps. Phillip went a step further, contacting PTV and received a reply from PTV CIO Sendur Kathir who advised that he should contact Google.

Our response from Google has been that there is nothing to announce as yet, but Phillip decided to contact the Google Transit Team via their contact form.

Phillip received a reply from the team which advised they are working to integrate the data from PTV into the Transit directions as soon as possible, but there isn’t a timeline to announce as yet. The reply seems to indicate that Google does indeed have access to the data, but appears to be working on improving the way they implement the GTFS data. The team initially responded with:

The folks from PTV have provided us with their transit information. However, currently we are facing a block due to which the process to integrate their data on Maps is being shelved temporarily. But please be assured, we are working on a couple of options to make the transit data available as early as possible.

Before clarifying:

We are trying our best to improve the quality of the GTFS feed and to ensure that it conforms with the GTFS. At this point, it is difficult to assume when the feed will be ready for production. But please understand, we are exploring options to make the the data live soon.

It’s quite frustrating to deal with for Victorians. Google Transit is a fantastic tool, it offers freedom and a way to get around that’s easy to access and easy to use – Google Maps is after all on almost every smartphone or is a simple download away. It’s also time to remember that this is a service provided by a company, and even one as big as Google has limits to resources.

Ulitmately the Australian Government, local, State or Federal doesn’t have much control over the release of Transit information in Google Maps. On the plus side, the Victorian Government has fulfilled their election promise to release the data in the correct format, a rare occurrence at any level of government.

At this stage, all we can do is wait and see, hopefully it won’t be too long till we see some directions.

 
Source: Phillip Malone.

Daniel Tyson   Editor

Dan is a die-hard Android fan. Some might even call him a lunatic. He's been an Android user since Android was a thing, and if there's a phone that's run Android, chances are he owns it (his Nexus collection is second-to-none) or has used it.

Dan's dedication to Ausdroid is without question, and he has represented us at some of the biggest international events in our industry including Google I/O, Mobile World Congress, CES and IFA.

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17 Comments on "What’s happening with Google Transit for Victorians now that the data is available?"

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Member

Update: I have replied to the CIO of PTV (copied in the Premier) to see if I can get any more info seeings as I followed his instructions to contact google. If anything comes of this, I will pass it on either here or via the excellent Ausdroid team!

Member
Luke Vesty

This is #£%&ing bull!%*@.

The ultimate kick in the balls will be if Apple get public transit going on Apple Maps in Victoria first. I just can’t believe this wait. There’s gotta be something going on behind closed doors that we’re not privvy to. It can’t just be a simple matter of implementation.

Great job Phillip. In the past I’ve tried contacting PTV and Google on several occasions with little impact. We’ve gotta keep harassing I feel.

kjmci
Valued Guest
kjmci

To think, seven months ago when I cautioned Ausdroid readers not to conflate ‘data released’ with ‘data available in Maps’, one of my fellow commenters said to stop “trying to inject negativity into this positive development”.

Chris
Valued Guest

Sucks to be right 😉

kjmci
Valued Guest
kjmci

In this situation? Most definitely.

Garry Holden
Valued Guest
Garry Holden

Microsoft managed to integrate the data into Bing Maps and HERE services within days of the data being available. I don’t see how Google are still not able to integrate it into their services. From what I have seen of the data it is 100% compatible with GTFS.

StuartM
Valued Guest
StuartM

HERE maps are awesome. I was surprised to see the timetable of trams when I tapped on a stop the other day. Their speech engine is great too.

Member

Its not about Google making it work with their system, its about the PTV making it work with Googles system! Every other state in Australia have made it work, why can’t the PTV?

Level380
Valued Guest
Level380

Catch up…. PTV has released it in GTFS months and months ago. Google still isn’t using it yet.

Member

Catch up….If you follow the source link or even just read the article, you would see that there are issue with the way they have done the GTFS and even though its been over 203 days since its released (with images of Google Maps app saying “this will work soon” or words to this effect, it still doesn’t work!

How hard can it be? All states and territories in the country have done it and 800+ cities around the world!

Member
Camerooni

Has the government released it in the correct format though.. I just ask because “We are trying our best to improve the quality of the GTFS feed and to ensure that it conforms with the GTFS.”

Implies that it’s not quite there yet..?

Fred
Valued Guest
Fred
The word that I heard was that the way the data had been zipped wasn’t compatible with the way Google expected to see the data. > You can not have folders in your zip file each folder needs to be its own zip file either that or you need to merge all the date into one folder. That’s /u/freakapotamus who also frequents here – not sure if he’s especially in the know, but you can see how google would say “we’re not going to hack our code to fit in with your screwup, and the contractor for PTV (who obviously… Read more »
Member

And by nobody, you mean PTV!

Fred
Valued Guest
Fred

Well, google could have their code recurse down the zip-in-zip structure (probably what MS do) and then play with it after being all unzipped. Not a massive change, but you can see them saying “its silly to have a zip-in-zip structure” and expecting Melbourne PTV to get their act in order.

Real question is who in Victoria state governement was supposed to be standing over the contractors with a baseball bat to get them to sort it out – and do they realise where the fault is?

Member
Matt

I think the point is that GTFS is a standard and PTV are not following the standard. If they’re not going to follow the standard, nobody is going to follow it and then what’s the point.

wpDiscuz

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