The MTA announced Tuesday a partnership with perhaps the most recognizable brand in the tech industry to provide near-instantaneous information on the city’s mass transit. NY1’s Transit reporter Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
Transit officials say it's an ideal partnership – starting Tuesday, the subway system and Google Maps were providing New Yorkers with door-to-door directions via mass transit.
"Somebody can come just to the Google search box, you don't have to go to any special site, and enter a business or an address, and within seconds, you can get a transit route," said John Hanke, Google’s Director of Maps and Earth.
Google launched the new service Tuesday with a splashy event at Midtown Manhattan’s Grand Central Station. Using data provided by the MTA and other regional transit agencies, the Google Transit feature can even tell you what time the next train is supposed to arrive.
As Tom Sly of Google New Business Development demonstrated, users can access directions at GoogleMaps.com from a computer or a cell phone or other handheld device.
"So, if I click on Grand Central here, you can actually see what lines run out of Grand Central,” said Sly. “And in certain cases, we can actually show you when the next scheduled departures are from that station."
The service also allows users to search for nearby businesses.
"I'm going to do a search here around Grand Central for 'bagels.' And you can see, these are the shops in the surrounding area that sell bagels," said Sly as he used Google Transit.
Google developers say they worked for two years to add about 40,000 subway stations, bus stops and other points on the city's mass transportation network.
The new feature means competition for sites like HopStop, which also provides transit directions, and even NYC Transit's own Trip Planner feature.
Those given demonstrations by the teams of Google employees roaming Grand Central were impressed.
"I think it's great. It's pretty revolutionary," said one user.
"When you're in an unfamiliar part of the city, you don't know how to get around, yeah, it would be a big help," said another.
Best of all, the service comes at no cost whatsoever to the MTA.
"It is a time in New York's history when we are trying to do more with less,” said Governor David Paterson at the unveiling. “And this is a good example of it because we won't cause the taxpayers to lose a penny."
The MTA has also worked on another high-tech service, the ability to send text message alerts when there are unexpected disruptions in subway service. Officials said the new alert system will launch within the next few weeks.