Out of the blue, someone forwarded me this blog entry written by somebody out in Atlanta singing the praises of MARTA’s adoption of Google Transit entitled “MARTA + iPhone = Awesome”. This inspired me to talk about my and my friends’ efforts to bring Google Transit to LA ourselves.

Google Transit is this wicked online trip planner adopted by over 261 transit operators in the US and around the world, like in Moscow, Russia. It’s a bit smarter than your usual trip planner. But we don’t have it in LA right now.

But could it be possible that we might have it soon?

In a take on Metro's Problem-Solution PR campaign, Juan Matute designed a graphic which contrasted the existing trip planner at Metro with Google Transit

In a take on Metro's Problem-Solution PR campaign, Juan Matute designed a graphic which contrasted the existing trip planner at Metro with Google Transit

Bloggers like Zach Behrens over at LAist and Siel at GreenGirlLA have written on the topic for the past year or so. It picked up some steam again this winter when a campaign led by Michael Perkins, the head blogger at a Greater Greater Washington succeeded in rallying WMATA, the transit agency out in DC, to provide trip data in the requisite Google data format.

Outside of my internly duties here at UCLA Transportation, Juan and I decided that our next pet project for Bruins for Traffic Relief, a student club founded by Misha Silin ’09, would be to bring Google Transit to LA. (Ha!)

So at the end of winter quarter (which is, you know, the perfect time to start a project), Juan and I started a Facebook group called Los Angeles Wants Google Transit, and invited everyone we knew in our Los Angeles network. Some of our friends invited everyone they knew, like my friend Ian Garrett, the co-founder of Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts. Others joined, seriously, because they saw that their FB friends joined this group in their Facebook stalker-feed, which attests to the power of social networking and Web 2.0. When the group first started, we saw that its membership grew everytime we hit the refresh button. It wasn’t as ridiculous as the 2006 Brody Ruckus incident, which saw a Facebook group size grow by hundreds in span of just seconds based on a premise so wrong I can’t even mention it here. But for transit advocacy, it was pretty darn good.

Now, why Google Transit?
Google Transit integrates the robust features of Google Map, such as the capability to view your route using satellite, traffic, and in-person views. No more wondering where, exactly, your bus stop is located; you can take the orange man and get a 3-D view yourself. Since it’s being used by several hundred agencies, and isn’t a proprietary product developed solely for one client, the product can get better over time outside the parameters of a traditional contract. And finally, the learning curve that users have to navigate when they use a trip planner in a new city is virtually non-existent when Google Transit is the dominant transit trip planner. You can go from NYC to Montreal to Dallas and know that you don’t have to download stacks of PDF files before you arrive if you were planning not to rent a car. How nice is that?

Note: This entry is solely the opinion of Sirinya The Intern, and she does not seek to speak on the behalf of UCLA Transportation or any other entity/person here at UCLA.