Google has quietly beta launched a new service related to its mapping products and travel tools. Called Google Transit, it allows users to plan trips using public transport. The beta version is currently very limited and only available for Portland, Oregon. Without committing to a firm roll-out schedule, Google has indicated that it plans to make the service available for cities throughout the United States and internationally.
Many municipal transport authorities already offer some type of online journey planner, and anyone who has ever used these services knows how useful they are. The services can include all sorts of practical options and information, like being able to choose whether you want to travel only by bus, train, tram, ferry or are happy to use a combination of all available transport means. They can also include the exact measurements for any distances you might have to walk and let you sort results according to departure time, arrival time or quickest journey time.
Google isn’t hugely sophisticated in terms of its Google Transit options yet, but has added some very useful features. Google Transit includes a map image of your journey complete with markers indicating transport changes, and you can choose whether you want to see you route on a map, satellite image or hybrid image.
Google Transit also calculates the cost of your trip and lets you email a link to your trip to yourself or friends.
What’s in it for Google? With recent signs of Google’s interest in mobile search, Google could be seeing Google Transit as a useful tool to gather information about travel patters and use this knowledge to better target local search advertising.