Internet search giant Google Inc. has unveiled a new feature for planning trips via public transit, which some see as yet another clue of Googles intent to take on online travel giants like Mapquest.com Inc. or Expedia Inc.
Google Transit, available by pointing a Web browser to www.google.com/transit, was launched quietly Wednesday night. For now, the service helps people plan trips using public transit in and around Portland, Ore.
As Google puts it, "commuters will be able to easily access public transit schedules, routes, and plan trips using their local public transportation options."
On its Web site, Google says theres a possibility of the planner expanding to include trips to anywhere, and its inviting other transit agencies to partner with it.
Google watchers say that. while limited in scope, Google Transit hints at another new battle for Google: taking on full-featured online travel services and chasing their own share of the lucrative online travel market. Booking flights, renting cars or getting a hotel room represented nearly a third of the $172.4 billion in online commerce in 2005, according to Forrester Research.
While theres a glut of such services now, Google is given a better chance at rising above the fray because of their commanding leading share of the online search engine market.
"Are transportation services the next big area for big G?" muses Gary Price, editor of Searchenginewatch.com.
"Lets see, theres Google Ride Finder in March, links to air travel fare and timetable info last month, the longtime availability of airline flight tracking, and now this. Could Google use its computing power to build reservation and other needed info systems?"
Google Transit is also evidence of how major Internet portals are getting into the online travel game. Google competitor Yahoo Inc. has also been testing a travel service since last year.