Google Maps Rolls Out Public Transit Tracker

The company's public transport tracker allows you to see just how late your ride to work is going to be.

Search engine giant Google rolled out a public transportation tracker for four U.S. cities and two European cities June 9, making all the more frustrating for straphangers to know that, yes, your train is going to be delayed. The company partners with Boston, Portland, Ore., San Diego, San Francisco, Madrid and Turin transportation networks to offer live transit tracking on Google Maps for mobile and desktop.

When you click on a transit station or plan a transit route with Google Maps and there are delays or alerts related to your trip, you'll now see "live departure times," indicated with a special icon, and service alerts. Sasha Gontmakher, a software engineer at Google, posted a blog entry explaining how the service works. Gontmakher also noted they are working with public transit partners to help them provide live data to more people in more cities.

"Often when I'm taking public transit, I arrive at my stop on time only to anxiously check my watch and look down the street for my bus, which is running late once again," Gontmakher wrote. "Those extra minutes I'm forced to wait seem like an eternity, and the only information I can access on my phone is when the bus was supposed to arrive."

Public transit participants can get live transit updates in the latest version of Google Maps for mobile (which requires Android 1.6+), as well as Google Maps on all supported desktop and mobile browsers. In May, the company announced a partnership with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to add all of the nation's capital's Metro and bus stations, stops and routes, as well as connections to other transit systems in nearby cities.

Users can find this information on Google Maps as well as Google Maps for mobile-no matter where users are, they can get to where they're going. With Google Transit, D.C. metro-area commuters-including those in Baltimore, Montgomery and Jefferson counties-may discover a quicker route to work, while visitors can make their way from the airport straight to the Smithsonian museums, for example.

Even if you aren't taking public transportation to get around, Google offers an application to help navigate around congestion: Google Maps Navigation is an Internet-connected GPS navigation system with voice guidance that allows users to search by voice, along routes for businesses and popular service facilities such as gas stations and parking, and automatically switches to street view as the destination nears.

In traffic mode, an indicator glows green, yellow or red based on the current traffic along the route. Users can touch the route to see traffic ahead of them. Even after you've left the car, Google Maps Navigation can help, offering a walking navigation feature with voice navigation that vibrates to indicate when you should turn.