Covers environment, transportation, urban and regional planning, economic and social issues with a focus on Finland and Portugal.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Google Transit and Google Maps integration: Cheaper, Faster and Greener

Lisbon – Helsinki trip plan with Google Maps ( for a while , car-free travel planning isn't available in Europe)

Google recently announced that Google Transit has graduated from Google Labs being fully integrated with Google Maps . This means that Google Transit allows travelers to choose public transportation instead of driving and to receive customized directions (in areas where Google has transit coverage). Thus, you have freedom of choice to check which is the cheapest, probably fastest and most environmentally friendliest trip.

Read moreYou can select the time of departure or arrival and Google Transit will plot the best course (you can choose from a few alternate routes). Considered parameters are: walking directions to and from public transportation stations, cost of the trip (compared to the cost via car) and estimated total time of travel.

For a while, the project is only available in selected cities, not in Europe. Next, we will make a plan for a trip across the Europe, Lisbon - Helsinki. The aim is to see which of the schedules of the transit agencies might be integrated to increase the Google database.

Lisbon – Helsinki trip plan

Start: Rotunda da Expo 98; Lisbon, Portugal
End: Mannerheimintie ; Helsinki, Finland
Travel: 4,069 km – about 1 day 20 hours (by car)

the following information is merely experimental , it doesn't release the consultation of the transportation services. In reality, traffic, construction works or other events may affect the results.

1. Selection of flights from the available options (booking)

Estimated time of travel – 6h25min + 1h30 (check-in, luggage, etc)

From---------To--------- Departure-------------Arrival
Lisbon------ Munich ----- 29Oct, 06h30---------29Oct, 10h35

Munich ---- Helsinki------ 29 Oct, 11h20 ------29 Oct, 14h55

2.Trip between Rotunda da Expo98 and Portela Airport (2 points placed in Lisbon city) 3.9 km
Estimated time of travel (public transport) – 88 min
Estimated time of travel (by car) – about 8 min
It's better to call a taxi...

Transporlis is a multimodal information system of the metropolitan area of Lisbon.
It is a system that integrates the main transport operators of the metropolitan area of Lisbon, and that allows to optimize the use of their transports in function of the schedules of each company. It also integrates the flight schedules of the airport of Lisbon.
Path Finder

3.Trip between Vantaa Airport and Mannerheimintie(Helsinki) 19.8 km
Estimated time of travel (public transport) – 43 min
Estimated time of travel (by car) – about 22 min

YTV door-to-door Journey Planner gives You advice on the best public transport connection to your destination within the Helsinki region.
The principal duties of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council (YTV) comprise transport system planning, regional public transport provision, waste management and air quality management for its four member municipalities (Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa). It also maintains regional databases and conducts studies on different issues affecting the region. Besides its member municipalities, YTV also serves a number of nearby municipalities on the basis of separate contracts.

Departure (Lisbon) - 4 h 30min
Arrival (Helsinki) - 16h 47min
d total time of travel - 10h 17m

Level of satisfaction of the residents with public transport in selected cities (2006)
Satisfaction of the residents with public transport in selected cities in 2006.
Source: Survey on perceptions of quality of life in 75 European cities. European Commission 2007. The survey was carried out in November 2006 by interviewing 500 people in each 75 cities participating in the survey. There were 23 questions on the quality of life in the respondent’s area.

In this above graph we can notice the satisfaction of the residents of selected cities with public transport in the year of 2006 ( survey on perceptions of quality of life in 75 European cities). Helsinki is placed in the first position followed by Wien, Rennes, Hamburg and Munchen. Paris is in the middle. Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon are in the last third, while Roma and Napoli are at the bottom.

In Helsinki, the central city, the share of public transport is among the highest (in European comparison). This is a result of active policies of promoting public transport.
In relation to the national wealth (GDP per capita), monthly passes are very inexpensive in Helsinki (the price difference of single and monthly passes is significant).

In the Helsinki metropolitan area the share of the operating costs of public transport financed by ticket revenues is higher than in most cities included in international comparison and all the public funding is derived from municipalities, contrary to most of metropolitan areas in Europe (particularly in capital cities), where the central government usually takes the main responsibility of public transport.

It is not surprise that the YTV door-to-door Journey Planner service is among the most visited sites of the country, due to its simplicity and efficiency - a Helsinki “slang” site version complements the 3 languages of the site (finnish, swedish and english) and the site also includes one mobile version and journey planner for cyclists.

The Finns seem to have learned from the success of the world of IT and modern real-time logistics , keys for the design of future public transport.

How to provide transit data to Google Transit Trip Planner

We can say that the world integration of the public transit schedules (in its different transport modes) will surely be a great challenge . Once achieved, this previous example would be highly simplified, improving the schedule-based service.

So, to increase the integration it's necessary that the agencies have a public transportation data for their cities, and get it included in the Google Transit Trip Planner. The Google Transit Feed Specification describes how to provide transit data in a format that Google Transit Trip Planner can use, i.e. how a public agency that oversees public transportation can submit a feed to Google Transit Trip Planner.

Petri Jalasto, Eeva Linkama,Seppo Lampinen (YY-Optima Oy), Finnish transport system in European perspective, Ministry of Transport and Communications, 28 September 2007