Earlier today I stumbled across this thread on Connect2Edmonton which pointed out that Google Maps Canada now has Edmonton Transit schedules and trip planning features. I immediately jumped over to the website to check it out, and sure enough, it’s all there!
The ETS website has offered trip planning for quite some time now, of course (an average of 89,000 trips were planned each month in 2006). It works well enough, but it’s awkward to use. Everything you do seems to open a new window/tab, and it’s not the fastest service in the world. But the main drawback has always been that you have to know far too much information in advance.
When you need to get from point A to point B, you typically know the address of each, but you don’t know the bus stop number near each one and you certainly don’t know which bus to get on!
That’s where Google Maps absolutely destroys the ETS website. Here’s an example.
I need to get from my apartment building to the current Questionmark office in the west end. I live at 10350 122nd Street, and the office is at 11434 168th Street. Let’s start with the ETS Trip Planner:
- Date and time of travel are no problem. The “arrive by” feature is particularly nice.
- Enter Starting Bus Stop # or Choose a Landmark. Uh oh, what’s my bus stop number? I could go outside and look or I could try to look it up. Let’s look it up.
- Okay not bad, enter my address and click Get Bus Stop #. Okay wow, now I have to choose from 14 different stops! I’m not entirely sure which direction I want. The office is northwest from my house, but do I want a westbound stop or northbound? I’ll choose the first one, heading west.
- Now I repeat the same thing for the office address. This time I have a list of 7 stops. Again, I’ll choose the first one.
- Now I can get my trip plan! Or not…some sort of error just popped up – “Error in Trip Solution Results”. Excellent. Honest I’m just doing this as I write.
- I’m really not sure why I got that error, but I did the whole thing again and after about 30 seconds or so, I got my trip plan – six different route options. Shortest time is 46 minutes.
Now let’s do that with Google Maps:
- I enter my home address.
- On the pin that comes up, I click “From Here” and enter the office address.
- Next I click “Public Transit” on the left pane.
- That’s it! I have three suggested routes. Shortest time is 34 minutes, and each one includes walking directions too.
If you want, you can do a few more advanced things as well. Clicking “Show options” will let you choose the “Depart at” or “Arrive by” times, just like the ETS website.
And it gets better! There’s no way for me to get back to that trip plan I made using the ETS Trip Planner. Unless I printed it right there, I’d have to do it again. With Google Maps however, my plan has a permalink! Very nice.
I would love to see ETS link to the Google solution. Competition might be a concern, but it’s probably a better use of resources to help Google improve their system than to continue building an inferior one. I think it’s funny that the “Local agency information” link at the bottom of the results pane is broken. You can thank the new Edmonton.ca website for that!
Of course, the Google Maps solution isn’t yet perfect. It doesn’t seem to contain as much information as ETS, nor does it include Strathcona Transit or St. Albert Transit (as Michael Wilson pointed out to me).
Still, if you need to look up transit information in Edmonton I’d highly recommend you look at Google Maps before trying your luck with the ETS Trip Planner.
UPDATE: Found the official list of cities with transit information at Google Maps. Edmonton is not on the list yet. The currently listed Canadian cities include Vancouver, Fredericton, Ottawa, and Montreal.