Google Expands Transit Crowdedness Predictions To More Cities As Mass Transit Usage Grows During Pandemic
At the height of the pandemic, major cities saw their offices close, restaurants and nightlife shut down and a shift to decentralized modes of transit, like shared electric scooters and personal vehicles. As a result, some transportation systems saw up to a 97% drop in ridership.
But public transit usage is rebounding, with Google reporting transit directions on its Maps app increased 50% compared to last year in the U.S. The company also said that based on its data, New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston and Washington D.C. currently have the most crowded transit systems.
As a result, Google is expanding a feature that helps riders stay comfortable and maintain physical distancing while riding public transit.
In 2019, Google Maps rolled out crowdedness predictions in nearly 200 cities. Now, Google is expanding the feature to cover over 10,000 transit agencies across 100 countries. The feature offers information on how crowded a subway, train or bus ride is likely to be, based on data obtained from previous rides. The updated version of this feature is now live.
Note that Google first rolled out this feature before the pandemic, when riders were more concerned about feeling crowded in a train than contracting a virus.
If you’re wondering how Google has obtained this data, it has used contributions from Google Maps users and anonymized historical location trends, projected and analyzed by AI. If you’re looking for more exact data, down to the train level, Google did say it was piloting the ability to see live crowdedness predictions using data directly piped in from New York City and Sydney, Australia.
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Along with this update, Google is making other updates to Maps, focused on transportation trends and memories. Google is adding a new “Timeline Insights” tab to the Maps app on Android, which can only be seen by the user. The feature will breakdown what modes of transportation a person has used the most and how much time a person is spending at different categories of places. This is a beefed up version of Google’s current “Timeline” feature, which offers data points on previous locations traveled. This feature is currently available for Android users only.
Google Maps is also adding the “Trips” tab, which in the style of Apple iOS’ Memories feature, helps users reminisce on previous vacations and long distance trips, by collecting a list of locations visited. The feature will also allow users to export the list of locations visited for external sharing. This functionality is now live for Android users.