Photo by Cavan Moon on Flickr.

WMATA CEO Richard Sarles said a launch of trip planning on Google Maps is “very close,” but declined to give a specific timeline. This project has frustratingly remained “very close” for more than a year.

A December email from Victor Grimes in WMATA IT said they “anticipate going live by mid-January.” That deadline has long passed. the agency was saying the exact same thing a year ago.

Integrating with Google Maps will provide big benefits to Metro. Many people already have Google Maps on iPhones and Android phones, and visitors to DC or infrequent riders use it to navigate. Putting bus stops on the maps and providing trip planning right from that interface will make riding transit easier and advertise its existence to many wouldn’t otherwise know about options or find them too daunting.

I know that technological projects sometimes take longer than expected and problems can crop up. However, WMATA management has continuously remained very tight-lipped about their lack of progress, and did not respond to a request yesterday.

It certainly seems as though this is simply not getting much attention at all. If it is, and there are just unforeseen issues, or if Google is the one being difficult, it would certainly behoove WMATA to explain these facts.

The agreement was signed in July, and the data made high-quality enough to release publicly in the fall. Now, according to Sarles, they are working to prepare the data to upload to Google.

In response to a question from Councilmember Tommy Wells at the oversight hearing this morning, Sarles noted that Metro routes and schedules do appear on Microsoft’s Bing. What’s so much harder about getting on Google?

A comment from Chris Zimmerman last July continues to seem most prescient. He said this project seemed to be “asymptotically approaching” completion. So far, that’s still as true now as it was then.

Disclosure: I used to work for Google, but had no involvement with Google Maps. I no longer own any Google stock and have no other financial interest in Google.


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David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.