Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Google Transit adds five Amtrak routes for trip planning

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Five Amtrak routes have been added to Google Transit, Google's public transportation trip planning function, for trip planning, Amtrak and Google have announced. The routes include: Empire Service (New York-Albany-Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.); Ethan Allen Express (New York-Albany-Rutland, Vt.); Hiawatha Service trains (Chicago - Milwaukee); Pacific Surfliner Service (San Diego-Los Angeles-Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo, Calif.); and San Joaquin service (Oakland-Sacramento-Fresno-Bakersfield, Calif.).

Users of Google Transit receive step-by-step transit directions, details on transit stations in their area, and schedules. The Amtrak/Google Transit partnership supports Amtrak's corporate goals to promote connectivity among transportation systems, provide passengers with a seamless transportation experience, and work with state partners to grow public transportation, Amtrak said.

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"Google Transit offers Amtrak's passengers a valuable travel planning tool while introducing rail travel to a whole newaudience," said Matt Hardison, Amtrak's chief of Sales Distribution and Customer Service. "We are always looking for new and innovative ways to serve our customers, and by guiding our customers to a transit-friendly way to connect to and travel by Amtrak, this partnership does just that."

"We are pleased to welcome Amtrak to GoogleTransit," said Google Strategic Partner Development Manager Jessica Wei. "This partnership shows Amtrak's commitment to innovating, serving theirpassengers, and attracting new riders. We're looking forward to continuing to work with Amtrak to add more routes to Google Maps." Plans call for all Amtrak routes across the country to eventuallybe available through Google Transit. 

Google Transit, built on top of the company’s Google Maps function, was originally launched in December 2005, incorporating Portland, Ore.’s TriMet operations. Involvement by local transit agencies inGoogle Transit was a factor in Amtrak’s initial route selections, said Amtrakspokeswoman Karina Romero.

“We chose the five routes in conjunction with GoogleTransit, because the major cities on those routes already are participating,”Romero told Railway Age. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, seemingly a primecandidate for the trip planning, was not chosen initially because severalsystems, including Washington, D.C.’s Metro, are “not currently part of GoogleTransit.”  

Nevertheless,  said Romero, plans call for all Amtrak routes across thecountry to eventually be available through Google Transit, regardless of localparticipation.