It just became a little little easier to figure out if you can get there from here on the MBTA. Google Maps rolled out a new service that allows users to map directions on buses and trains operated by the MBTA. The visual aspects of the Google service are a little easier to use; the map is easier to see and to manipulate. On the other hand, there still are some quirks to work out … fares aren’t listed, which is an important consideration for many trips … the system doesn’t seamlessly recognize the names of transit stations the way the MBTA’s system does … and Google is more tolerant of transfers and plodding travel times than is the MBTA. And some of Google’s selections clearly are not the best routes. For example, for directions from South Station to Needham Center station (just west of Route 128) departing at 2 pm today, Google’s first choice is an hour-long, two-transfer odyssey; if instead you set the clock to arrive at 3:06pm (the time that leisurely trip is scheduled to arrive), Google’s first choice becomes more sensible 40 minute railroad trip. Hmmmm…. 40 minutes and no transfers in a reasonably comfortable railcar or 1 hour and two transfers on the subway, trolley, and bus … not a tough choice, at least when the fare is unknown. On the other hand I guess all of the routes are in the list. And, of course, it would help if the route data was cleaned up a bit.
[eds. note: After this was posted, Google adjusted the way that it selects routes; the original post contained another link that now is outdated]