If you find yourself unknowingly walking into a backed up bus terminal or ridiculously packed train station every time you leave for work, Google Maps just added a solution to help make your commute a bit less painful. The search engine giant announced that it's adding new transit crowdedness predictions to its Maps app. That means you'll soon be able to simply check the Google Maps app before you head out for a glimpse at how crowded your chosen method of public transportation is at any given moment. This will work similarly to Google's "live" business meter that gives you a snapshot of how busy an establishment is when you look it up on Google.
This service will base details about what congestion is like on each version of transportation on user feedback from those who have ridden them in the past. Google has been reaching out with surveys in the Google Maps app following the completion of certain rides to gain insight about how crowded each method of transportation ended up being.
In the surveys, The Verge reports, riders were given several options to select from when offering feedback: if there were few empty seats, many empty seats, cramped standing room only, or standing room only. This may not seem like an immediately useful strategy for assisting users in the long run, but it's invaluable information that's obviously being used to help make more informed predictions.
With this information in mind, Google can now begin offering insights into what the commute to home or work might be like for anyone using Google Maps. It's been rolled out in 200 cities around the world as of today, with about 25% of said cities based in the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google also used the data to compile stats about which transit lines around the world are the most crowded — turns out Buenos Aires' Urquiza Line commuter train can claim the top spot.
The information offered to potential riders will vary based on what kind of transportation is being used, whether riders are on trains, buses, or subway cars. You may check the app and see that your particular line is "standing room only" before you try to jump on in the afternoon, and that could give you time to plan a different route or Uber or Lyft it to work that day. It may not paint a 100% accurate picture of what's going on in a specific location every single time, but it's better than getting to your station and trying to guess whether or not you should hoof it to work or see if you can squeeze on board.
Google Maps is offering a wide selection of different features similar to this one, including live traffic delay information, real-time speed data, parking locations, and traffic jam details culled from real-time crowdsourcing. It's easy to see Google wants its flagship direction and navigation provider to do more for users than it's ever done before, and these are all steps it's taking in the right direction. Most importantly, it's eliminating several search steps (and browser windows) you had to rely on using before these features were introduced, which eventually turns into ways you're saving time.
If you try to check out your commute time predictions today and don't have access, don't worry. Google will slowly be rolling out the feature to additional users as time wears on. Just make sure you allow more time to reach your destination when you're heading out anyway. That's just a good rule of thumb when it comes to public transit.