Google Gets on Board With Transit Trip Planner

With little fanfare, Google yesterday launched yet another beta service related to its mapping products. The Google Transit Trip Planner targets consumers who take the bus. Analysts said the new service could pay advertising dividends for the search giant.

Google said its new Google Labs service enables travelers to enter the specifics of a trip, then uses all available public transportation schedules and information to plot out an efficient step-by-step itinerary.

The service, which is currently only available in the Portland, Ore. metro region, also allows travelers to compare the cost of their trip with the cost of driving the same route. Google said it plans to expand the service to cities throughout the United States and around the world.

Personalizing Public Transit

Much like Google Local, Google Transit is all about providing directions. The latter, however, provides directions using public transportation rather than personal vehicles.

Here’s how it works: Consumers enter where they are starting from — a street address, intersection, or city name — where they want to end up, and what time of day they’d like to leave and or arrive.

The cost of driving is based on the average mileage for the shortest route between the start and end address and the cost per mile (40.5) cents that the IRS allows businesses to deduct.

Analysts said that may be of interest with high gas prices, but Google warns that this is only an estimate and does not include additional fees like tolls, parking, or variations on as mileage for different types of cars.

Advertising Dividends

Jason Dowdell, who operates MarketingShift, the blog focused on media research and technology, told TechNewsWorld that Google’s strategy could pay advertising dividends.

“This gives Google key information on high density urban areas, which is where local search marketing works the best,” Dowdell said. “Areas with low population density are hard to monetize from an advertising perspective because there isn’t enough to scale.”

No-Brainer Strategies

Dowdell said it is interesting that Google went for the bus commuter demographic because they often use the transit time to catch up on business with cellular calls. That means one way Google could generate revenue is by sending targeted adsdirectly to commuters’ cell phones based on where the user is going.

“If Google has the user’s commute in its database then sending targeted ads is a no-brainer,” Dowdell said. “Because Google knows the commute start and end time, Google knows the best time to send the ads.”

That, Dowdell said, means Google doesn’t have to rely on a GPS-enabled phone to track the user. Google becomes big brother eye in the sky without the eye.

Long-Term Play

Whatever Google’s strategy, monetizing the service will take time. Google has not announced specific plans to expand beyond Portland and its service does not work with all browsers, both of which limit its potential user base.

Google Transit is not yet officially a part of Google Local, the company said, because the search giant wants to develop the product further by learning, through user feedback, how people really use public transportation data. That, the company said, will help Google make its new service more useful.

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