Google Maps and Public Transport
In this article I want to focus on Google Maps, specifically using Google Maps to make using public transport easier.
Most people know what Google Maps are – but just in case a quick overview might help. Google Maps is a huge interactive map on your browser that gives you the amazing opportunity to zoom in to pretty much any place in the UK and see very specific details like street names etc. just as you would on a road map. You can do this for almost anywhere in the UK, at any time, with no need to turn pages or own multiple road maps and so on. This alone would be a great tool, but on top of that you can search for local businesses, train stations and even people’s addresses etc. Furthermore, one great feature, amongst many, is the ability to plan out a route, say from your home in Manchester to your friend’s in London, as well as something closer to home, like Rusholme to Cheetham Hill, Fallowfield to Manchester City Centre, and so on.
You also have the option of how you want to get there, by car, by bus, by train, as little walking as possible etc. As I mentioned above, I wanted to focus on the tool you can use to get from one place to another using public transport - particularly helpful if this is an area new to you.
It’s quite simple really. Here are the steps for using a desktop or laptop. Simply search ‘Google Maps’ on Google and click on the first link. In the top left hand corner there should be a white bar in which you can type your instruction, such as ‘train stations near M8’ or one address, or place, to another, such as ‘Manchester University Fallowfield Campus to Piccadilly Gardens Manchester’. You can also use postcodes, but I will just use this example to explain what happens next.
So, you want to go from the University Campus to the City Centre, it will now show you your options on the left side of the screen and on the right side will show you the map and the routes displayed on the map using coloured lines (the one you have clicked on) and grey lines (other potential routes) which you can click on to get more information.
On the side now, as I look, it tells me by car it should take about 23 minutes. But I want to know by public transport, so at the top left hand corner there is a blue bar with a picture of a car, then a train (representing public transport in general, not just trains) and a person walking, these are the different transport choices, simply click the public transport image.
Now I am told that it should take me 30 minutes by bus and also the route on the map has changed, showing me the bus route. It tells me which buses I can take, the 41 to 44, X41 and X57. Excellent though it is this is a point where there is a weakness in this service.
Firstly, I am pretty sure having taken a similar almost identical route myself that I can take, for example, the 142 if I pleased which is not listed. Secondly, this bus is only £1, I am not sure of the prices of the others but if they are more then you could be spending more than you need to. Thirdly, you shouldn’t rely too heavily on exact timings, they may be estimations. For example where I live now, Google will give me the time that my bus will come, but in reality it isn’t on a set timetable other than about every 6-8 minutes one should come. Fourth, it doesn’t give you prices, so you need to know ahead of time the cost of your ticket, or at least bring enough to cover multiple possibilities. Also, it isn’t perfect of course, so you may know the area yourself a bit better and for whatever reason think, no, I won’t get on this stop, I will get on the next, but it can be handy as a starting point. These are just a few relatively minor issues, but ones to bear in mind.
Now of course you may not want to leave this minute, at the bottom of the blue bar in the top left hand corner it says ‘Leave now’, meaning it is giving you information if you were to leave your first destination now, simply clicking on the ‘Leave now’ area will give you drop down box with the options: ‘Leave now’, ‘Depart at’, ‘Arrive by’ and ‘Last available’, so if you are planning your trip for tomorrow, you can change the variables to suit your needs, or if you need to know when to set off to get there for a 3pm appointment, again you can fiddle around with it.
But in this case I’ll stick with ‘Leave now’. Clicking on proposed option on the white part of the screen (the part specifically holding the details of the buses, i.e. numbers, and also travel time etc.) will then expand it give you instructions for your direct route. In this case, starting with what time I should leave, where I should walk, to get to my stop, the bus number, the amount of stops, how long it should take and then where I need to get off and also if I need to walk anywhere else to reach my destination.
It is really as easy as that. There are so many finer points that could be mentioned, but as an overview this should hopefully be enough to get someone started who could then explore the different tools at their disposal to streamline their experience even more and make travelling around a less stressful prospect.