Google Transit and TransLink announced last week that they are collaborating in displaying Vancouver's transit routes and times overlayed on Google Maps, and I was there to watch as Headway Blog writer and Google software engineer Joe Hughes demonstrate its features. He presented it very well, framing the service around stories of people hearing about an event and figuring out how to get there. One example was of a UBC student hearing that M.I.A. was coming to town playing at the Commodore Ballroom. She (the student) would locate the Commodore Ballroom on a map, click on the more info link to see that it was the right venue, then get directions from her campus, first for driving but then, a click away, transit information. Gordon Price documented Joe's story about the Giant Crab of Doom, which illustrated how Google Maps users have added value to the service. Paul has photos from the launch, and Karen (pictured below with me and our cool Google/TransLink swag) has noted that Google Transit may not incorporate the subtleties people learn from experience.
I talked to Joe afterwards and asked him the most technical questions I could think of, like: will there be an API? (sort of, it happens through the feed, which individual transit agencies decide to release); what format is the feed in? (I mistakenly believed it was XML, but it's CSV, designed to make it easier for transit agencies to produce); what about a microformat? (there's nothing stopping anybody from starting one on the wiki); and how about Google Bike maps? (I might be getting his answer wrong, but he said it was good idea if a little more difficult, since many bike routes are on low-traffic streets and trails). Those who stuck around got some hats, slightly too small for my extremely large head, and I managed to convince the communications rep to let me have her lanyard. JMV took some photos—but hasn't posted them yet?—including the one you see to the right, and I finally got to meet Paul Hillsdon, he who created the excellent South of Fraser transit and Surrey cycling initiative documents.