Boston partners with Google Transit. Why the hold-up in DC?
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At first, WMATA officials said that their scheduling information was "proprietary" and could not be shared with Google. Later, they told me that formatting the data in GTFS was time-consuming and not a priority for the WMATA staff. In June, General Manager John Catoe said in a Friday lunchtime chat that WMATA was working on it, but that the results were not accurate enough. (Since Transit would use the same data as WMATA's own trip planner, this explanation didn't hold water.) Finally, when I asked about it at the October board meeting, they said that they still needed to hammer out the legal agreements.
Eventually, Perkins got this response from Brett Tyler, the Director of Customer Service, at the WMATA:
Metro staff did explore some possibilities with Google, but ultimately we decided that forming a partnership with Google was not in our best interest from a business perspective. We do believe that Metro's newly redesigned Web site, at www.wmata.com, improves customers' access to information about the Metro system. In addition, customers may get real-time information and bus and rail schedules directly on their cell phones or PDAs.
Then this year, the WMATA agreed to provide Google information on a very restricted basis. As of a week ago, a potential partnership was in a holding pattern – Google and the DC Metro have failed to reach an agreement on how to incorporate schedule data into the Google Transit engine. Many critics have faulted Google, claiming that the company has received the data from the WMATA. But Perkins says the problem is with the city:
[Their] terms are too draconian. Metro won't let you use their trademarks at all, and even the term "Metro" is a registered trademark according to the system maps. They also reserve the right to stop providing the data without notice, and to start charging for the use of the data at any time. Furthermore, Metro reserves the right to modify or revoke the agreement at any time.
Update: Google's Sean Carlson wrote us to say, "We're continually looking into adding more transit agencies to make the service as useful as possible to as many people as possible, but there are no specific partnerships to announce at this time."