Will live public transport data in Google Maps kill off other apps?

Posted: 30 June 2017 6:00 am


Developers often get nervous when the Big G steps onto their turf.

Yesterday, Google announced that real-time public transport information for Sydney has been integrated into Google Maps. That means that if you want to get from Bondi to Berowra, you can just pop those places into Maps and it will show possible travel options right now, including information about delays:

Maps in Australia has had "passive" public transport information across most capitals for several years (showing, for instance, the bus stops on a particular corner). But NSW now joins Melbourne and Adelaide in having live transport information integrated into Google Maps as well. For someone who's a dedicated user of public transport, that's welcome news.

The option works in Google Maps on the desktop, but obviously most people are going to access it through their phones. And that raises another question: what will this mean for apps like AnyTrip, TripGo and TripView, which are designed to track the same information? Given that Google Maps comes installed on Android phones and is widely used on iPhones too, will that kill off dedicated public transport apps?

While there's no doubt that this heightens the competition, I'd argue that it isn't really a major threat. Dedicated apps offer features that Maps doesn't, such as storing your favourite trips for easy retrieval. If you're catching public transport all the time, a proper app genuinely makes the task easier.

The people who will benefit most from the new Maps feature are more occasional users: tourists visiting a city, or car-driving locals keen to avoid the worst traffic jams by jumping on a bus for once. In that scenario, you're unlikely to install a dedicated app, but having the data in Maps is an easy alternative.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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