If you travel a lot, chances are that you use Google Maps to find the best route. I rely extensively on Google Maps because it shows me an accurate traffic layout and also the best route to get to where I’m going. However, one thing that was missing for Google Maps for Sri Lanka was the ability to display public transportation methods.
While Google Maps does show you the best route to reach your destination, in Sri Lanka, it only takes into account transportation by private transportation such as a taxi or a car. This is because Google does not currently possess the local public transportation data. Today (5th July 2018), the National Transport Commission announced that they would be working on a method to facilitate public transportation routes into Google Maps.
As per M A P Hemachandra, Chairman of the NTC, the program would contain information about Inter-Provincial bus routes, railway lines, Western Province bus routes, and Southern Province Transport Authority routes. More routes would be added as time went on.
When will we get the new features for Google Maps?
Well, according to the chairman, the data would be processed, uploaded and incorporated into Google Maps by the end of 2018. Once done, you would simply have to update your Google Maps app on your Android or iOS smartphone. After that, you’re good to go.
Essentially, we would no longer get lost while taking the bus or take the wrong bus altogether. This is especially helpful and useful for those who are unfamiliar with local roads and routes. For example, if you were to go out of Colombo and you didn’t know what bus to take, this solves all your problems. In addition, tourists too would be able to make use of this feature. They would also not be hoodwinked into paying exorbitant prices when traveling by taxis or tuks.
Better late than never
While this feature is more than welcome to Sri Lanka, one must admit that it is rather long overdue. If you recall, Sri Lanka got Street View in 2014. Special cameras, lasers, and numerous sensors were added to Google Street View cars to grab images of streets, roads, and buildings.
Fast forward to 2016 and we saw the first Google Street View cars making their appearance on Sri Lankan roads. At the time, 90% of Sri Lanka was covered which amounted to over 50,000 km of roads that were accessible via Google Street View.
Fast forward another two years and what was once visible on Google Street view has somewhat changed. Stores, houses, even entire buildings that were once photographed in Google Street View no longer exist in real life.
Will the new Google Maps facility also follow a similar fate? We seriously hope not. This is especially important if you are unfamiliar with an area and are relying on Google Maps to help you out in terms of public transportation.
All in all, we commend the National Transportation Commission for spearheading this initiative. We just hope that it will stay updated as the traffic and route laws change as well.
Update [July 12th, 2019]
According to the Ministry of Transport & Civil Aviation, the data required to introduce Google Transit has now been submitted. As such, trains would be marked in red, provincial buses in blue, interprovincial buses in green on Gooogle Maps once the service becomes available.
The ministry also states that Google Transit will initially be limited to the Western Province, and will be expanded to other parts of the island afterward. Following this, an upgraded version of the service would potentially show these public transport details in real-time.
[July 16th, 2019]: Public transport details are now available on Google Maps. At the time of writing, bus/train schedules are only available for the Western Province