How to avoid crowds in mass transit

Crowdedness information is generated from a mixture of historical location data and self-reporting from Maps users on individual trains.

SNS Web | New Delhi | July 21, 2021 8:09 pm

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

Google is also adding new features to Maps’ Timeline section on Android. (Photo: IANS)

Google Maps is expanding the number of cities to offer information about public transport crowding. The number of cities covered is increasing from around 200 today, to “over 10,000 transit agencies in 100 countries,” the company says.

Google Maps will also provide more information about your past trips.

Crowdedness information is generated from a mixture of historical location data and self-reporting from Maps users on individual trains. Google says it anonymizes the location history data used.

Available to all Android users, you can now use the Trips tab to transport yourself back in time, Google said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Whether you’re staying close to home or taking a trip, use the Covid layer to see how cases are trending in an area. You can also access quick links to trusted local resources so you’ll know at a glance if there are specific guidelines or restrictions you need to follow,” said Wanda X. Plore, Head of Safe Exploration, Google Maps.

One can avoid crowds with live busyness information on Maps.

“Before you go, search for your destination on Google Maps, then scroll down on the Business Profile to see how busy a place typically is or how busy it is right now. With busyness information, you’ll know instantly you’re about to face a long line or a big crowd and can adjust your plans accordingly,” Google explained.

Google is also adding new features to Maps’ Timeline section on Android.

A new “Insights” tab shows trends about the amount of time and distance you’ve spent using different transport methods and the places you’ve visited.

There’s another “Trips” tab that gathers together places visited.

Google Maps’ crowdedness information originally launched pre-pandemic in 2019, but social distancing has made it more important than ever over the past year.

Google has announced its latest updates for Google Maps. One of the newest features is expanding to its ability to warn users about crowded mass transit ahead of time, which initially launched in June 2019 and covered roughly 200 cities globally using user-reported data similar to Waze that discovered and predicted overcrowded trains or buses. Now with this new update, they will be expanding it out even further by giving them over 10,000 agencies from 100 countries access (eventually) as well!

Google Maps is getting more intelligent. The transit predictions are based on AI technology, user feedback, and location trends over time to give you the best route for your commute or trip. In New York and Sydney, there’s a new feature that shows crowdedness by car-by-car level so users will know which parts of the train to avoid!

Google Maps is making it easier for commuters to know which train cars are the most crowded and when. The “Popular Times” feature, rolling out now on Google Maps users will show data about how busy a rail station or specific car within that station can be in real-time. All you need to do is type your destination into map search bar if looking from inside of maps app, then tap “Get Directions.”

Google says that it will still prioritize privacy and security, even for the Maps update. The company assures users by using anonymization technology to keep their location history private with differential privacy.

Transit Advocates say the Centers for Disease Control is paving the way for gridlock.

This week, the CDC issued guidance encouraging commuters everywhere to ditch public transit and drive to and from work.

What You Need To Know

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued guidance for businesses to discourage public transit and encourage workers to drive by covering parking expenses.
  • The first phase of reopening New York businesses will begin June 8.
  • The city estimates between 200,000 and 400,000 people will head to work once the first phase of restrictions are lifted..
  • MTA leaders want the city’s business community to stagger work hours to avoid crowds inside trains and buses.

Alex Meltsin, a contractor doing work at CityTech in Brooklyn, has already sworn off mass transit. He’s bracing for more traffic than ever.

“I think it’s gonna be worse,” Meltsin said. “I used to take a train, from time to time, four or five times to month. Now I would not take the train. I would definitely take the car anywhere.”

The CDC says commuting by car would reduce the possibility of getting infected with the coronavirus. It says employers should encourage workers to use their cars by reimbursing parking expenses. Local elected officials and transit agencies are furious.

“We cannot be in a situation where literally everyone is abandoning mass transit for cars so clearly that guidance did not have New York City in mind,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told NY1.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials said the advice is “misguided, unsafe, and unworkable for cities.” The MTA chief calls it “confounding.”

The city estimates as many as 400,000 people will return to work next month as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

The MTA chairman asked the business community in an open letter to do its part, like staggering work hours.

Mayor de Blasio was asked about New Yorkers who don’t have a car and don’t feel comfortable taking mass transit.

“There’s not always the chance to help everyone all the time in terms of their transportation needs,” de Blasio said at his Friday coronavirus briefing. “People are going to have to improvise and I believe they will.”

That could mean taking a car, like Queens resident, David Floyd, who said he was an “avid” rider of the F and R lines.

“It’s not that I don’t like public transportation because I find it to be convenient, but I don’t think it’s gonna be too safe,” Floyd said.

But the city transportation commissioner says a special advisory panel will figure out a way to avoid Carmageddon.

“There’s been a bunch of ideas put out on the table: HOV, different license plates, a whole bunch of potential ways that we can look to manage traffic, some of which this city did very successfully, for example after 9/11 and after Hurricane Sandy,” Trottenberg said.

The panel will release its recommendations for avoiding gridlock, sometime next month as the city is in its first phase of reopening for business. that initial phase, set to begin, on June 8.

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.

Re: ( Score: 2)

So Only You, Me, and Everyone Else Knows ( Score: 2)

BFM: OK Google, which subway car is the least full.

Google: Car 3521 is only 20% full.

BFM: [Enter fully packed Car 3521] WTF, Google?

Google: Oh BFM, you have to be faster than that.

Re: ( Score: 2)

On the other hand, it isn’t like I’ve ever lived in a place where mass transit was truly a viable option for normal daily life.

Re: ( Score: 2)

There are places where it is the only viable option. Mostly very large cities.

The crowds don’t really bother me, although the lawless behavior kind of does.

Re: ( Score: 2)

I’ve seen far more lawless behavior on highways than on subways. The thing that makes transit safe is the very thing that makes it uncomfortable: crowding. There has, in fact, been an uptick in crime on NYC’s MTA due to lower ridership, but the rate is still quite low compared to the 1970s.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Good points. Either way, lawlessness never ends well.

I do remember what the city was like during my first visit in the very early 1990s, and yes, in spite of the huge uptick in violence in the past few years, I’m pretty sure it’s still safer now than it was then.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Yeah, when the government owns all the roads ( Score: 2)

They tend to spend a lot of taxpayer money on them. Much of it is taken from taxpayers with cars, through various taxes on driving.

Of course, those same taxpayers also contribute to the funding for government-owned (or sponsored) mass transit.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Much of [the cost of the roads] is taken from taxpayers with cars, through various taxes on driving.

And by “much” you mean less than half [uspirg.org], right?

Of course, those same taxpayers also contribute to the funding for government-owned (or sponsored) mass transit.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 2)

The lions share of the operating revenue is sales tax

So let’s raise the gas tax to cover 100% of the cost of the roads and watch the higher gas tax reduce traffic, and lower the sales tax accordingly and watch the lower sales tax improve local commerce. Or do you prefer more traffic and less commerce?

Re: ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 2)

Except the regional tax in TX is ONLY for mass transit. Not used for road funding.

Speaking of Texas, TxDot found that no road pays for itself in gases and fees [archive.org], and the gas tax would need to be raised to $2.22 per gallon to cover the cost of the roads. That’s about $2 per gallon more than what people in Texas pay today.

I calculated when the light rail was first added that the metro system could have given every single rider a benz E class car and still would have cost less.

Giving every transit rider a car

Re: ( Score: 2)

Get rid of transport of all of our goods and you can shut the modern economy down too.

And as long as they’re there for goods and commerce, why not let individuals drive on them too?

You act like all of us in the US have had a bad quality of life all these decades with our cars, etc.

I dunno about you, but I’ve quite enjoyed myself so far they way it has been.

Re: ( Score: 2)

You know, those roads have to be there and maintained for transport of goods too right?

Because without subsidies, roads would not exist?

Get rid of transport of all of our goods and you can shut the modern economy down too.

If you are correct that subsidies are good for the economy, then we should also subsidize other things everyone needs like food, housing, and healthcare, right? Otherwise where does your socialist utopia end?

Re: ( Score: 2)

Are you saying that the US federal government pays cash payments to companies to keep our roads and cars going. paying private companies budget line items of money to offset what might be losses, etc?

I”ve just never heard of that.

It’s never been a complained about problem till recent years that I’ve ever heard of and I”m guessing I’m not the only one that hears this and doesn’t know WTF this is.

Re: ( Score: 2)

I do hear you and others keep ranting about these “subsidies”.
Are you saying that the US federal government pays cash payments to companies to keep our roads and cars going. paying private companies budget line items of money to offset what might be losses, etc?

By that definition, public transit isn’t subsidized. I’m glad we cleared that up, thanks!

Re: ( Score: 2)

By that definition, public transit isn’t subsidized. I’m glad we cleared that up, thanks!

Subsidized, no. I agree.

But public transport is paid for directly by line item city/state budgets with that funding coming directly from citizens’ taxes.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Re: ( Score: 2)

Me: OK Google, which subway car is the least full.

Google: Car 3521 is only 1% full.

Me: [Enter Car 3521, which indeed only has 1 person] OH DEAR GOD GOOGLE WHY? WHAT IS THAT SMELL? ROTTEN ASSHOLE BAKED IN A BAG OF VOMIT AND URINE?

Google: Never ask for the least full.

Burke Gilman Bicycle Trail In Seattle ( Score: 4, Interesting)

Can you please tell me when the Burke Gilman Bicycle Trail in Seattle will have the fewest bicycle pace line racers and rollerblade speed skaters so that I can safely walk with my walker on the trail without being hit?

I can see where this would help frail elderly folks like me who are nervous using some of our multi-use-trails.

Re: ( Score: 2)

Transit App offers multiple mode directions, like transit, ride sharing and bike sharing, but I don’t think driving is included.

No. ( Score: 2)

The feature works using data provided by transit agencies themselves

I don’t trust transit data.

In my area, we have two transit agencies. One is a reliable and convenient bus service that has been here for many decades. The other, Sound Transit, is a tax revenue scam. The bus service can get me from my house to the airport with one connection. But some years ago, Sound Transit got their fingers into the county bus scheduling software. And if I look up the times and route info. on line, it attempts to direct me to the Sound Transit buses. Which require more transfers, more c

Timing your trip strategically, using contactless payments and not eating onboard are some of the things to keep in mind.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

In cities across the country, ridership on public transportation has dropped precipitously as people have stayed home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But for some, continuing to take mass transit was never optional. Many essential workers who cannot work remotely or don’t drive have continued to ride buses, trains and ferries; they are disproportionately people of color and the earners of lower incomes.

“The pandemic itself has changed the profile of who’s using the services and what they’re using them for,” said Brian Taylor, a professor of urban planning and public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It is mostly riders without other options who are coming back to public transit so far” — that is, if they ever stopped riding. (The school’s Institute of Transportation Studies, which Dr. Taylor directs, is studying the effects of the pandemic on transportation, including on public transit ridership, operations and finance.)

In some areas, ridership is now rebounding as businesses and workplaces reopen: Last week in New York, subway ridership was down by 70 to 80 percent — but that’s compared with as much as 93 percent in April. And thanks to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new cleaning protocols (and suspended service between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. for sanitizing), the trains sparkle.

“At the beginning, they were thought of as sort of virus trains,” said Sarah M. Kaufman, the associate director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University. That has been largely disproved; in Paris and Tokyo, for example, the cities’ crowded trains have not been linked to outbreak clusters. (Transit workers, though, have suffered a steep toll: In New York, 131 M.T.A. workers have died and more than 4,000 have tested positive for the virus. Some employees have cited a lack of widespread mask-wearing and social distancing early in the pandemic.)

So as traffic picks up again, on the streets and underground, what are the best strategies to stay safe while commuting and making essential trips? Here, a few experts weigh in.

Choose your method wisely.

If you plan to go somewhere, evaluate which means of transportation poses the least risk to yourself and others. “The more that you can be in open air and the farther you can be from other people and the less likely that other people will be without a mask is the safest way to go,” said Robyn Gershon, a professor of epidemiology at New York University focused on occupational and environmental safety. Dr. Gershon and a team of scientists are working with TWU Local 100, a transit union in New York that represents roughly 46,000 bus and subway workers, to study the impact of the outbreak on its members.

Take into account how long you’ll be waiting for your chosen vessel to arrive, she explained, and whether the terminal or station is inside or outside. You could get to the ferry dock early, for instance, to ensure that you get a seat on the upper deck in the open air; even inside, there’s probably ample air circulation and space to spread out. If you’re riding the bus, try to sit near a window, and keep it open. Don’t do this on the subway, though: New York’s underground tunnels are “full of steel dust and asbestos,” Ms. Kaufman explained. Choose the escalator or stairs over the elevator if you can.

Or travel by bicycle. The use of bike-share programs in New York and Chicago has ballooned; by June, Citi Bike had nearly 180,000 active users — across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Jersey City — and bikes became difficult to buy throughout the country. “My bike has been getting a lot more miles than it ever has before,” said Dr. Mirna Mohanraj, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Mount Sinai Morningside, who has been riding all over Manhattan, including some morning trips to Central Park, and into the Bronx and Brooklyn.

Most important, “if anyone has any symptoms or thinks they’re sick, they should not take public transportation,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. Instead, they should stay home and get in touch with their doctor.

Back in June 2019, Google introduced the transit crowdedness estimates on its Maps that lets you avoid crowds in buses, trains, or the subway. That feature was initially available in 200 cities around the globe and now, Google is expanding it to over 10,000 transit agencies in 100 countries, helping more people find open seats in mass transit or avoid it if it’s jam-packed and wait for another train because social distancing is important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Google says these predictions are made using its AI technology, contributions from Google Maps users, and historical location trends through the Location History data, which is kept private using anonymization technology.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

The Internet search giant also announced that it’s testing live crowdedness predictions in New York and Sydney, allowing you to see how crowded an individual transit car is. The data for this feature is provided by transit agencies Long Island Rail Road and Transport for New South Wales, and the feature will be rolled out in more cities soon.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

Google also introduced a new Insights tab for Google Maps users on Android, which can be accessed from your Timeline if you’ve turned on Location History. As evident from its name, the Insights tab will provide data about which modes of transportation you’ve used and the distance and time you have walked, biked, driven, or flown. It will also tell you how much time you’ve spent at different places.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

Another tab that’s live for Android users in their Maps Timeline is Trips, which shows all the past places you’ve visited and allows you to export them as a list if someone wants travel recommendations.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

Lastly, Google now lets Maps users leave more detailed reviews of restaurants by allowing them to share more information about the meal pricing, food availability, and whether they got takeout or delivery. This feature is live for all restaurants in the US for Android and is rolling out to iOS. Google has promised to add more categories and countries to the list soon.

Back in June 2019, Google introduced the transit crowdedness estimates on its Maps that lets you avoid crowds in buses, trains, or the subway. That feature was initially available in 200 cities around the globe and now, Google is expanding it to over 10,000 transit agencies in 100 countries, helping more people find open seats in mass transit or avoid it if it’s jam-packed and wait for another train because social distancing is important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Google says these predictions are made using its AI technology, contributions from Google Maps users, and historical location trends through the Location History data, which is kept private using anonymization technology.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

The Internet search giant also announced that it’s testing live crowdedness predictions in New York and Sydney, allowing you to see how crowded an individual transit car is. The data for this feature is provided by transit agencies Long Island Rail Road and Transport for New South Wales, and the feature will be rolled out in more cities soon.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

Google also introduced a new Insights tab for Google Maps users on Android, which can be accessed from your Timeline if you’ve turned on Location History. As evident from its name, the Insights tab will provide data about which modes of transportation you’ve used and the distance and time you have walked, biked, driven, or flown. It will also tell you how much time you’ve spent at different places.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

Another tab that’s live for Android users in their Maps Timeline is Trips, which shows all the past places you’ve visited and allows you to export them as a list if someone wants travel recommendations.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

Lastly, Google now lets Maps users leave more detailed reviews of restaurants by allowing them to share more information about the meal pricing, food availability, and whether they got takeout or delivery. This feature is live for all restaurants in the US for Android and is rolling out to iOS. Google has promised to add more categories and countries to the list soon.

How to avoid crowds in mass transit

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit some public transit systems hard.

Passenger numbers on New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and London’s Underground metro systems initially crashed by around 95 percent, and they have recovered to only about one-third of last year’s levels. And while the numbers have rebounded, passenger numbers are likely to be lower in the near to medium term.

But that’s not what worries experts. With cities around the world facing financial problems because of the pandemic, governments may look to cut funding, because ridership is down. That can create what some have dubbed a “death spiral” — a cycle of poorer services and even fewer riders.

“I have absolutely no doubt in saying that demand will be lower than it was pre-Covid,” said Greg Marsden, a professor of transport governance at the University of Leeds in Britain. “It will be lower because we’re entering a massive recession and because people have adapted their behaviors.

“What really matters is how we manage the transition,” he added. “If we get this wrong, then it’s very hard to bring public transport services back once they’ve disappeared.”

A few months later and @MTA ridership continues to climb slowly but steadily. Nationwide @TSA screenings still averaging just 28% of MTA daily ridership.

Fund public transit, not just the airlines! pic.twitter.com/NvFML5EgHC

The coming few years will be critical as it becomes clearer how many people will continue to work from home or use private transportation and as governments come under pressure to make spending cuts that could hobble transit systems for years to come.

“As we move into the 2021, 2022 time frame, where governments are going to have less money and start to question their priorities on public spending, that’s where the danger zone lies,” said Richard Anderson, co-director of the Transport Strategy Centre at Imperial College London.

Public transportation is rarely profitable, but it is essential to the success of major cities, said Anderson, who compared slashing government transportation spending to “killing the golden goose.”

Lessons from Asia

Transportation networks in countries where infections have remained relatively low — such as Taiwan and South Korea — can offer clues to the shape of post-Covid-19 transit and tips about how to woo wary passengers back.

The slump in revenue is unlikely to be sustainable for most networks, given that it will take months for Covid-19 vaccines to roll out and even longer for restrictions to ease.

In the meantime, Taipei Metro, whose October traffic was only about 15 percent lower than in 2019, launched a high-profile sanitization drive, hired hundreds more employees and mobilized volunteers to scan passengers’ temperatures at turnstiles.