Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Google Maps station departure information is currently broken and inaccurate

About two years ago, both the mobile and desktop versions of Google Maps were gutted, with many of the best features removed and replaced with a pretty UI (and not much else). Since then, functionality has slowly been added back to the point where it is close to being as good an app as it previously was. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if Google Maps is the most popular transit app among visitors to Japan (though there is always apple maps), which is currently a problem because it is serving inaccurate information in some instances.

Previously, it was very easy to determine which train to take by tapping on a station and getting the departure times and destinations. Now, the information initially presented is limited, ambiguous, and often inaccurate. Right now, I do not recommend attempting to pull departure information from the Google Maps android app. As far as I can tell, though, point-to-point transit directions provided by Google Maps are correct.

Here are some current issues in Tokyo.
  • Destinations are no longer displayed. Instead the general vicinity of the destination is shown as an indication of direction (e.g., inbound to or outbound from Tokyo).
  • Directions are incorrectly displayed as outbound when they are actually inbound (and vice versa).
  • The term for is misused in place of via – meaning a random station along the train's route is displayed as the terminal, final station.
  • Departures were previously sorted by direction but are now lumped together.
  • Type of service (local, rapid, express, etc.) is no longer indicated
Let's take a close look at some of these issues.

From the left, we have the initial screen presented with departure information for Tsukuba Express Asaskusa Station. The Tsukuba Express is a relatively new line that runs between Akihabara and Tsukuba. At least it used to. Now, apparently, it runs from Asakusa to Kita Senju, which is a measly two stops away.

Tapping deeper, we find that the 10:43 departure "for Kita Senju" is actually running the opposite direction for Akihabara. The 10:46 departure runs via Kita Senju for Tsukuba. In Japanese, the wording is slightly different, "Kita Senju area" (北千住方面). (Yes, this can also be "direction", but I'd suggest 北千住経由つくば行き) . Two entire prefectures (Saitama and Chiba) separate Kita Senju from Tsukuba, which is in a third prefecture, Ibaraki.

I Wouldn't consider Kita Senju, located not so far outside of the Yamanote Line to be in the area of Ibaraki, would you? (Though I guess the Ibaraki Airport is supposedly serving Tokyo.)

Next, let's examine the condition of the Sobu Line as seen from Suidobashi Station, near Tokyo Dome.

Each train is shown as going in the exact opposite direction than it really is. The 10:27 "for Shinjuku" actually departed Nakano at 10:08, already passed though Shinjuku at 10:15, and will depart Suidobashi at 10:27, heading for somewhere in Chiba. Same goes for the 10:30 "for" Nishifuna. It already passed there about 30 minute ago inbound towards Suidobashi and onward to western Tokyo. This is of course assuming that anything listed here is actually correct.

Below is the actual route of the 10:27 departure from Suidobashi. Rather than traveling west, it goes east arriving in Nishifuna at 10:59.

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