Transit and Apple’s iOS 6

Update: Helpful commenter drdaz notes that this video shows transit and walking icons in iOS 6 Maps, at 2 min, 38 sec in.  It appears that I may have lamented the lack of transit directions too soon.  Questions about how these transit directions are generated remain.  After watching the video,  I am now much more impressed by the new multi-touch gestures available for map navigation.

Update 2 (12-June-2012): Apparently, the beta version of iOS 6 links users to a 3rd party apps page from the transit directions button (discussion here).  Our friends at Walk Score have started a social media campaign to tell Apple that transit and walking matter.

Update 2 (13-June-2012): via Timothy Moore (@timomio), Apple will be “integrating” 3rd party transit apps, a potential boon for 3rd party developers.  I’ll post more after I know more and have time to discuss.  (See: Twitter / TechCrunch)


Today, Apple gave a peak of iOS 6 at their Worldwide Developers Conference.

One of the big changes will be a new default mapping application in iOS 6.  Maps in iOS 6 will have some new features.  It also appears that Apple will remove some other features.

The default “Maps” application on devices running iOS 6 will no longer use Google Maps for cartography and Street View.  Instead, cartography will be provided by TomTom and other sources, and Apple will add a 3D Flyover view.

Apple’s iOS 6 Maps page shows feature highlights.  Notably absent is any mention of directions or maps for any other mode than driving.  There is no mention whatsoever of transit, biking, or walking directions or maps.

Edward Jensen (Phoenix, AZ) offers commentary that expresses my initial reaction:

But if the rumors are true, then I’m sure that Apple will call their new mapping application “amazing,” “revolutionary,” “magical,” and other synonyms.

But, will it really be that?

I’m sure that it will be aesthetically pleasing. And that the graphics will be great. But one of the best features of Google Maps — and the big reason why I use it — is that Google Maps offers transit directions. You see, I don’t have a car. The option for me to get reliable directions to get from Point A to Point B via transit, as in the screen capture on the right, is absolutely mission-critical.

The other problem, at least for Phoenix, is that Valley Metro is very protective of their transit schedules. It took several years after Google Transit’s launch before one could plan transit trips here in Phoenix. If there is a transit feature in Apple’s new maps, what data will be there? I highly doubt that Phoenix’s will be there at launch.

Thankfully, we can still access Google Maps via the browser. But a native app was so much better. (iOS 6 and transit maps?)

I hope that Apple adds transit back into the default Maps application.  Based on a first glimpse, it looks as if making maps visually-appealing a high priority here, but I hope that is not taking a back seat to providing comprehensive information.

I hope that Apple will jump into the transit directions market.  They sell a lot of handsets (only about half the number of Android phones sold, though), and have a significant installed user base.  It would be great to see Apple bring their famed emphasis on user experience to bear in public transportation.  Dynamic re-routing in the case of missed connections?  New real-time features?  Integration with Siri (“Siri: remind me 5 minutes before my train leaves.”)?  We’ll see.

Google’s already doing an amazing job with transit routing and features.  It is my hope that more innovators will join the challenging space.

If Maps in iOS 6 is just pretty pictures with less comprehensive information, I may transition to Android as my personal phone.

Aaron is the founding principal of Trillium Solutions, Inc. He brings experience that includes 12 years of web-development with 8 years in public transportation, with knowledge of fixed-route transportation, paratransit, rural transportation, and active transportation modes. Aaron is a recognized expert in developing data standards, web-application design, digital communications, and online marketing strategy. He originally developed Trillium’s GTFS Manager, and has played a key role in the development of the GTFS data specification since 2007.