Health & Wellness

Google Maps Helps Commuters Avoid Crowds

Now you can find out if the bus or train you want to take is empty or full

By Erika Morris

On top of giving you directions and estimated travel times, Google Maps has added a feature that lets you know when public transit lines and medical facilities are crowded.

“Because of COVID-19, it’s increasingly important to know how crowded a train station might be at a particular time or whether the bus is running on a limited schedule,” the company said in a blog post. “Having this information before and during your trip is critical for essential workers who need to safely navigate to work and will become more important for everyone as countries around the world begin to reopen.”

The app will give information to both commuters and drivers. The app will show relevant alerts from transit agencies to help adjust routes or tell you to wear a mask. Drivers crossing borders will be notified about COVID-19 checkpoints. Those going to medical facilities will get an alert to verify eligibility and facility guidelines to help avoid overcrowding and the risk of being turned away.

This kind of technology isn’t new for Google. Last year, the app added crowdedness predictions by gathering data from passengers to gauge when and how specific transit lines get crowded. In February, insights such as temperature and accessibility for wheelchair users were added.

The “busyness” feature lets you see when a station is historically more or less busy rather than in-real-time information. In the Google Maps app, you tap on the station on the map to see departure times and busyness data.

With the new feature, you can find a “crowdedness” button with a plus sign next to it that will allow you to rate the route from “not crowded” to “full.” Commuters will be able to use the app while riding to let others know whether to expect low traffic or a very crowded ride.

The user data gathered is anonymous and collected only from users who have Google Location History turned on. This setting is off by default to protect privacy.

Photo: iStock/GabrielPetrescu.