Downright Useful GPS

helsinkiThe HKL Helsinki’s Public Transit has a moving, real time map of bus locations available via their website. Now that’s what the public wants to know. Where is my bus? Why its right there. That’s what real time GPS reporting is for. I love this. You can even click on the bus icon/number and choose to display its routes, the stops it makes and make the connection you need. You can even choose to ‘follow’ the bus and have the map scroll with its progress. It is most fun if you do this in satellite or hybrid view (note: the buses don’t run 24 hours, so if there are no buses on the map, they aren’t on the streets either, so check back later). Wouldn’t that be absolutely useful on a brand new iPhone …oops its Finland and I suppose that should be Nokia N95 ;-) (no comment on the fact that all the mainstream blogs felt compelled to echo each other when 29 June was announced as that release date – just barely avoiding going down that rant).

I wish the HSR Hamilton’s transit authority provided the same. There may well be other transit authorities now providing this real-time info, but this is the first one I have seen in action. Awesome! Yay Finland.

On a personal note, I find myself sitting staring at a chosen bus, watching it speed up slow down, stop and take on passengers. A decade ago I used to occasionally tune into one of the many traffic/weather cams that the Finns had on line. I particularly liked watching the border crossing to Russia. It was a virtual vacation, if only for a few minutes. This bus thing is strangely similar…the strange aspect being me and my fixation with this I am sure. Is this a form of escapism? The system also lets you do simple route planning by inputing start points and end points. I had to chuckle over the request to “write the address you seek,” its sounds so mystical and you know, this is some cool magic!

Updated: Just saw that the Google Blog just had an article on their interaction with transit systems. No link to Helsinki, nor to real time reporting that I can tell, but some additional discussion.

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