Why shouldn’t you blindly trust Google Maps in the Bay Area?

San Jose, CA:

The place I was staying in San Jose was about 45 mins (20 mins of walking followed by 25 mins of train) commute to my workplace. Instead of using a rental car or ride-share, I decided to use public transportation as it seemed reasonable in terms of expenses, quality of service, and timings. Once this decision was made, the first thing for me was to figure out the nearest train station. It happened to be that there were two nearby, one at about 1.2 miles (Penetencia) and the other about 0.8 miles (Berryessa). The logical choice for me would have been the Berryessa station, but when I used Google maps, it asked me to walk to the Penetencia Station. Well, having great experience in the past, I believed the Maps, thinking that maybe the train only stopped at the station in one direction. But whenever I would take the train from Penetencia, it always used to stop at Berryessa.

Sunnyvale, CA:

Maybe this could be one glitch in the Maps, and I understand it will be unfair of me to generalize it to the Bay Area. I believed that until a similar thing happened to me in Santa Clara. A few weeks down, I had to go visit a friend. I used Google Maps for the VTA train schedule and routing. There were two train stations nearby where I could get off, and Maps asked me to get off at the one which was farther away making me walk an extra 0.4 miles/8 minutes (to be honest, I don’t mind, but people do), even though the closest train station was on the way. The following snapshots are from Google Maps

Milpitas, Santa Clara and Cupertino, CA:

I shared my experience with my friends and colleagues and they reported a similar experience with Google Maps. So I came to believe that it wasn’t a time-specific or location-specific issue. I am not sure about other cities in the Bay Area, but I have data that reports similar behavior in the area shown in the figure below.

My two cents

I am not saying Google Maps is wrong, it’s just not efficient in Bay Area for public transportation. So instead of blindly following it, just go through the route to verify that it makes sense, or identify if there is a better option unless you like walking and are not in a hurry.



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Aqeel Anwar

Aqeel Anwar

Senior ML Engineer @NVIDIA | ex-Samsung | GeorgiaTech | Writer | Researcher | Traveler | www.aqeel-anwar.com | https://twitter.com/_aqeelanwar