A series of Tubes: Google Maps public transport

Google has added transport maps to 59 cities around the world. We took a look, mainly as an excuse to take the proverbial out of foreigners

Richard Trenholm
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Richard Trenholm
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No-one here at Crave would deny the genius of the London Underground Tube map, one of the simplest and most elegant design solutions ever. Equally, we're a little bit in love with Google Maps, possibly the most powerful and all-encompassing consumer mapping system ever created. Bring the two together, and it's enough to make grown men weep, or at least spend an entire morning looking at coloured lines overlaid on satellite imagery -- yes, Google has introduced transit-system maps.

59 cities have had their metropolitan train systems added, including London. Some of the inclusions suggest this is the first leg of the journey, with bigger cities presumably set to follow -- the likes of Porto Alegre, Ekaterinburg and Rennes are included, but no Washington DC or Los Angeles just yet.

But who cares about them, let's take a look at London. We've always wanted to see Harry Beck's ingenious Tube map overlaid on a real map, both to see where we're actually going as we hurtle along below ground, and also to see if walking to a different station could save us a Tube ride. To call up the transit layer, click on More in the top right of the map window, and tick the transit box.

There are 270 stations served by London Underground on the 249-mile network, carrying 28 million individual passengers a year. In central London, trains won't go much faster than 40mph because of the short gaps between stations, but on the open expanses of the Metropolitan line, the oldest Tube line in the world, trains can reach over 60mph.

If you're a commuter, stressed out by using the Tube, at least be thankful it's more interesting than many lines. Our colourful swirl of octopus arms reaching out to the suburbs is the classic model of a metropolitan transport system. Unfortunate places such as Genoa, Kazan, Samara and Nizhniy Novgorod only have one line and some have only one colour. Rubbish! Incidentally, all the Russian one-liners are red, of course.

Take a look through our photo gallery for more fascinating facts and a look at some of the more interesting transit systems to show up on Google.

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Here's London's West End and surrounding area, including CNET Towers. The shortest distance between stations is 0.161 miles between Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line. Note to tourists: just walk. But a bit faster, please!
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Sarf of the river at this time of night, mate? You must be joking. Actually, it seems the Tube planners are the ones having a larf, with huge swathes of the capital ill-served by the Tube network. Admittedly, this doesn't show overground services, bus routes or the soon-to-be-completed East London line extension.
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Here's Chicago, including the 'L' they're always talking about on ER -- one of the few mass-transit systems to run a 24-hour service in the US. Boris Johnson, take note.
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Lyon has 37 stations and four lines, one of which is fully automated. We see a big bug. Can you see a big bug?
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Montreal's Metro, inaugurated on 14 October 1966. We see a shoe. You see a shoe, right?
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Textbook octopus shape, but hey, Dortmund, what's with the little bit escaping? Oh, that's the 3km H-Bahn at the University of Dortmund, an automatically controlled hanging monorail that carries more than 5,000 passengers per day.
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Classic colourful octopus in Hamburg -- but wait, another bit escaping! Incidentally, Hamburg Transit is the name of a 1970 film with Jurgen Prochnow's brother in it.
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Woah -- look at all those stations! Paris has the world's most densely packed subway stations: there are 245 stations within the 41 mile-squared City of Paris. Parisians don't like to walk, do they?
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Technically the Cologne Stadtbahn isn't a true subway system, because each of the 11 lines crosses at least one street at street level without right of way. But still, hats off for camping up the traditional colourful octopus.
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Hey Portland, um, have you ever noticed your TriMet MAX light rail transit system looks a little like a...? no, never mind.
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This is Recife, which boasts 20 stations on its 18.2-mile system and carries around 180,000 passengers each day. We put it in because we didn't know where it was -- it's in Brazil -- and we liked the little fluffy clouds.
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Is it just us, or does four lines all going the same way seem rather redundant? Those Porto types must really value choice. We're impressed by the integration of metro, bus, tram and train as part of the Andante RFID-based payment system, and positively giddy at the SMS-based timetable information system at every individually coded bus stop.
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Don't worry, Seattle, it happens to the best of us: you go to plan a transit system and realise you've left your pencil case at home, so you end up ruling lines down the edge of the phone book with a betting-shop pen. Part of downtown Seattle, originally known as the Magic Carpet Zone, and now called the Ride Free Area, allows passengers to do exactly that between 6am and 7pm.
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Blimey -- now that's a transit system. The underground U-Bahn and overground S-Bahn were built in time for the 1972 Olympic Games. Good work, Munich.
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And finally, it's San Francisco, the city by the bay, and home to CNET US. If you thought the Tube was complicated, SF has six major bus companies, dozens of smaller bus operators, four rapid-transit and regional rail systems -- including BART and CalTrain -- as well as two light rail systems and several regional Amtrak lines. And don't get us started on the ferries. Hello, colonial cousins!

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