Google Maps is an awesome app for getting you where you need to go, but lately the app has treated transit directions like a second-class citizen. For years, driving, walking, and biking directions have had a “navigation” mode, which shows you a live map and gives you turn-by-turn directions. Transit doesn’t have a “navigate” mode, though—it only ever shows a flat list of directions.
Today, Google is >finally adding an actionable navigation mode to transit directions. Now when you pick out a transit route, you’ll see a new “start” button at the bottom of the screen, along with the familiar navigation icon. This brings a number of improvements to transit directions.
When you hit the start button, the next step in your journey becomes a stickied, ongoing notification. The old transit mode was just a list inside the Maps app, which made multi-tasking on your phone very annoying. While sitting on the bus or subway, I would rather be reading a website, texting, or playing a game, but the anxiety of possibly missing my stop would have me constantly opening Google Maps again to check on my progress. With the notification, I can now easily see where I am without leaving the current app.
The notification doesn’t just tell you what the next step is, it also has a set of arrow buttons on the right that let you flip through steps in your direction list. If you’re on a subway with no GPS, you can check on your next steps without having to open Google Maps again. Google will try to tell you your next step automatically, though. Just like for driving, when it’s time to move to the next step, you’ll get a pop up notification telling you to get a move on. This can be a notification telling you to get off the bus or when to transfer.
For now, Google’s blog post only calls this out as a feature for “Google Maps for Android,” although we imagine an iOS version will be on its way soon.
Update: This is not the first time transit navigation has popped up in Google Maps. A transit navigation mode actually >existed in 2011 but was removed in an update and has been missing for years! Let’s hope this version sticks around.