Hands-on with Maps in El Capitan: Public transportation gets front and center
When's the next bus?
By Peter Cohen
If you want to use your Mac to find your local bus or train schedule, El Capitan can help. The Maps app Apple includes with El Capitan includes transit directions for major cities, just like iOS 9. Maps came to OS X with the release of Mavericks in 2013. At the time and since then, Apple hasn’t had public transportation directions available in the Maps app, either for Mac or for iOS.
In fact, public transportation maps have been gone since Apple extricated itself from Google’s data in 2012, when Apple released iOS 6. That’s led third-party app developers on iOS to fill in the gaps, but there are fewer resources for Mac users, who often resort to Google and other sources to find out how to get from point A to point B using buses and trains.
The public transportation rollout in Maps for El Capitan is limited. Transit maps are included at launch for Baltimore, Berlin, Chicago, London, Mexico City, New York, San Francisco’s Bay Area, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. What’s more, 300 cities in China also get covered.
So if you’re planning a trip to Shenzhen to see your next Apple gadget manufactured, Maps in El Capitan can help. Heading to Boston this fall for school and need help with the MBTA? Want to take Montreal’s Metro for a poutine run to La Banquise? Continue to expect to rely on third-party solutions, at least for now.
Apple’s transit directions go far further than just telling you what time a bus or train is expected to leave the station, however. You get instructions on which entrances to use based on your route, so you don’t spend precious time trying to find the way into the subway to get home.
Maps also manages complex multi-ride routes. Managing a trip that requires you to hop a bus or two then take a train? Expect Maps to give you step-by-step instructions to help you get there without missing a beat.
It’s obviously not feasible to keep your Mac open all the time, but Maps in El Capitan lets you send directions to your iPhone, just like you can with Maps in Yosemite. Plan your route on your Mac, send it to your phone, and use it on your Apple Watch too.
Otherwise, Apple doesn’t mess with what Maps on OS X already does well. Maps remains helpful for plotting courses, checking on traffic, and doing the occasional flyover of cities you’d like to check out in greater detail. After all, the benefit of maps is in the data it’s providing to you, not in whizbang interface trickery. And the less obtrusive and in your face the tech, the easier it is to use.
Maps in El Capitan provides some big improvements for public transportation riders. Its limited rollout will frustrate those Mac users in cities not serviced at launch, however, and there are quite a few of them in North America alone—Europe is even more lacking. With 300 cities getting transit details, China hits the Maps home run—thanks to predictable schedules, better central planning, and a burgeoning population of Apple enthusiasts. Hopefully, Apple will be able to fill the gap for the rest of us before too long.
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