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Thursday, 11 July 2013

Dear Google, From Melbourne.

Moving to a new country can be extremely daunting. In fact, travelling any where outside of your locality can be a major pain, and major brain drain. Once the sparkle and wander of your new surroundings wear off, and the overwhelming sense of confusion and exhaustion sets in, we all have that moment – “where am I?”


When I moved to Sydney to attend the Master of Marketing, at the University of Sydney, I arrived bright eyed and enthusiastic. Granted, I was terrified of public transport for the first few days, and I think I must have worn a hole in my sneakers from walking everywhere. I eventually warmed up to confidently catching buses, trains and ferries, fearlessly making transfers and crossing the entire city of Sydney. And without a doubt, I owe my public transport skills to my iPhone, Google Maps, and that little blue GPS dot.

Let’s not get into Apple Maps. That’s a whole other conversation.

In July of 2012 Google added live public transport directions to Sydney on Maps. This wasn’t just the location of bus stops, train stations or major public transport hubs – this was an app that could plan your journey from beginning to end, transfers and street crossings included. When embarking on a new bus journey for the first time, you could follow your little blue GPS dot, counting down the stops before yours, and confidently press the “BUS STOP” button without fear you are miles from your intended destination.

I know this all sounds very trivial. But I am an advocate for public transport, especially for travellers in a new city. Not only is it convenient and cheap, it gives a sense that the city is welcoming you in, letting you feel right at home, and allowing you to know which train station to get off at. And I think that’s good marketing.

After being sheltered in my public transport bubble in Sydney, Google shocked me back down to earth when I recently visited Melbourne for the weekend. “Public Transport coverage may not be available in this area.” Why not?! Apparently this topic is greatly debated over on the Internet. There are forums, petitions, websites, articles that all call for the collaboration of Public Transport Victoria to work with Google Maps to provide journey planning for Melbourne. For a city with one of the world’s largest rail systems, and the biggest tram system in the English-speaking world, a consumer demand is definitely not being met. In comparison, it seems embarrassing that Perth, Adelaide and Canberra have long had their Google Maps working with public transport.

I’m not sure to whom I am complaining to, but from a marketing perspective, when there is an overwhelming demand, such as this, from your customer – you deliver! The benefits are endless. As a tourist destination, as an ecologically minded city, and while you’ve already got all these trains, buses and trams laying around anyway – Google and PTV, you need to sort it out!

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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