Monthly Archives: February 2016

Taking Another (Gentle!) Swipe At Google’s Transit Results

We wrote in some depth last year about the poor quality of the inter-city transit component in many Google Maps results. These results are displayed at the top of SERPs for queries like “How do I get from A to B?”. Since then Google has gone some way towards extending their coverage of transportation operators — here’s their new result for Amsterdam to Paris: perfect! — but they still fall well short of a standard that might justify putting their own results ahead of comprehensive and accurate results from others, including Rome2rio.

Here’s an example of what we mean: answering the query “How do I get from Toulouse, France to Zaragoza, Spain?” Google suggests a bus from Toulouse to Barcelona; a seven minute walk from one station to another; then the local R3 train to Barcelona-Sants station, and (finally!) a change to the high-speed AVE train to Zaragoza. That’s a complex journey of just under 9 hours, and it’s frankly silly when compared to simply taking the AVE all the way from Toulouse, via Barcelona. But Google doesn’t suggest that option.

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Logic-defying suggestions like this abound in Google’s transit results. Our comment when we last discussed this topic was that rather than suggest crazy routings, Google should not make any transit suggestions at all. That seems to be occurring a little more  here’s a good example, in Morocco — but within Western Europe, Google consistently leads its trusting users astray, with suggested routes that are often illogical, lengthy and hopelessly complex.

(Another classic example: Google’s suggestion for Nice to Milan. Two buses, then the Metro… 7:29 hours! Here’s the correct answer, the excellent Thello train service all the way, at 4:41 hours.)

A few months ago our industry colleague, Tripadvisor founder and CEO Steve Kaufer, got Google’s attention with a pointed tweet.

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It’s unusual for industry leaders to speak out against Google; frankly, nobody wants to upset the powerful operators of the search and advertising platform on which we all rely so heavily. But given Steve Kaufer’s success — Tripadvisor results for this type of query seem to be on top again — and Google’s oft-repeated mantra of always wanting to do what’s best for users, it’s probably safe to give them another gentle poke about their less than fabulous transit offerings.

It’s clear that Rome2rio and other multi-modal specialists — GoEuroGopiliQixxit all come to mind — provide inter-city transit results of a consistently higher quality than the search giant’s own somewhat patchy offering. A move by Google to preference high quality, relevant results from third parties over their own would certainly be a good outcome for users.

– Rod Cuthbert

Early Birds And Monday Dreamers: Uncovering International Search Trends

With our unique repository of 750,000 travel routes from over 4,800 operators in 144 countries, Rome2rio attracts over 7 million visitors each month. While the searches conducted by these visitors are varied; from short distance intra-city searches to multihop long haul trips, we have uncovered some commonalities about when and how visitors around the world are using the site.

For comparison, we’ve pulled out daily and weekly traffic trends across four countries; Japan, Britain, Israel and India.


Japan stays true to its reputation as a nation of early risers; the country is on average the first to start searching Rome2rio for travel information each morning. Britain is next to tap into travel routing, with Israel and India starting on average almost 30 minutes later. Japan and Britain both make the most of the weekend and start earliest on Saturday, in contrast to Israel where the Saturday start is around 30 minutes later than usual. We think that these average times relate to when people are in transit and using their mobile to navigate intra-city travel.


Some interesting things are seen when we look at weekly travel data. It seems that the realities of Monday mornings hit our users hard! Japanese, British and Indian usage all peak on this day. Perhaps the reason that Saturday is the least popular day for searching our site for those in Britain and Japan is because our fans are out enjoying their itineraries? Travel planning dips dramatically on Fridays and Saturdays in Israel, in keeping with the religious rhythms of the country. India too has a significant dip; it is on Sunday, in keeping with the traditional cycle of activity and rest in the country.


Not only can we see when our users are on the site but we can also see how they are accessing our repository of routes. Even though mobile usage is growing at a faster rate than desktop use globally, we are still seeing a significant difference between mobile and desktop use during traditional office hours – suggesting to us that a bit of holiday planning during lunch is still very much a thing. Just be careful of those crumbs in the keyboard! On the weekends, mobile usage increases, coming close to the desktop usage line, suggesting that people are firing up Rome2rio while they are on the hop; perhaps enjoying a mini break in a new town or discovering somewhere new in their current one.

We found these user insights compelling, and it got our imaginations fired up; how are people planning their trips? Is it a family discussion with plenty of debate, taking place at the kitchen table? Is it during a snatched solo dreaming session on the daily commute to the office? Is it filled with the excitement of mapping out a long considered and carefully saved for trip-of-a-lifetime?

Whatever it may be, our salutation is the same; happy travels!

– Kirsteene, Marco and Andrew

Rome2rio, based in Melbourne, Australia, is organising the world’s transport information.
We offer a multi-modal, door-to-door travel search engine that returns itineraries
for air, train, coach, ferry, mass transit and driving options to and from any location. Discover the possibilities at

A Map Goes Unexpectedly Viral, With Help From Reddit & Gizmodo

Recent media coverage of the isochronic map we developed, based on a 1914 map by the well-known London mapmaker John G. Bartholomew, provides a classic case study on how quickly things can flourish online. (We wrote about the map and made some observations about how clearly it shows our shrinking world back in January. This post covers a little more of the behind the scenes activity.)

Our engineering team first heard about the 1914 map in a Reddit discussion (which, in turn, referenced an article in The Economist’s Intelligent Life Magazine). One of Rome2rio’s senior engineers, Miles Izzo, wondered how an updated version of Bartholomew’s 1914 map would look. He began a collaboration with front-end design team member Andrew Greig to replace the 1914 lines from the original map with up to date information.

Miles used Rome2rio’s routing engine to generate a rough heat-map of the travel times from London to every airport around the world. Andrew then used the generated heatmap as a base to create the 2016 version of the world travel times map.


Andrew quickly ran into some interesting problems. The first was that the 1914 map, produced before the introduction of satellite imagery and GPS coordinates, contained many inaccuracies, some of which made our current data look “wrong”. Miami, for example, appeared to be almost 200km away from its real location; many similar issues existed. A significant effort was required to redraw and move place names to their correct locations. In other cases, country names and borders had changed; again, plenty of re-work was required to match the current reality.

Within a few days, Andrew had completed a 2016 version, close enough in design so as to provide a direct visual comparison to the original data. One challenge remained: the “key” on the 1914 map divided the world into sectors that could be reached “within five days journey”, then “5 to 10 days”, right up to “over 40 days”. A new scale was required to accommodate the availability of jet airplanes and high-speed rail: if we had retained the original scale, the entire map, in the 2016 version, would have been within the red zone of “within five days”.

Having solved that problem, we contacted Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo. Jamie had written about the 1914 map back in November, and we figured he’d be interested in our 2016 version. He was, and immediately wrote a follow-up piece. That story gained a lot of attention and was picked up in short order by mainstream media, including the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, the online travel industry specialist Tnooz, and a wide array of independent blogs and news sites.

We also posted the new map to Reddit, where we had first noticed the 1914 map. Reddit users loved it; within days over a million users had viewed the Imgur-hosted image, and the post had over 5,500 upvotes.

But the ride wasn’t over! The folks at Wellingtons Travel, a UK company that specialises in “old-style” maps of London printed on high-quality paper and canvas, saw the coverage and contacted us with a proposal to license our 2016 map for sale worldwide. It was an easy decision to make: within a few days we’d agreed on terms and production was underway. Which should be good news for the many Reddit users who expressed an interest in buying a printed version, including this request from “spookmann”:

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No problem, spookmann. Head over to Wellingtons and they’ll look after you. Meanwhile, we’ll get back to our normal occupations, helping our users figure out the best way to get from Rome to Rio. And everywhere else*, come to think of it.

Rod Cuthbert

* This example uses an unusual city pair. A Twitter shout-out to the first reader who can tell us why on @Rome2rio.

Welcome Archit, Kirsteene and Quinn

The new year is well and truly underway and brings with it new Rome2rio team members. This month we welcome Archit, Kirsteene, and Quinn.

Archit, Kirsteene and Quinn

Kirsteene joins us after time working in marketing, media, and management for online marketplace and for the coworking space Inspire9 where Rome2rio resides. She’ll be looking after media relations. If you want to get in touch with her send an email to press(at)

Quinn recently graduated from the University of Melbourne with his Masters in Software Engineering. He will be working as a back-end developer, integrating transport operator APIs into Rome2rio and providing monitoring tools to help our team better understand our data usage.

Archit is coming on board after completing an internship with the company. He is completing a Bachelor of Science, majoring in computing and software systems, at the University of Melbourne. He is undertaking user interface improvements, API integrations and data analysis.

If you are interested in joining our team then keep an eye on our jobs page and shoot us an email to jobs(at) introducing yourself.