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Google Maps to display updated Boston transit map for Orange Line shutdown

With the Orange Line about to shut down for extensive repairs, MBTA and Boston officials are running test buses to troubleshoot issues before they replace the train service.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

When the MBTA Orange Line begins a month-long shutdown on Friday night, lots of us will need extra help in moving around Boston.

Some of that help will come from Google, which will soon display an updated Boston transit map, with alternate routes for those who rely on the city’s second-most heavily used subway line.

“We’re aware of the Orange Line closure, and can confirm that this will be reflected on Google Maps beginning this Friday,” said a Google spokesperson. The same word comes from Apple, which makes a mapping app for its iPhones.

Presumably, this means the new map will show the departure and arrival times of the shuttle buses that will take over until the Orange Line fixes are complete.


Both companies are constantly updating their maps, but an unexpected change like the Orange Line shutdown poses special challenges. The tech giants rely on local government and transit agencies to notify them about major road closures or construction projects.

For instance, Google offers a special data upload service for exclusive use by city, state, and national agencies, where they can submit map changes. A team of geographic analysts looks over the proposed alterations, confirms the information is accurate, and adds them to the map.

A spokesperson for Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said the city of Boston regularly reaches out with updates for Google and Apple maps. They also submit changes to Waze, another mapping service owned by Google, and to TomTom, a Dutch company that supplies digital maps to many of the world’s leading automakers.

Some government agencies get the word out faster, by automating the process. Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said her agency provides a real-time data feed to online mapping services. These companies just plug into the data feed to instantly update their maps.


Ordinary people also can pitch in. The Google and Apple apps provide tools that anyone can use to propose map updates or corrections. All submissions are verified by geography experts before being added to the maps.

But if you’re not quite confident that Google and Apple are up to date on the latest disruptions to public transit, there’s the MBTA’s mTicket app, with instant updates on the commuter rail system, or Transit, an app that shows the Boston bus and subway schedules, complete with reports on the latest breakdowns and shutdowns.

It’ll take you longer to get where you’re going, but at least you won’t get lost.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.