Navigation technology Fail in Bay Area

It’s easy to see San Francisco and Bay Area as the Western hub of hi-tech technology. The theory goes that one should be able to fully navigate and organize their day with a smartphone and a bit of change for the transportation. Which works pretty well for the most part.

Bay Bridge Silhouette
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

You tell the phone to use GPS to figure out where in the space it is, you tell it where you want to go and decide on transportation mechanism: Driving, Public Transport and Walking. Google Maps then sends all this personal data to the big machine in the sky and gives you back directions. Pretty nifty as it knows most of the public transportation options.

That is also a catch for unwary traveller new to the area. It turns out that while there are plenty of transportation options during the day, the bay area public transport is tricky at night. It seems that Google Maps only knows night transportation within the San Francisco and gives up if you’re somewhere else, in Oakland for example. While 4 hours of walking are always an option, it’s not something you want to do at 1 AM. With a bit of luck you catch a cab and a bit of cash later, you’re home.

There’s a bigger lesson here. Blindly trusting the technology in corner cases such as late night trains, buses etc. is not very smart. Always check everything online three times to ensure that if you leave the party late, you’ll know how to return home and have a Taxi phone number with you, just in case ?