The route planner from Google Maps originally assumed everyone wanted driving directions for cars, but has grown to include options for biking, walking, and transit. Availability depends on the location, but I’ve been impressed with Google Maps’ coverage.
Using Google’s “application programming interface” (API), I created a tool that lets you compare all four options at the same time.
I call it the Side-by-Side Router. Once you pick two end-points, the four modes’ routes are drawn with different colors. It’s been surprising to see how the routes vary depending on the mode. The program also gives you the total travel time and distance for each mode.
As an advocate for biking and transit, it was a bit disheartening to see the driving mode “win” when it came to creating the fastest trip. But the driving directions assume what is known as “Doris Day parking,” the phenomenon where one magically finds an empty parking space immediately in front of one’s destination. (For an example, turn to 0:59 in this clip.)
By comparison, the transit directions include getting to and from the transit station. When testing the transit directions in Colorado Springs, where my starting point was many miles from the nearest bus stop, I was surprised when the first step said to “drive/taxi to” the bus stop! Still, it’s a powerful tool.
Google Transit has accumulated about 500 cities that participate with the Google Transit Partner Program since starting as an experiment in Google Labs in 2005, and becoming integrated with Google Maps in 2006.
Take a minute to play with the Side-by-Side Router and see what you can learn about your environment. Does it reinforce the notion that the car is king, or does it open your eyes to alternate methods of transportation?
Read more about the program at Comparing Driving, Walking, Biking and Transit.