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Sunday, April 08, 2007

DC, Google My Maps

Last weekend I drove down to DC with my bike in the car and rode around to check out neighborhoods that I might want to live in. It was fun -- especially since the weather was actually nice then, as opposed to the second coming of winter that we have now. Bike riding is easier and less stressful in DC, because the streets are wider, there are bike lanes, drivers are more accommodating, and the pavement is better. I also liked some of the neighborhoods I saw...Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood with lots of Latinos, has good cheap places to eat and Latino grocery stores, as well as pleasant tree-lined streets.

I noticed yesterday that Google Maps has a new feature called My Maps that lets you easily create your own map content. It's pretty awesome, and user-generated content apparently shows up in map searches if you make it public. I figured a good way to try this out would be to map the areas where I'm thinking of living in DC -- so here it is. The key is on the left, click on the maps items for more info.

I'm pretty psyched about this new Google feature, actually. I can't see inside other people's heads, but I'm under the impression that I'm more geographically obsessed than most. For instance, when I'm writing an essay about something, I typically have a location in my mind that I visualize that is somehow connected (often for no apparent reason) to that idea. And I always feel uncomfortable when I don't have a sense of how things relate to each other geographically (as when going around town on the subway and not seeing the space between destinations). So these new maps tools/toys will be quite enjoyable. There's also lots of room for cool new features and applications of this stuff. Google Maps is apparently well-integrated with the upcoming Apple iPhone, and I'm really hoping that the next generation of iPhone will have GPS built in. If you've got Google Maps on a phone with GPS, you could have it mark stuff on My Maps while you're there, like the locations of all the apartments you're looking at. Or if someone's made up a map of all the cool coffee shops in the city, you could call that up and see which one is closest to you at that moment. And what I consider to be the holy grail of that sort of thing is a phone that will display a map of where you are and the locations and route info of transit vehicles in the area. Anyway, lots of exciting possibilities...

4 comments:

Andrew said...

I also am in love with the new My Maps.

You know about Google Transit, right? (http://www.google.com/transit) Unfortunately there aren't very many cities currently represented, which is especially dissapointing considering that Google has published the procedure for submitting route and schedule information and invided all cities to contribute.

teague said...

Yeah, I have seen Google Transit, it's neat. Tends to be easier to use than the proprietary trip planners, and there's something to be said for using the same interface you use for other things. I think it'd be really neat if they just integrated it with the standard driving directions. You could say what trip you need to make, and then it could tell you how to make the trip with a car or transit, comparing costs (which it already does) and time. Actually, they could throw in biking, too. Since they now have traffic info integrated for many metros, for "right now" trips they could even apply some algorithms to reflect the true length and cost of the car trip.

Anyway, I'd take anything I can get here in Baltimore, where the MTA appears to be very poorly managed and does not even have a proprietary trip planner. It's just "Here's a hard-to-read route map and some hard-to-read PDF schedules for the individual routes -- have fun!"

ReeD said...

Of course andrew, you know how disorganized transit agencies are...

I also recently discovered this new feature on Google Maps when planning out places to go in Montreal. It was funny since I was just thinking, "boy, I wish i could just make a map of all these places and how they're located relative to each other", and then I noticed the new tab. Perfect timing, Google.

ReeD said...

Also, if you haven't seen it, Maporama (Europe's equivalent to Mapquest) does a couple nice things:

1. It lets you designate "by foot, by car, by foot and transit", and it will guide you accordingly.

2. It lets you choose how fast you drive, and what type of route to take.

3. It accurately shows relative road widths, something I really wish we'd have on US maps.