Tag Archive for Goole Maps

Google Goes for a Walk

Google Maps has long been my favorite website for getting driving directions. I’ve found them to be clear and easy to read with very good printing options. Now I can use Google Maps for walking routes, too. This past Tuesday, July 22, Google added walking directions to its map service.

None of the other major map sites (MapQuest, Yahoo! Maps, or MSN’s MapBlast) offer walking directions. The only other major site offering walking directions at this time is Ask.com.

Why Should Walking Be Any Different?

Let’s face it, there are places you drive to that you can walk to, but you probably wouldn’t take the same route. I could walk to my favorite pizza place through the local sidestreets, but if I get in the car, I’m going to hop onto the local highway for a quick one exit jump. The car route is slightly longer, too.

For example, I plotted a route from my home to my office with Google Maps, and the driving directions took me onto a local highway, but when I clicked “Walking” it switched my route to a residential ‘road’ that ran parallel to the highway.

Also, residents and travelers in major cities are more likely to walk or take mass transit than they are to drive. With that in mind, I’d like to point out that Google maps works best in metropolitan cities, and that the walking directions system is still in a test (beta) stage, so they directions offered will improve as more people use the service.

Google walking directions use fewer turns and they try to keep you on major pedestrian walkways such as avenues, boulevards, and broadways, but off of sidestreets. Sidestreets tend to be less traveled, and some people don’t feel safe if they’re the only person in sight, particularly in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

A Demonstration

I’d like to demonstrate using Google maps with an example. I’m going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and after that I’d like to go to dinner and drinks at Lexington Bar and Books on Lexington Ave.

I go to maps.google.com (no www needed), then I click the "Get Directions" link. (circled in red here. Click the picture for a larger view.)
Two boxes appear, one is labeled "Start Address", and the other is "End Address".
For the starting address, I type Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (I could type the street address, if I knew it, but Google should know where it is).

For the end address, I type 1020 Lexington Ave, New York, NY. (A friend gave me the address when they recommended the place.)

Then I click the gray "Get Directions" button.

Now Google has found several museums in NYC, and it shows me a list so I can select the one I had in mind. The first one is the right, so I click it.

(Notice they also display a map of the city with numbered 'thumb tacks' indicating the locations of the various museums. My destination has a tack labeled 'B'.)

There was no problem with my destination address, so Google Maps shows me the driving route. (I'll have to click "Walking" to get the walking directions.)
I've clicked "Walking" and you can see the route has changed to one that stays on main streets and avenues — places that will have more pedestrian traffic than other residential side streets.

(Notice it says "Beta" next to where I clicked 'Walking' earlier. The term 'Beta' is a term used in the computer and software industry to indicate a feature that is in a test stage. When they're satisfied with the system they'll remove the Beta label.)

Another nice feature of Google Maps is the 'street view' feature. I can click on the number at each step in the directions to see a photo of the area with my route superimposed.

Here I've clicked on step 2 of the directions. There are left and right arrows in the top left corner of the photo (circled). I can click them to rotate my point of view and see what the area looks like. Again, this features works best in more urban areas where Google has more photos.

Also notice the "Add destination…" link. I can click this if I need directions to another destination after dinner.

Why not head over to Google Maps now and try it out.