Google Maps traffic displays can be handy in a pinch. But what if you’re less interested in the commute on a particular street than getting around in a particular area? It can take months to get a temporal lay of the land when driving around a new city. Could technology fill the gaps until instincts take over?
Trulia--who we’ve talked about before--has developed a series ofCommuter Maps that are totally unique in the space. Rather than telling you the time of one linear commute from point A to point B, they’re area heat maps, conveying the time it will take to get anywhere from your designated homebase, in real time.
So in a single search, you can spot the congestion of an entire city and plan your day accordingly--that’s a really powerful idea. Maybe you’re a tourist in a new town. You’d like to hit up some sites, but you have no idea how much time to plan. Or maybe you’re juggling errands on the weekend, and you want to hit up whichever stores are lightest on traffic first.
Interestingly enough, Trulia isn’t working with any data that anyone else can’t access. Their visualization is based upon OpenStreetMaps and General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) feeds; the only difference is that they’re displaying the data in richer context. Sometimes data attenuation is a necessary design feature, but in this case, more is more. Think about how useful a city-wide weather radar can be in day-to-day life, figuring out if that cloud means rain or not; why not have this advanced layer of data available for traffic, too? As of today, Trulia’s maps are available for drive times nationwide, with public transit calculations in some cities.
Try it here at http://www.trulia.com/local/#commute/san-francisco-ca
Mark Wilson is a writer who started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day. His work has also appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach.