If we are not sitting still, we are travelling. That’s an old trite cliché. But in these busy times it has become so very important to look deeply into how we go from Point A to B. It’s not only for economizing costs of travel but also to save time which is a precious commodity in itself. If you have a vehicle of your own, you might not have given the public transport system in your city much of a chance. Public transport is a great way to save money. It may not be always a great way to save time. But then in special cases and carefully planned itineraries, public transport can be the right ride.
If planning is too much of a bother, try out a Chrome app (which directs you to the main web application) like Mapnificent. Mapnificent shows you areas you can reach with public transport in your city in a given time. Based on just that information, you can decide where to live, work, and thus save money.
Disclaimer: Mapnificent is not available for all cities around the world, though it has a good coverage of major U.S. cities and Adelaide, Auckland, Berlin, London, Ottawa, Perth, Toronto/Hamilton area outside the U.S. You can have a bird’s eye view of their footprint when you land on their homepage.
Mapnificent Is Not Just A Cool Mashup. It Is a Useful One
Mapnificent is a transit or a routing mashup. It is localized for the public transport that runs in the cities on the list. Mapnificent calculates your journey time and shows you the areas you can reach with public transport in that given time. This simple but useful data could help you decide if taking a bus (or any other public transport) is better or you would be better served with your own car.
Mapnificent visualizes the data on an overlay on top of Google Maps. Let’s see how.
Plotting With Mapnificent
Start by picking your city from the map if it’s available. The map takes a bit of time to load in the beginning but then you are good to go. Type in your present location or drag the pin to the spot on the Google map. By default, Mapnificent shows the area which is at a proximity of 15 minutes of travel time by public transport. Check the slider on the bottom right – you can drag it to increase the travel time and see the areas you can reach within the time specified on the slider.
Mapnificent has a few more tricks up its sleeve.
You can drop a second place-marker and look at two intersecting time based areas. This is of use if you are planning a meetup with friends or even a business meeting. With just a move of a slider you can find a common location that’s fifteen minutes by public transport from two opposite locations.
If it’s a meeting, you will need something to chew on while you hash it out. Use the Google Maps search feature on top to locate eating joints, coffee shops, or some other places of interest within the common area.
Mapnificent also re-calibrates travel time if you have a bike with you. You can also factor in time required to reach the subway or station. An experimental setting tries to estimate times as per the day of the week and time because frequency of public transport (and traffic) is usually different during peak and off-peak hours.
Finally, if you would like a more stylized map, set it as a heatmap. Colors indicate proximity.
How Effective Is Mapnificent?
Mapnificent uses data from the GTFS Data Exchange. Don’t think of it as a travel planning app, but more of a routing aid. The data may be there but it cannot account for uncertainties. The developer’s blog post goes into his own impressions. You cannot expect it to be spot on with the estimates, but it gives you a strong idea of the correlation between public transport travel and distances. That should be enough to plan out a meeting or deciding on a place to stay.
What’s missing? A mobile app maybe. But till then try out Mapnificent as it is a unique web application and a worthwhile Chrome extension to have around. It finds a recommended place on our Best of Chrome Extensions page.