Maps

A Map for All Possible Routes

How to get where you're going by foot, by car, by transit and bike, all on one map.

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Michael Schade

The route-planning application on Google Maps can get you from Point A to Point B in a car, on a bike, by foot or by transit. But one thing the all-powerful mapping engine can’t do (yet) is give you all of those options at the same time. It would be a handy feature to have, both for individual commuters weighing whether to take the bike or bus, or for planners eager to illustrate that sometimes the shortest path to where you want to go is not taken by car.

If you’ve ever pined for such a tool, meet the Side-by-Side Router, an application built by Michael Schade, an inventive contributor to Arlington County, Virginia's Mobility Lab (we highly recommend trolling through the other fun stuff on his blog).

Schade’s router gives you all of your options, using Google's API (with driving in red, walking in blue, transit in purple and biking in green). His tool also provides the travel time and distance for each mode. And that's where the really interesting comparisons come in.

The above map shows the route from Arlington Memorial Cemetery, across the National Mall and to Capitol Hill. The shortest route, by far, is to walk there (6.43 kilometers compared to more than 10 kilometers on transit). But even Google’s travel times and distances don’t factor in everything. As Schade writes on the Mobility Lab blog, after mapping some other test trips:

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.

We played with the site in a few other locations. Here is the trip from Times Square in New York to the World Trade Center:

From The Goose Island Brewery in Chicago to the United Center:

And from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to watch a Giants game:

Have at it in your own neighborhood.

About the Author

  • Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific StandardGOODThe Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.