Online trip planners

Outlook now has links to MSN Mappoint, providing driving directions. Though I never drive in or out of central Melbourne unless I absolutely have to, I decided to see if it and a competitor, Multimap.com, could plot me a path home.

The main problems with these types of map sites is

  • the data is inadequate (often a problem with international companies trying to cover lots of cities), or
  • the mapping software decides you should do something wacky (which I’ll admit, is often down to the data again, though sometimes it seems to be the algorithms used)

Mappoint wanted to know which of two identical “247 Flinders Lane” addresses I wanted to use. I tried both, and both gave the wrong position along Flinders Lane. (Not bad, but a search for an address on Collins Street gave me 8 to choose from.)

Mappoint question

Mappoint also told me to drive down Kingsway/Queens Road, then do a right hand turn at St Kilda Road. Most Melbourne locals would know that you can’t do a right hand turn there. Like, physically, you can’t. Queens Road passes under St Kilda Road. If you want to do a right hand turn, you have to do a left a bit earlier and go via Union Street.

Mappoint directions

Multimap found the right spot in Flinders Lane. It then suggested I go left into Elizabeth Street (okay), left into Flinders (okay), then right into St Kilda Road — wrong! No right turn allowed there.

Rather than send me straight down St Kilda Road, it had me take a right via Albert Road to Queens Road, then left via Union Street back onto St Kilda Road. Pointless and confusing.

But it gets better. Rather than drive straight down St Kilda Road/Brighton Road/Nepean Highway, it got me to do a quick diversion around some of the side streets of Elsternwick, before turning back onto the highway. WTF?!

And according to Street-Directory, one of those side streets is actually blocked off to through-traffic. Pure genius!

Multimap directions

Lest you give up and decide to catch public transport, rest assured, the Connex trip planner is no better. Instead of telling me to walk half a block to Flinders Street station, it instead got me to unnecessarily wait for a tram to go three blocks to Flagstaff station.

In the past it’s provided even more stupid directions, suggesting you catch a tram in the wrong direction, then another back again, or needlessly change trains.

(PT umbrella organisation Metlink is working on a better planner, and are considering feeding their data into the new Google PT planner, too.)

It seems no matter which way you’re travelling, it doesn’t pay to trust the online trip planners just yet.

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2 thoughts on “Online trip planners

  1. Jessica Carter

    You think that’s bad? In November, a trip from Nottingham to a place in Devon avoiding motorways suggested the following:

    -> Go to Holyhead.
    -> Catch a ferry to Dublin.
    -> Go north to about Sligo.
    -> Follow the Irish coastline until Cork.
    -> Take a ferry to France.
    -> Take a ferry from there to Plymouth.
    -> Go from there to the destination.

    All in all, it was a journey of more than 1000 miles taking two days to do a journey that should be done in 3 hours.

  2. Noel Goddard

    This is possibly not quite the same problem, but I tried to get the Sydney Transport system
    (not it’s actual name but I can’t remember the exact name) online trip planner to show me
    how to get from Woy Woy railway station (on the NSW Central Coast) to the Central Coast
    suburb of Saratoga. It showed me how I needed to take the train to Gosford (4 stations
    further north) then catch the bus back south to a shopping centre 810 metres walk away
    from my destination. My trusty street directory (UBD on CD) showed me that a 450 metre
    walk from Woy Woy is a ferry wharf with regular services to another wharf only 500 metres
    from my destination! The train/bus trip takes nearly 70 minutes. The ferry trip takes
    15 minutes. That gives me plenty of time to walk the extra 140 metres 😉

    An email to the online planner folk revealed that although they had details on their
    database for the private bus services on the Central Coast, they had no details about the
    private ferry service. But if they’d consult their *own* UBD they’d see, as I did, a
    phone number for the ferry service timetables printed on the relevant map. The map that
    shows the ferry route. Next to the phone number.

    If it’s incomplete and/or inaccurate data that screws up the online planners, surely they
    could work a bit harder to clean it up?

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