Mass Transit Directions

As useful as MapQuest and Google Map driving directions are out in the Boonies (i.e. anywhere West of the Hudson, north of the Bronx, or south of Coney Island) they’re rather pointless here in the center of the universe, where:

A. No one has a car.
B. Even if you have a car, you can’t park it anywhere near where you’re going anyway.
C. And it will probably take you longer to drive there than to walk.

In fact, both Google and Mapquest maps usually don’t even bother to show such critical information as subway stations, much less bus stops; forcing most New Yorkers to resort to traditional paper maps most of the time. Thus I was quite pleased to learn yesterday about HopStop, a map service that actually works for people who rely on mass transit (and in New York that’s essentially everyone, at least some of the time.)

Currently it supports New York City, with Boston, D.C. and San Francisco in beta. In my limited tests with New York City, it was quite reliable and knew more about local landmarks than Google, Yahoo, or MapQuest ever have, though still not enough. Jacob Riis Park, Floyd Bennett Field, Alley Pond Park, Fort Tilden, and Breezy Point all confused it. On the other hand they seem to be willing to take user submitted information about landmarks. On the gripping hand, when I attempted to submit Floyd Bennett Field, the form did not appear to work. :-( Still if they can fix the bugs and attract a large enough user base to enter local destinations, this could improve quickly.

On the downside, the mapping tool is based on Yahoo maps and is virtually unusable. Why anyone still uses Yahoo Maps since Google Maps was released is beyond me.

4 Responses to “Mass Transit Directions”

  1. Gordon Weakliem Says:

    I was talking to someone from MSN about this sort of thing a few years back, IIRC he said that MapPoint’s European version has subway and bus stops because the product’s considered useless without. I suspect that it’s because NYC is such an anomaly – what other cities in the US are like it, logistically? Boston, maybe DC, maybe SF.

  2. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    This is a class issue. MapPoint is useless without subway and bus stops for anyone too poor to own a car. This affects pretty much every major city in the U.S. It’s also an issue for anyone too old, young, or handicapped to be able to drive.

    In fact, ignoring people without cars can be a life and death issue as my home town (New Orleans) found out last year. By ignoring subway and bus stops, mapping sites are essentially saying they’re not for the use of poor people. That sucks.

    The anomaly in New York is not the lack of cars. That’s true everywhere. The anomaly in New York is that there are many people who are quite well off who don’t own cars. To a lesser extent this is true in the other three cities you mention.

  3. Andrew Thompson Says:

    Google Maps for London has Underground stops. Google Maps (and all of the others I’ve tried) for NYC does not cover subways.

    Makes me wonder if it’s a data issue rather than a policy issue.
    I wonder if the companies providing the map data have the subway information?
    I wonder if the MTA could somehow be blocking them with copyright issues?
    But surely if they go out on the street and collect their own data it would be OK?

  4. Leif Warner Says:

    “Driving directions” for mass transit:
    But it’s a Portland-only beta right now. You could always move?
    I’m used to the map on the mass-transit website,, it’s organized like the paper maps.
    Also, I like to watch the GPS-tracked streetcars moving around on the map on

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