Sunday, March 27, 2011

TMI, Google Maps!


I love Google Maps. I think it's absolutely brilliant. With time they're getting so detailed and accurate that I suspect they're going to have my underwear drawer properly identified. That's great, but there's a very significant line between 'usefully detailed' and 'uselessly complicated'. I fear that Google Maps is starting to cross that line.

I present to you the immediate Yonge and St. Clair are in Toronto. St. Clair is the east-west yellow street and Yonge is the north-south one. It's stuck to the side of the image because it's the area to the east that I want to show: slightly east of Yonge on St. Clair is where the St. Clair TTC stop is.

Singular: the St. Clair TTC stop. There's just one. From there you can take buses, a streetcar and a subway going northbound or southbound. Quite obviously, the platforms you must stand on to take these various forms of transport do not physically occupy the same space, as that would create huge crowding and many an accident, especially as buses would be forced to drive on rails. Rather obviously, once you've entered through the turnstiles, you go up or down corridors and/or stairwells accordingly, following the signs to get to where you want to go. Like every subway station on the planet. Why Google Maps chooses to show the exact location of each platform is entirely beyond me (in the case of the subway platforms, these are of course subterranean and just plotted as 'roundabout there'). If I bring up Google Maps wanting to know where the St. Clair subway station is, is it not glaringly obvious that I want to know how to get there from the street? That I want to know the entrance to the station?

So where exactly is that entrance? Well, unsurprisingly, there are several. The main one that you'd access from the street, the one with a big TTC symbol in front of it, is in a building that also has a McDonald's in it. Look carefully at the map... the McDonald's is indicated on it and is the only way you'll find the entrance to the station. And... yeah, it's nowhere nearn those big letter 'M's, is it? Looking solely at this map will give you the impressions that the best way to get to the St. Clair subway station would be from Pleasant Blvd. (And note: there is a back exit, not that I'd advide taking it).

But this begs the question: while putting the subway, streetcar and bus logos in the place thye've chosen, Google Maps has undoubtedly made their service more accurate. But have they made it more useful?

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