Mapnificent – finally

TC Streets for People links to an amazing mapping web app – Mapnificent – that draws a bubble on a map that shows you how far you can get from any given address in any given time – using transit!  The developer of this site – like Beldar – comes from France, of course.

Work be damned, I’m toodling around on the site this morning, checking out my house, my brother’s house in St Louis Park, my old place in Whittier, my old place in Kingfield, and the place I wanted to buy in St Louis Park.  The default time setting is 15 minutes, but I changed it to 20 minutes – it seems like if something is 15 minutes by bus, it’s in walking distance.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that the size of the bubbles does not vary greatly between the different locations I chose.  What does vary is the shape of the bubbles.  Uptown and Kingfield have an elongated shape – reflecting the emphasis on North-South routes in South Minneapolis as well as the failure that is the 21 line.

St Louis Park has an East-West orientation, since basically the only usable line there is the 17, which runs on Minnetonka Blvd.  However, this address is near an express bus stop, so there is an enclave in Downtown Minneapolis as well.

Seward and Northeast have a more triangular appearance, due to the viability of E-W and N-S service.  Seward has the bonus of an archipelago of enclaves strung down the Hiawatha line – more on that after the pics.

(btw, I’ve tried to present all of these maps at the same scale so the area could be perceived easily – it would be nice if the author of Mapnificent could include an area sum to accommodate nerds like me who like to collect this data in tables)

What’s extra cool about this site is that the bubbles don’t just represent the area that contains bus stops that can be reached in 20 minutes- it is the absolute area that you can get to in 20 minutes by (1) walking to the nearest stop(s) from the address you entered (2) riding the bus (3) getting off the bus and walking to your destination.  So the circles get smaller the further you are from your destination because if you get off at a distant stop, you will have less time to walk and still make it within your set time frame.  Really well done.  Unfortunately it isn’t smart enough to map where you can actually walk – more on that later.

The fun doesn’t stop there – Mapnificent also calculates your mobility if you are bringing a bike along.  It really swells the bubbles, but it doesn’t appear to take into account separated paths, which are generally faster than city streets.  Like I mentioned earlier, the bubbles are the areas around the stops that are walked or biked at the average speed in the given amount of time.  It might be nice if you could then choose the distance you are willing to walk or bike to and from stops in space rather than time.

The other setting (mysteriously marked as ‘expirimental’) that can be manipulated is the time of day/week – this is necessary because many routes only run at peak hours, or on weekdays, or don’t run on Sundays, etc.  All of the maps on this post use the weekday 6am setting, which is default.  Changing it to noon on a weekday will change your bubble, as on this example in St Louis Park, which loses its appendage up France/Cedar Lake Rd and its enclave Downtown:

The site is called Mapnificent Minneapolis – they need to make an individual page for every transit provider because there is a separate database for each provider.  Keep in mind that this was developed by a French guy – it is sort of amazing that he knew Minneapolis (known to most Americans as Mindianapolis); though he is likely familiar with St Paul, it would be a miracle if he knew that the metro area is called the Twin Cities.  So there is no pandering to St Paulies and suburbanites here.

But I got curious, and looked up the bubble for my girlfriend’s parents’ house (at weekday peak, no bike, and 10 min walk to/from), which happens to illustrate one of the huge barriers to greater transit modeshare in the Twin Cities:

This is one of the biggest bubbles of any of the maps, which reflects that St Paul has decent transit coverage but, more importantly, fewer stoplights.  But this bubble avoids job centers – it grazes St Paul CBD and Highland Park, but doesn’t cover the Capitol area or the Midway.  St Paul has the density to support transit, but N-S access needs to be improved to get people to the Midway at least, and ultimately Downtown Minneapolis.

Finally, here’s the neighborhood we all want to live in, Lowertown St Paul:

Also shown is the reason no one moves to Lowertown – it is far away from the places you want to go.  The bubble is huge, but centered over the East Side, which has very little congestion (due to minimal economic activity) and therefore quick bus service.  But due to the routing of buses in Downtown St Paul, you can’t even get to the Midway in 20 minutes.  The solution to the Lowertown problem is in the map, however, on the Fort Road, whose route 54 is limited stop and therefore included in the bubble, which hopefully will look very different after Central Corridor.