Where do you want to go today?
Online Mapping Sites 
by Susan Ives

I spent 15 years walking the mean streets of Trevose, PA and know every bump in the asphalt. As a test of the Internet's online mapping sites, I printed maps of my father's neighborhood using both MapQuest and MapBlast. They had me running in circles.

MapQuest found Dad's exact address, and even put the star on the right side of the intersection of Lukens Street and Elbow Lane. However, the map showed Lukens Street fading away before it ever meets Trevose Road, the main access route into his neighborhood. I would have driven several miles out of my way and arrived safely, but late.

 I tested their door-to-door directions by asking for a route from my brother's house to my father's, a distance of about 12 miles. They did just fine up to the point where they told me to turn right on an "unnamed road." Big help! There was no need to turn at all; staying on Street Road (PA132) would have led me straight to Trevose Road and onto Lukens Street. Instead, the mystery road left Bucks County and took me on the not-so-scenic route through Philadelphia. If I stumbled upon the road-with-no-name, I would have found my destination.

 MapQuest doesn't have San Antonio street addresses programmed in yet: it couldn't find our house or either of my in-laws. Trevose has about 20,000 residents. San Antonio has more than a million. Go figure.

 MapBlast couldn't find my father's address. Instead of showing me 28 Lukens Street, it offered up 1 Lukens Road as a peace offering. In a neighborhood that has both a Byberry and a Bayberry, not to mention a Bustleton Avenue and a Bustleton Pike, it's important to get the details right. This site blew it. 

The closest zoom view moved Trevose Road southeast and parallel to Lukens Street instead of northwest and intersecting it where it's been for the past 200 years. As I zoomed out, it got worse, renaming Lukens Street Trevose Road and mislabeling the real Trevose Road as Trevose Avenue. If I used this map, I would end up in the Poconos. 

MapBlast also flunked the house-to-house test. It offered three options: fastest, shortest and easiest. They should have added cheapest: the fastest and shortest routes took a ride on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. No one in my family would ever pay a buck to drive ten miles when there is a perfectly good street that will get you there for free. Even worse, the maps didn't tell you which turnpike exit to take: they're numbered and named, and they provided neither. Once you exit the turnpike, the maps suggest turning right onto Trevose Road, when you actually must go west for about a mile on Street Road before you hit the Trevose Road intersection. The easiest route was right on target up to the point where they told me to turn right onto Brownsville Road. I would have ended up in the volunteer fire department's trophy case.

 MapBlast did a good job on San Antonio addresses. It took us from our house to John's parent's exactly the way we drive. It did an adequate job getting us to his sister's house, only a half mile away, although it did have us make a left off Tioga onto Wurzbach instead of continuing into their neighborhood via Tioga. You can grow mold trying to turn left onto Wurzbach during rush hour or when mass is letting out at St. Matthew's. 

My final test was to go to church. Yahoo's "Get Local" has a yellow pages feature that prompts you to enter a business category. It returns a list of matches convenient to your zip code. On my first attempt I typed "St. Stephen's" which directed me to a church in New York. Get local, indeed. I changed my search string to Lutheran and the nearby St. Stephen's was first on the list. The directions from my father's house never got me out of the neighborhood. The map extended County Line Road through the Ofterdinger's living room, jumped Poquessing Creek and the Reading Railroad tracks, went through the 11th hole at Somerton Springs Golf Course and eventually ended up on Bustleton Pike, where I wanted to be. I think I might have missed the early service! 

The directions to Immanuel weren't any better. The church is at the Intersection of Southampton and Worthington, and Yahoo was smart enough to give Worthington as the street address. However, the map avoided Worthington and took me via Hemlock and Theresa and finally moved the church into someone's driveway on Ina Street. So much for the backup plan!

 The verdict? Allow an extra half hour travel time and prepare to get lost. 

Susan Ives has a terrible sense of direction and sometime gets lost in her own house. She can, however, read a map.