Skip to main content

Maps and Reality

David Alpert recently linked to a study which shows that people make travel decisions based on the scale of maps, even when doing so doesn't make otherwise rational sense. Personally, I don't particularly like maps that distort distance. I think there's some evidence that the DC Metro map does just that, like it or not.

(from OZinOH on Flickr)

Consider these few examples.

When traveling from Arlington, what's the best way to get to Dupont Circle? The obvious choice is to take the Orange/Blue line to Metro Center, transfer to the Red Line, and get off at the Dupont Circle station. But doing so requires unnecessary back-tracking, especially at off-peak times. It's nearly as easy to get off at Farrugut West and walk north along 18th Street. Of course, only someone well-versed in the local geography would know this.

How about people traveling from East of the River to see a ballgame at Nats Park? They could take the Orange/Blue lines to L'Enfant Plaza, transfer to the Green Line, then back-track to Navy Yard; but this scenario is very similar to the one above. It would be just as easy for them to exit at Capitol South and walk south on New Jersey Avenue.

Perhaps the most egregious example comes from people who are going to an event at the Verizon Center. The distance between the Metro Center and Gallery Place stations is so minimal that there's very little reason to transfer if you're coming in on the Orange or Blue Lines. Yet, you'll see tons of people doing exactly that, either before or after the event is over.

Now, there are certainly benefits to using a simplistic map that's very easy to understand; but without orienting it to a more detailed city map, people will use it in some less-than-ideal ways.


Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Commuting Meets Technology

I'm finally out of the dark ages. I got an Android smartphone over the weekend and have since been in the process of exploring the Android apps market.  One thing I've immediately noticed is the really wide range of usefulness in the apps. For example, the WeatherBug app is fantastic. It automatically determines your location and gives you exact conditions for that location. On the other end of the spectrum, Google's Goggles app is supposed to be a type of 'visual search' where you snap of photo of something and Google searches for it. In each of my attempts to use it, the app hasn't returned any search results. I even took a photo of a bottle of Pepsi (figuring it as a common houseful item) and got nothing.

Somewhere in the middle is this app called Waze. Have a look at their 'guided tour':

Some people might look at it and comment on the amazing evolution of technology or on the incredible value of social networks. To me, Waze says something important ab…