See our Ontario Inter-City Public Transport map on GoogleMaps here.
We realize that GoogleMaps does not work for everyone. For that reason we have created a series of jpeg screen shots of the map at different zooms. JPEG versions of the map are available here.
Maybe you look at the map and everything makes sense. If so, GREAT! But you are exceptional.
We learned from our early piloting efforts that the decisions we made were not obvious. Fair enough. After some reflection, we decided to change very little on the actual map, but explain our decisions a little better.
In this post we present our mapping decisions.
Our focus is on services for which there are no maps. Or, the maps that these companies offer are so terrible and hard to find that there might as well be no maps.
We also considered including privately-operated commuter services and regional transit agencies (like this and that), since these can be patchworked together for Inter-City travel. Ultimately, we figured that these might be a bit messy.
You will notice that the map is colour-coded according to operator; this is because privately-operated bus service is disintegrated. Between companies, schedules, fares, and information is not coordinated – except by you, the rider, when you’re trying to figure things out.
It is only buses?
Yes, but it’s not because we have some particular love for buses over trains: it’s because navigation tools for buses are particularly terrible.
A map? What are we, baby boomers?
Sure, wayfinding apps like GoogleTransit are awesome.* We’ve also noticed that if you rely on these in Ontario, you will think that it’s impossible to travel outside urban areas with a car…or a bike and really good legs, or something. Ontario’s private buses are not listed on these! It being 2017 and all, this strikes us as pretty ridiculous, but there you go. If we knew how to make an app, maybe we would. For now, we’ve made what we can.
*GoogleTransit is merely an example, we have no opinion regarding the awesomeness of that particular tool.
You do realize that Ontario does not stop at Sudbury, right?
Yes we do. It’s just that adding the Greyhound line from Sudbury to the Manitoba border throws our map out of scale. Unless we’re really missing something, we don’t have many interesting things to report past the Big Nickel.
What’s with the different line widths?
Because frequency of service is a big deal to us and we wanted to present this visually.
We realize that we set a pretty low bar of quality for frequency: we consider frequent service to be that which runs at least 3 times/day on most days of the week. We realize that this is not amazing, but at least it allows a person to identify the trips where they could probably travel morning, afternoon, or evening. These lines are the thickest.
Our next frequency threshold was daily service, running at least once/day or more, every day of the week. These are the medium thickness lines.
The thin lines are for services that just barely exist. We don’t want to ignore them, so they’re faintly there.
Why are some lines squiggly and others straight?
When we started making the map it was taking us forever to outline every turn in every road. Our first incentive to just make straight lines was therefore efficiency. Then we reconsidered when we were worried people might think we were lazy.
Then we realized that this is not an issue of efficiency or laziness. For some of the routes that we know, the bus does not follow the same route every time, but instead might take different roads due to traffic or a rider requesting a flag stop. In these cases, a super-accurate map would actually be misleading.
When we looked a little closer at the route information we could find, we noted that some routes have multiple scheduled flag stops, different from the requested flag stop that Shaun can normally get near his mom’s house in Niagara Falls if he asks the driver nicely. The routes with the scheduled flag stops were often the infrequent ones. We therefore opted to closely follow the actual roads for the lines of the infrequent buses.
For the frequent services, we are thinking about them like a map of airline routes: we are confident about the location of the stations, but the purpose of the lines in-between is to show that these stations are connected, rather than represent the specific route in an accurate and relevant way.
In some cases, we might have made a specific squiggly line where we should have put a vague straight one; or the reverse. Please contact us if you see an instance of this.
Are all stops shown?
We listed every station that we could find, but not every stop. Greyhound, for example, has long lists of flag stops on some routes, many of them identified in ways that you cannot know if you don’t live in that small town. Rather than spend months scouring street view for bus company signs in business windows (we really did attempt this a few times), we opted to just leave those off the map.
Also note that some routes have regular flag stops that are not reflected on schedules. We didn’t want to touch that one.
Will there be a Map 1.1 or a 2.0?
We love that idea. You want to make it? We would love to have an update from someone with a more mapping skills than us.