MapQuest program takes Nats fan for a ride

Robert Thomson
Columnist October 10, 2012

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I found it ironic that The Washington Post featured notes on Apple and Google maps and transportation tips for Nationals fans on the same page Sept. 30.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

I had tickets to the Sept. 23 Nats game, so the day before, I logged on to MapQuest and asked for directions to Nationals Park. I got a map and directions and printed them out.

On Sunday, I set off for the ballgame with a friend. We followed the directions as printed out. And we arrived at RFK Stadium. Once we realized we had arrived at the wrong stadium, we called another friend and asked her to look up directions to Nationals Park. She got directions to RFK Stadium, as well.

While my friend tried to get her friend to find a better address, I got out my old book of maps of the District and, knowing that we wanted to be somewhere near the Navy Yard Metro station, I was able to identify a route from RFK Stadium to Nationals Park. We drove back to South Capitol from East Capitol, and we arrived in time to miss only the first at-bat. But we felt let down by the media on which we had depended.

I would just like you to warn your readers to be aware that using MapQuest might lead them to a Nationals ballpark that is several years out of date.

Dorothy Krass, Rockville

DG: When I searched MapQuest for a route from Rockville to Nationals Park, the directions pointed me to a spot on East Capitol Street somewhere between RFK Stadium and Lincoln Park — this despite the fact that on the MapQuest map, RFK is labeled as RFK and Nationals Park as Nationals Park. MapQuest lists the address of Nationals Park as 1500 S. Capitol St., which is right on the mark.

Krass wrote in response to my column about the flap over the flaws in Apple Maps, which the company introduced as part of its new iOS 6 operating system, pushing aside Google Maps.

Apple Maps at least send you to the right ballpark. But to get there from Rockville, you’d wind up taking the Southeast-Southwest Freeway across the 11th Street bridge, onto Interstate 295 South, then across the Douglass Bridge to South Capitol Street.

Wow.

Google Maps have you on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway but get you off at South Capitol Street. The route isn’t exactly what you’d want to do, because they won’t be waiting for you with valet service at 1500 S. Capitol St., but it’s pretty close.

Travelers who responded to the column in the newspaper and online offered warnings and suggestions. Apple Maps had its defenders among the online commenters, but one summed up the sentiments of many: “This is Apple’s New Coke moment.”

Google a favorite

Many travelers compared their experiences with various mapping programs. Some, for example, like what they see in Waze. Although this was not a consumer survey, those who commented on the column often favored the Google service. This letter was typical among such responses.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have a Samsung Galaxy S III, which has an absolutely fabulous navigation system and accurate Google Maps.

I can speak my destination and, at least 80 percent of the time, the system understands exactly where I want to go. The rest of the time it gives me a list of possible destinations.

One feature I particularly like is how quickly it reacts. If I decide to go straight instead of making a directed turn, it gives me a new route or tells me to turn around within about 20 yards. Much better than my 10-year-old Magellan RoadMate.

Bill Teer, Fairfax

mapping is distracting

Once I leave home, audio features are important to me. While driving, I listen to the turn-by-turn directions on my Global Positioning System device rather than check the map. This letter writer’s concern is similar to mine, although I wouldn’t try to ban the devices.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

If a driver is not paying full attention for just one second while driving at 70 mph, he or she has traveled 105 feet. How easy it is to realize (or is it?) that traveling 105 feet at such a speed can have a serious impact on others on our highways.

That’s why these devices should not be allowed in cars. There are more accidents and deaths now caused by this technology, and that is sad. I was a computer geek for more than 30 years, and I just use the sun to figure out where to drive.

Mark Wylan, Chantilly

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