Transportation

Get There Without Your Car

By Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko
Published February 19, 2009

Environment Hamilton has just launched a new website that will help you search amenities in your neighbourhood and show you how easy it is to get there on foot, bike or bus: Walk There!

This is how it works: you enter your address, choose a type of destination and you are then shown a map. Your departure point is at the centre, with a circle showing a 2 km radius.

Just clicking on the spot you would like to visit – perhaps a school, library, church or restaurant – you are shown the time it would take an average walker to get there.

The web tool also comes with a challenge, the Walk There! Challenge. You can commit to travel to destinations within two kilometres of your home by foot, bike or bus, with the goal of reducing vehicle trips by ten percent. By accepting the challenge, you could win prizes such as a VIA rail train pass or HSR tickets.

Walk There! also includes resources such as links to alternative transportation websites, a list of Environment Hamilton community walking events, and opportunities to take action to make your community more pedestrian friendly.

In Hamilton, the average car makes 2,000 trips a year that are shorter than three kilometres. Replacing short trips with walking, cycling or taking public transit is a significant way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saving on fuel costs and living a healthier life.

This project received funding from Environment Canada's EcoAction Community Funding Program.

Visit the Walk There! website at the following address:

Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko is a member of the dedicated team at Environment Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 19, 2009 at 09:00:59

Wow. What a great website. There's a few minor glitches with shop/restaurant names not being right or in the wrong location, but most of the info is accurate and with walking/cycling times included. This is a great tool.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted February 19, 2009 at 09:09:17

Interesting little tool, although given its simplicity I have to wonder how much funding went into it. I feel like I could have whipped it up in a few hours. I'm curious about their data sources - there's definitely some gaps, for example, searching for "Arts, Crafts and Galleries" fails to turn up the Art Gallery of Hamilton.

The "Add or edit destination" link is just an email link, which again makes me wonder if it was originally intended as a way to actually let you add locations to the map, but got dropped due to time or budget constraints. If so, that's really unfortunate, as that's an absolutely key feature.

Ultimately I don't really see how this really brings anything to the table that is better than just using Google - in fact, I get better results with Google anyways:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...

The only thing I don't get with that Google search is the blue 2km proximity overlay.

I hate to be negative, but I have quite a lot of Google mapping and geocoding experience, and there are so many possibilities here that are unexplored.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2009 at 09:37:40

I think the idea is to submit your edits or additions to a human who will verify and add/correct as necessary - as long as someone actually monitors and takes action on that email address, it will probably result in a better map in the long run than an automated one...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 19, 2009 at 10:28:10

seancb wrote:

I think the idea is to submit your edits or additions to a human who will verify and add/correct as necessary

Even so, it would be far easier for EH staff if "add or edit destination" is a form that submits to a database rather than an email link. That way, they can simply commit additions and changes using a confirmation page rather than having to type or copy/paste into some other interface.

Having said that, bear in mind that the tool is still brand-new. I remember when Google Maps was a shell of its current functionality - Google made it what it is today by listening to users and adding features incrementally (i.e. ship early and ship often).

The Walk There! tool is an excellent start for Hamilton, and will only benefit from a similarly incremental approach.

My advice to anyone who would like to see features added - especially if you have some programming expertise yourself - is to contact Beatrice and offer to code the feature yourself.

If you have a programming business, EH can probably offer you a tax credit for the value of the work donated.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted February 19, 2009 at 16:20:52

Sorry to rain on the parade, but as nifty as this website is it will not make much difference to the number of people walking.

That's because perceived safety and the willingness to walk depends largely on how drivers are behaving.

So if you don't somehow take back the roads, be it with reduced speed limits or traffic calming, education or something else, websites like this are doomed to be marginalized.

Herman Turkstra has an amazing opinion piece in the Spec today:

My car is my friend, and your enemy Want a safe neighbourhood? Practise traffic management http://www.thespec.com/Opinions/article/...

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 19, 2009 at 16:46:23

you're right Ted. I typed in my home address and was thrilled to see how much is nearby. Not that I didn't know already, but I've got most everything I need within the 1-km radius.

I found myself looking at the Goldlion Bakery and saying "gee, it's only a 15 minute walk. Why do I always drive there?? Oh yea, it's on Cannon St. Why would I walk that street unless someone put a gun to my head or unless I loved being up close and personal with the grill of a speeding transport truck."

I'm not very optimistic that we're heading in the right direction with any gusto when I hear city staff talk about scrapping the scramble intersection near the farmers market because it might slow down traffic west of Bay on York. Heaven forbid. If that happened, I might actually walk on York instead of using Vic Park, Napier St to get downtown.

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By Trog (anonymous) | Posted February 19, 2009 at 21:33:06

And while you're at it, don't just leave the car behind. Forget that pesky internet. Why use it and make the dot-commers richer when smoke signals will do?

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By adrian (registered) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 08:37:24

If the site is the product of a minimal budget, or in-house staff who don't normally do this kind of thing finding time in their busy schedule to work on it, or volunteers, then bravo: you did a great job. It looks nice and functions pretty well, and it's an interesting idea.

But if this was contracted out to professionals, and more than a few thousand dollars went into it, I think Environment Hamilton would have been better served by a different contractor.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 10:18:49

I'm not sure it's right to try comparing a Google application to one developed by EH. Having said that, I much prefer the look of the EH one over Google. And the walking/cycling distance and times are a great feature. That's the whole point of this site isn't it?

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 20, 2009 at 12:44:09

What kind of a loser would need or use something like this?

A complete waste of tax dollars. If these are the things that people at Environment Hamilton or Environment Canada are spending their time on then I know where we can make our cuts to the municipal and fed budgets.

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By Janitor (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2009 at 01:14:37

You're like a seagull Capitalist, leaving a repulsive trail of splat everywhere you go. Except at least seagulls eat garbage.

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By A Robot (anonymous) | Posted February 21, 2009 at 01:30:50

Jason, the EH one IS google, in that it uses the google maps interface. It was probably quite easy for them to whip this up.

Now for something really useful, using google maps to get directions, choose "by public transit" rather than by car. the full HSR schedule is then used to map out your trip, including which bus to take and where to transfer. Hamilton is one of only a few cities in Canada that have done this. Not even Toronto has it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 21, 2009 at 09:04:06

excellent stuff A robot. It's got to be easier to navigate than the HSR trip planning tool.
Thanks for pointing out that option.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2009 at 15:50:48

Janitor,

I stand by made statement. This is nothing but a government make-work project for people who have nothing better to do.

By the way, I don't eat garbage. Usually Italian. Chinese on special occasions.

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