Mapnificent: A Powerful Tool for Urbanists

Want to know how far you can travel without a car in under 15 minutes? Check out Mapnificent.

Introducing Mapnificent

Stefan Wehrmeyer, a Berlin-based software architect developed this tool that uses public transit data to help users decide on where to live, work or meet up. Mapnificent has great potential for urbanists, urbanites and urban planners alike. First, you chose your starting point. Magnificent will then show you all the places that you can reach without a car within a specified amount of time.

A Mapnificent screenshot of the Kitsilano neighborhood in Vancouver showing banks near my location

From a post by Andrew Price at Good Magazine:

Mapnificent is a Google Maps application that provides a brilliant new way of looking at your local geography. Rather than letting you specify a start point and end point and then giving you directions and travel time, as most map applications normally do, Mapnificent allows you to specify a starting location and then see all the places you can reach by public transportation within a certain amount of time. This lets you pick an apartment, restaurant, or bar based on the amount of travel time you can tolerate.

How Mapnificent Works

Mapnificent uses data from the GTFS Data Exchange. It overlays this information on a Google map to visualize the reach of public transport in your city. Here’s a short video that explains it well:

In other words, Magnificent is a step towards making our mobility visible. This has all sorts of powerful implications.

The Mapnificent Advantage

While I have long been a fan of the concept of Walkscore—and more recently TransitScore—I must admit I rarely visit the site. Sure it’s nice to know whether your neighborhood scores a 62 (my home in Phoenix ) or a 92 (my current suite in Vancouver). But once you know what an address is, there isn’t much reason to return to the site. Moreover Walkscore doesn’t connect your location to the rest of the city. It does little good to know the Walkscore of your home when you are trying to get to your office.

This is one of the main advantages of Mapnificent. It tells users their ability to actually get to someplace in a set amount of time. This feature has numerous trip planning uses, such as where to meet a client for a meeting. But more importantly it has deep decision-making implications, such as determining where to live or work. It could also make the ‘drive/don’t drive’ decision easier. I see even greater potential if/when Mapnificent comes out with a mobile app.

Jarrett at HumanTransit sees a deeper potential for Magnificent, calling it revolutionary:

When you city is facing a series of possible alternative transit projects, what if every citizen could use a tool like Mapnificent to see the exactly impact of each alternative on their mobility, and that of people and destinations they care about.

[…]

We will always have selfish present-minded citizens… Until we help people see the way a proposed project will change their lives for the better, sensible transit projects will continue losing these debates.

Help Bring Mapnificent to Phoenix

Mapnificent is still in a public beta; it is currently programmed with a limited number of US and Canadian metro areas. My new city of Vancouver is included. But my old city of Phoenix is not—at least yet. My friend Sean Sweat (aka PhxDowntowner) is promoting a campaign to get Phoenix added to the Mapnificent roster. You can show your support for bringing the app to Phoenix in the Magnificent user voice forum.  If you are living in or around Phoenix, I would also contact David Boggs at Valley Metro (602.534.1800) and Debbie Cotton at the City of Phoenix Public Transit Department (602.495.0418). Please ask them to ask that they make their GTFS data available to Mapnificent.

Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.

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