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Globe: Oodles of Googles (Toronto Google Map 'mash-ups')

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Oodles of Googles
Gee whiz: There's no shortage of 'mashers' who want to show you how to find stuff in the city

DAVID SILVERBERG

Special to The Globe and Mail

August 4, 2007

Most of us know mash-ups as a dance-floor fad, but now map mash-ups have hit the net. Finding the Muskoka cottage on MapQuest.com is just the beginning; the more adventurous Netizens of Toronto can dive deeper into online topography. Welcome to the tech trend called "Google Maps mash-ups," where programmers can fuse a regular Google Map of Toronto with a tool to display specific information, like available apartments in the city. Or the best taxi route from A to B. Toronto has inspired more than 40 Google Maps mash-ups available free. Here are The Globe and Mail's picks to get you started:

Taxiwiz

Toronto.taxiwiz.com/

What It Does: Estimates a taxi fare from anywhere in the city. Just type in a starting point, then a destination, and instantly the Web tool tells you the fare. For instance, Toronto Pearson Airport to City Hall costs $56. But quoting estimates to cab companies isn't advisable.

How It Works: Google opens its Maps program code so developers can turn addresses into latitude-longitude pairs. Taxiwiz's tech backbone finds the distance between those two points, and then outputs a cost based on route info and fare rules.

Review: Simple to use. Works well as a rough benchmark for casual cab rides, but dedicated back-seaters won't agree with every estimate. The rush-hour factor doesn't affect Taxiwiz's fare, unfortunately.

Rating: ***

MyHood

http://www.myhood.ca

What It Does: Finds available housing, apartment reviews, people looking for roommates, all displayed with different icons on a Google Map. Search by neighbourhood or just post a review of an apartment you loved or hated. Get the last laugh over your worst landlords.

How It Works: MyHood developers blend Google Maps of Toronto areas with listings from Craigslist and NOW classifieds. They also created a function to match a listing with a review.

Review: An impressive amount of posts, all dated within the week of searching. A quick link to original Craigslist ads is a nice touch. But where are the apartment reviews for College Street? Even Sheppard Avenue West gets some love.

Rating: ****

Tomapster

http://www.tomapster.com

What It Does: Finds the TTC subway route between two addresses, working similarly to the Taxiwiz mash-up. Displays written directions, footnoted with alternative start and end subway stations for the trek.

How It Works: This transit trip planner measures the distance between the subway stations closest to your start and end destinations. (The site doesn't display many bus routes.) Then shows you the route to walk once you get off the subway. (Based on distance, Tomapster also outputs the time for each trip.)

Review: Could be the TTC website of many geekified dreams, if it only included bus and streetcar data. Oddly, a bug in the code displayed 301 Dupont at Bathurst Station.

Rating: **

All Toronto Pubs

http://www.alltorontopubs.com/map

What It Does: Displays bars, pubs, clubs and live music venues on a Google Map, searchable through drop-down menus. Clicking on the pint icon for each venue (how appropriate) pops up a bubble listing with an address and a link to additional info.

How It Works: Manually submitted venue details are overlaid atop a Google Map interface. Each venue has its own page of contact info, closest TTC subway station and comments from users.

Review: Socialites couldn't ask for a better map to list nightlife options. It seems the site is updated often - Philthy McNasty's has correctly replaced Peel Pub on King Street West, and The Central replaces the recently folded Red Guitar on Markham Street. But the lack of user comments makes the site feel bare and unloved. A search bar is highly recommended.

Rating: ****

Honourable mentions:

www.walkjogrun.net/earth/: (then click Map, then click Cities, to pull up a menu for Toronto). A collection of 1,500 Google Map-able running routes in Toronto, but requires a Google Earth download.

www.okfairway.com: private and public golf courses, with address, phone number and weather conditions.

It covers the entire province, so now you can finally find the nine-holer near Keswick (Orchard Beach).
 

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