Happy 4th of July! On this glorious holiday day, you may find yourself running between barbecues and gatherings around town and you may hear yourself utter a phrase I am frequently guilty of.
Almost no matter where I am going and how long it will realistically take me to get there, I will almost inevitably say “I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” Thankfully, if you are like me, Trulia has come up with a Commute Map that may actually help us make more accurate predictions.
In the map of Austin to the upper left, you can see the “twenty minute range” around the Infochimps office, which is located just west of downtown Austin. Thanks to nearby Mopac (aka Highway 1), travelling north and south are a breeze. Unsurprisingly, the lack of east-west highways and other major roadways makes traversing the city in those directions more time consuming than north and south.
Contrast this with the public transportation to the right and the results are astounding. Basically, this boils down to a thing that most Austinites are acutely aware of – public transportation here sucks. Want to get somewhere in twenty minutes on a bus? Hopefully you’re not trying to leave the neighborhood you’re already in ’cause it ain’t happening.
Contrast this with New York City, whose public transportation system affords transit riders with a range comparable (and arguably, more desirable) than the one available to the driver. From Chinatown, one can drive to various neighborhoods of Brooklyn and even New Jersey in a short span of time, but by subway, you can reach the neighborhoods just south of Central Park on Manhattan or the artsy DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn easily in twenty minutes.
All ranting aside, Trulia has built a pretty amazing little tool here and all from data accessible to anyone: OpenStreetMaps and General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) feeds. We encourage you to explore the power of publicly available data and its ability to generate amazing insights in the right context.