Routing to Marco Island

By Steve Wallace

November 18, 1999 - Last week, I attended part of the MapInfo Partner Conference in Marco Island, Florida.As it was just close enough to my home to justify driving, I looked to some of the on-line mapping products to help me get to my destination and judge the amount of time needed.

I visited two sites: MapQuest and ESRI's RouteMap IMS, which is hosted here at Directions.The results looked fairly similar, so I printed them both and put them in my briefcase for the trip the following day.According to both plans, the trip should take six hours.

The next morning (early), I get in the car and drive toward the interstate interchange nearest my home.I glance at the RouteMap IMS printout and it shows me the same route I had planned to take; however, the MapQuest directions had me drive through town (and school zones) to another interchange a couple miles farther away.One other difference I noticed was that the RouteMap IMS directions started right at my door, while the MapQuest report stated, "There are 0.27 miles (0.43 km) between the start of the directions and 1730 NW 39th Dr." No big deal, I know my own neighborhood.

About two hours later, while driving around Tampa, the two routes diverge: RouteMap IMS says to get on I-4 for about 3 miles, then get back on I-75, while MapQuest shows me being on I-75 the whole time.I decided it was not worth getting off and on the same interstate, even if it did shave off a mile or two.Good thing I did not get on I-4, as it was a mistake in the data used by RouteMap IMS -- the stretch of road referred to as "I-4" was really I-75 the whole time.

Nearly three more hours pass, and it is time to get off the interstate.This last leg of the trip is the only place I needed any help, and the directions nearly gave me a headache.Here is what the guides said:

RouteMap IMS: "At Exit 15, go South on State Hwy 84.Bear left on Isle of Capri Rd [S].Straight on State Hwy 951."

MapQuest: "Take the CR-951 exit, exit number 15, towards Naples (SR-84)/Marco Island.Merge onto FL-84 W.Stay straight to go onto CR-951. CR-951 becomes unnamed road.Stay straight to go onto FL-951."

The most confusing thing about all this has to be the choices of road names given.All these various road names they listed are for the same strip of pavement! I turned around so many times within sight of the interstate exit that I was almost carsick.If I were giving these directions, having been there in person, they would be "Get off on exit 15 and turn right onto CR-951 for 16.5 miles."

Okay, I am finally getting close to my destination, as I can see the big resort hotels looming taller as I approach the Gulf coast.Time for one last look at the maps.But wait -- the MapQuest planner has already quit! It concludes its directions with, "There are 0.99 miles (1.59 km) between the end of the directions and 400 S Collier Blvd." Thank goodness for the RouteMap IMS directions, as they took me right up to the Marriott parking lot.

A glance at my watch tells me right away I could have slept for almost an hour longer, as it took just over 5 hours for the trip (including stops) and not 6 hours as both programs indicated.

Later, it was brought to my attention that I had not looked at what MapBlast had to say.The results were good.MapBlast stated the trip would take 4 hours and 53 minutes, and had well defined directions, even if it did show connecting with the interstate even farther south of my home than even MapQuest's did.

Conclusions? Hard to say with just one experience under my belt, but let me offer this suggestion: Take more than one program's advice.If I had to pick, I would recommend MapBlast and RouteMap IMS.They were the only ones that really provided door-to-door directions.

Below are links to Adobe Acrobat PDF's of the actual driving directions and maps from the three sources.

MapQuest Driving Instructions (PDF)

RouteMap Driving Instructions (PDF)

MapBlast Driving Instructions (PDF)

Published Friday, November 19th, 1999

Written by Steve Wallace

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