Thursday, August 16, 2007

A long walk has a maps feature. Although it's slower and more annoying to use than, say, Google Maps, it has a nifty "Walking Directions" feature. I decided to give it a test run. I mapped walking from our apartment to Yeshiva University, and (although it didn't know about the 130-stair shortcut) it did reasonably well, both in terms of directions and length of time. Then I gave it a trial by fire. I had it map directions from Washington Heights to Fort Lee, NJ. For those of you who are not familiar with the area, here is a (Google) map:
If you were walking, it's around a mile and a half across the bridge (more on that another time), then with bits of mileage elsewhere it adds up to around 2 miles total. So let's see what Ask suggests:
That's right: 92.9 miles, 29 hours and 41 mins straight of walking. Holy cow! Quite a bit out of the way, methinks.

But, believe it or not, it gets better. If you wanted to walk to Elizabeth, NJ the directions are totally crazy:
Elizabeth is close to 25 miles away by car, and, in reality, it shouldn't be that much further by foot. However, Ask suggests a 233.7 mile, 3 day, 2 hour and 48 minute nonstop trek, taking you to Bear Mountain State Park in the Catskills, past NJ's awesome zinc mines in Franklin and Ogdensburg, at times bringing you within 18 miles of Pennsylvania.
And with all that, it doesn't even avoid Newark!


  1. It obviously assumes that one can not walk over the George Washington Bridge. Do you know if that is still possible? Maybe it was closed for security reasons post-9/11.

  2. It is absolutely possible to walk across the GWB. Furthermore, the roundabout route it recommends for Elizabeth suggests that there is a more fundamental flaw in the algorithm.

  3. that's too bad, because it would be a very useful feature.

  4. Have you submitted any comments to them about these anomalies?

  5. No, I wasn't able to find a place to contact them.

  6. Eli, after trying many places in New Jersey, I noticed that the walking distance always amounted to ~240 miles, and all went by wa of Bear Mountain State Park. Thus I conclude that the system is not flawed but rather, there is a Space-Time Distortion centered on New Jersey that only affects pedestrians. Presumably the good crew of the USS Enterprise is investigating as we speak.
    "I d'nt know how long at will take to roller-blade ca'tain. I can't break the laws of physics you know."