A Short Rant About Mapping Apps

I have used mapping apps since I've had my first iPhone, an iPhone 4. At first, Apple Maps used data from Google, but after a falling out, Apple contracted with TomTom for data. This was a near disaster for Apple but overtime Apple improved the product. I stuck with all these years but I always had Google Maps as a backup. I even used Waze for a short time.

Mapping apps have improved over time, adding the street view, walking directions, 3D maps, information for public and private transportation including trains, buses and ferries, aeroplanes.

However, the recent update from Apple and my experiences travelling to New York City had me wondering why map apps still feel so useless.

On the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway with Manhattan in the distance| Apple iPhone 11 Pro | iPhone 11 Pro back camera | 1.54 mm | f/2.4

I can get driving directions from my home to the train station. I can get travel directions from the train station to my final destination in New York City. Both Apple Maps and Google Maps will tell me which train to take, when to transfer between the New Jersey Transit station and the PATH stations, when to exit the PATH and how to walk to the pier to get the ferry to Manhattan, then providing walking directions to the building where I work once a week.

But what if I want directions for the entire trip? I can’t. I have to map out the drive from home to the train station as a separate trip from the train/ferry trip. Why can’t I simply tell Google Maps or Apple Maps to give me directions from home to the office and have the software offer me travel options via a combination of car, train, and ferry? That’s what I want.

Hudson River Waterfront Walkway with the Goldman Sachs & Co building in the distance. | Apple iPhone 11 Pro | iPhone 11 Pro back camera | 1.54 mm | f/2.4

Inside New York City, if I use the subway system, I can just tap my iPhone on a sensor and pay for my ride.

However, paying for my commute from Princeton involves using four separate apps. One app to pay for parking, another to purchase a New Jersey Transit train ticket, another to purchase a ride on the PATH train, and yet another app for a ferry ticket to cross the water to lower Manhattan. Oy!

I just want less friction on my two-hour commute! Why can’t I have it?

Pier 11, New York Cit | Apple iPhone 11 Pro | iPhone 11 Pro back camera | 1.54 mm | f/2.4

Google Maps Adds Commuting Features

Google Maps Adds Commuting Features (macstories.net)

The update will include a dedicated ‘Commute’ tab in the Maps app. After users identify their commute, Google Maps will provide live traffic data about the route. The Android app will also include notifications about delays as they happen so you can adjust your trip.


Google Maps will also support mixed-mode commutes. That means, for example, commuters who travel by car, train, and on foot will see commute information relevant to each leg of their journey. Real-time bus and train tracking is being added in 80 cities worldwide too.

My number one complaint about mapping software has been solved by Google. This feature will certainly help me with planning my client and personal trips into Manhattan. Apple is time to catch-up.