Trulia's New Maps Show Your Commute Time From Your New House

Seeing a whole city of traffic at once? Get jealous, Google Maps.

Google Maps traffic displays can be handy in a pinch. But what if you’re less interested in the commute on a particular street than getting around in a particular area? It can take months to get a temporal lay of the land when driving around a new city. Could technology fill the gaps until instincts take over?

Trulia—who we’ve talked about before—has developed a series of Commuter Maps that are totally unique in the space. Rather than telling you the time of one linear commute from point A to point B, they’re area heat maps, conveying the time it will take to get anywhere from your designated homebase, in real time.

So in a single search, you can spot the congestion of an entire city and plan your day accordingly—that’s a really powerful idea. Maybe you’re a tourist in a new town. You’d like to hit up some sites, but you have no idea how much time to plan. Or maybe you’re juggling errands on the weekend, and you want to hit up whichever stores are lightest on traffic first.

Interestingly enough, Trulia isn’t working with any data that anyone else can’t access. Their visualization is based upon OpenStreetMaps and General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) feeds; the only difference is that they’re displaying the data in richer context. Sometimes data attenuation is a necessary design feature, but in this case, more is more. Think about how useful a city-wide weather radar can be in day-to-day life, figuring out if that cloud means rain or not; why not have this advanced layer of data available for traffic, too? As of today, Trulia’s maps are available for drive times nationwide, with public transit calculations in some cities.

Try it here.

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16 Comments

  • Guest

    This is great but doesn't show data with traffic.. It would be great to take a average of time over the busiest times or a toggle switch to show with traffic times.

  • jason

    First three things that popped into my mind:

    These guys at Trulia must have used my dad to drive these routes (my dad drives slow).

    Very interesting. Wondering if they take road size and/or speed limit into account.

    Imagine the computations to make that map possible.

  • monirom

    Time of day, weather conditions, construction and other factors make Trulia a novelty rather than a tool. Especially in a city rife with events that make it prone to road closures. Anyone who drives the beltway, the toll roads or has tried to get out of the city during rush hour in DC (in a car) knows its always a crap-shoot.

  • cliffs of insanity

    The difference I see between this tool and google maps is that this shows a polygon rather than an estimate. Pretty cool if you're looking for a place to live and using the polygon as a filter for search. Yes the model needs refining. The next steps I'd choose would be to incorporate a slider for time of day for the commute along with historical traffic models. real time traffic doesn't tell enough of a story for prospective home buyers.

  • The Explanationizer

    Well, it pretty much sucks for rural areas, that's for sure. It says the beach I walk to in 5 minutes is a 15-minute drive away, the movie theatre I drive to in 5 minutes is 45 minutes away, and the grocery store I drive to in 15 minutes is 1 hour + away.

    It's a great idea. Too bad they couldn't make it work.

  • MikeJones

    Way off in my area too - about the same 2x factor that Sam mentioned for
    Denver area commute.  Maybe larger urban areas are more accurate?  And,
    yes, Google Maps was pretty close to the minute in their calcs.

  • Dignan

    I couldn't agree more with the other commenters. For the sake of speed online, it appears that Trulia has opted to completely forgo any accuracy in this model. There is real science behind creating accurate drive-times but it doesn't appear that any was used here. I suspect that very generalized "impedance" grids were created to develop this model but they just don't work. There is no substitute for creating true impedance measures on each street segment. Nice marketing ploy Trulia but poor execution.

  • Victarion

    Maybe I could be more constructive. Is turn impedance modeled? Left, right, and across are all different variables, for every turn and for each from/to directional pair. Roadway classification seems to be downplayed too much, as in local streets moving almost as fast as major arterials. Are signalized or signed intersections assigned impedance values? Why are there exclusion areas right in the middle of state roads between similar isochrones? As Alan points out, what time of day is this? Is this a weekday or a weekend? I hope under/overpasses are uncoupled. The data is out there to support such an analysis, but it will cost you dear. In other words, they've bitten off way more than they can chew here.

    Precision is not accuracy, and bad cartography is irresponsible.

  • Alan Hope

    Errr I know my commute time to the minute and Trulia is not even close and it seems to neglect one big variable - time of day 

  • jesse.c

    Way off in my area too - about the same 2x factor that Sam mentioned for Denver area commute.  Maybe larger urban areas are more accurate?  And, yes, Google Maps was pretty close to the minute in their calcs.

  • Sam Nada

    The driving time calculations in my area are WAY off, as in over 2x longer than the actual time.  Google Maps on the other hand calculates virtuallly to the minute.

  • Oscar

    There's a similar project I found a long time ago called walkscore.com, that also encourages you to find a place where you can walk everywhere without the need of a car.