I am a big advocate of having alternative modes of transport, after all motor vehicles are an expensive* and dirty mode of transport that we have historically given too much influence to in the design of our cities. I believe that the value of a dwelling, particularly in an urban setting, is relative to its proximity to frequent destinations.

I work in Langley, and I live in Langley. For those who don’t know, we are currently renting, and I live close enough to work to comfortably ride my bike. One of the downsides of renting is that you may have to move more often than would otherwise be desired, but now with tools such as Mapnificent, it is possible to determine the distance one can travel on public transit in a given timeframe. While not available in all cities, it is neat to see that Google is finding new ways to mash up the information provided by transit providers. Over the past couple of years, the concept of walkability has been used to describe the urban value of a community, with varying results. Mapnificent adds to this type of data with a metric of how long it would take to get somewhere, not just a score of how easy it is.

Here’s the 15 minute map from the bus stop outside my office, assuming a maximum five minute walk to a bus stop, (click through to a dynamic map).

This is a really useful decision-making tool for deciding where to live, or the value of a house to someone who does not drive. One issue that may be obvious as you drill into the visual information is that the walking distance from a bus stop is a simple circle that doesn’t respect property lines, physical boundaries, pathways or terrain. This is a minor issue compared with the value of the presentation method and information provided.

An Exercise – Transit Resiliency

Taking a risk based approach, imagine that for some reason, you were unable to drive, (age, disability or medical condition, driving charges, fuel or other car costs), place the marker on your house and see how long it would take to get to the places you currently frequent, whether work, shopping or recreation areas. Either you will be pleasantly surprised, or you will be shocked to see how long it takes to get “anywhere”. That might be a sign that you should consider moving.

* For an excellent comparison of the costs of various transport modes in Vancouver, check out this link from UBC.

Interestingly, there is a section of the map that shows no service with less than a 10 minute walk, have a guess what they sell on this strip? – Click here.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.