MapQuest keeps trying, but still can’t get it quite right

I’ve been quick to give MapQuest credit for effort, as they’re really trying to catch up the big boys now that their lead is quickly shrinking.

Yesterday they introduced live traffic. It looks very similar to the traffic info on Google Maps, but with more detailed information. The screenshots look pretty nice:

MapQuest Traffic: MiamiMapQuest Traffic: Miami

Here’s the problem — it didn’t work right away. I refreshed and reloaded and zoomed around for a while before I could make the “Traffic” checkbox appear. I later found another page on their site that gives more information about this feature. I thought I might find the answer there, but instead I found this:

Traffic List to Come

Fortunately, they mark the traffic-enabled cities with a traffic light, in a virtually identical manner as Google. A quick glance seems to show that they have more cities than Google, but not by a wide margin.

The real test, of course, is who gives better data? Here is a side-by-side shot of Atlanta using Google Maps and MapQuest:

Google Maps vs. MapQuest for Atlanta traffic

Assuming their data is accurate, the clear winner appears to be MapQuest. Google has much of the highway in gray (“no data”), while MapQuest is showing data for everything. In addition, MapQuest has the clickable icons so you know exactly what the problem is.

For me, however, 95% of my Google Maps traffic usage is from my cell phone while I’m on the road — Google Maps Mobile is very useful. As far as I know, MapQuest has nothing to compare to that. With that in mind, Google Maps will still be the winner by default for when I’m on the road, but I might give MapQuest a try next time I check traffic info from the house.

Edit 10:08pm, 3/18/08 – MapQuest does have a mobile product to compare to Google Maps Mobile, and it’s called MapQuest Navigator.  It appears to be a little better than GMM, but it costs $50/year and works on a rather small selection of phones.


  1. Mickey — MapQuest has a BETTER mobile product than Google Maps Mobile. Have you tried MapQuest Navigator?

  2. My mistake. Their product certainly compares to GMM. However, it has two major shortcomings:

    – Cost. It’s $50/year, while GMM is free.
    – Availability. GMM works on a lot of different phones, while the MapQuest app only works on 16 models right now. I use a Nokia N95, a very powerful phone, and I couldn’t run the MapQuest app on it even if I wanted to pay for it.

    That being said, I’ll edit the post to give the info about MapQuest Navigator, as it is certainly worth mentioning.

  3. It’s hard to determine who has better traffic data. I use cell phone for traffic all the time also. I use combination of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo mobile traffic products. Always amazes me how much the data provided by the 3 services vary from each other. Two will show stretch of road as green, one will show as red, and vice versa. I’ve never been able to figure out which one is correct more often. Seems to be a tossup.

    Point is you can’t just look at the coverage. You also need to compare accuracy.

  4. By the way, just thought I’d mention that the dark text on black background is very difficult to read on your blog.

  5. Matt – Thanks for the feedback. I just lightened the text a little bit. Better?

  6. The directions to our church on Mapquest are not correct. (By a few blocks) Who do we contact to correct this???? The church is St. Matthew Presbyterian Church located at 2217 Highgrove Road, Grandview, MO 64030. Whenever we have a funeral or wedding we have numerous calls because people have been misdirected and are lost…Please let us know how to correct this error. (We are located right across the street – on the south side of Highgrove- from the Grandview Senior High School. I look forward to hearing from you.

  7. The idea that a plain old MAP, which I can’t get from”the big boys” without jumping through 3,000 of their hoops, is a necessarily lesser accomplishment for a good MAP website drew a gasp and a gargle from this old MAPster. WTF, if you’ll pardon my asking? I’m not usually looking for “Live Traffic.” I usually just want a MAP of a city or a country or a region or a continent. And sometimes MAPquest is the one place that will show you a MAP without insisting you ask them how to get from 2173 West Livingston to 1896 Cloud Cuckoo Boulevard by way of the best Chinese laundry in East Jerusalem. Has anybody else had a similarly complex experience while looking for one quick, simple online MAP to clear up a question only a good MAP can answer?

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