Best online maps: Bing vs Google vs MapQuest
Which service is the best for navigation?
By Christopher Null | PC World | Published: 16:20, 05 October 2010
Alternate transit methods
Not driving? Modern mapping services can get you there on foot, by train or via bicycle. Well, most of them can.
When it comes to alternative transit, Google once again is ahead of the game. Google Maps offers clearly labeled pedestrian, public transit (bus/train/subway), and even bicycle directions. Switching among them when you display a map is easy. Foot and public transit directions are generally spot-on, but bike directions (still in beta) need work, as they often route you far out of your way to get to a street with a bike lane, even if that street is busier than any on the more direct route.
Bing includes public transit directions as an option, but Google's are slightly better because they identify the price of your bus tickets. Bing comes up short on recommendations for walking to a bus stop: A dotted line crosses through buildings instead of guiding you along the best streets to take. Bing's walking-only directions (sans bus ride) are just as good as Google's, though.
MapQuest offers one set of directions, designed for cars, and nothing else, which reduces its usefulness for people walking, bicycling or using public transit to something close to nil.
In 2007, Google pioneered the Street View system, which lets you see a photo of what your destination will look like when you're staring out your car's window and wondering if you've reached the right place. Three years farther along, Google's Street View has achieved amazing depth of coverage and though the pictures tend to be grainy even obscure byways are likely to have full 360-degree imagery associated with them.
The picture is somewhat murkier on MapQuest. Its 360 View service is available on far fewer streets and unlike with Street View, you can't zoom into photos to get a closer look. Still, it's passable in a pinch and is certainly better than nothing.
Bing Maps' new Streetside service has the best quality images of all the services, but if you find a street with actual coverage, you're lucky. Bing has left entire cities unphotographed so far, and in those locales drivers who rely on Bing are out in the photo-free cold.
That said, Streetside is an extremely promising project, as is its (optional) 3D interface, which takes you out of the street level and up to a bird's eye view on command, complete with pan/zoom/rotate functions, to present a fancy CGI rendition of your destination or of the entire city you're in. It may not be so practical, but it's certainly cool to play with.