Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, February 16, 1999

Skip directions,
just blast your way

By Richard Borreca


Some men won't ask for directions and some will. And then there are those, myself included, who can ask for directions a dozen times and still get lost.

To me, vast areas of Honolulu are mysterious jumbles of curving roads, all with 36-letter names differentiated by only a single vowel. If I lived in Pearl City, I figure I'd never make it home alone.

So when the Internet started to include driving directions via a number of commercial Web sites I thought I was saved. People like me love maps, maps put us on even footing with those blessed with a sense of direction.

To get a map in cyberspace all you do is go to Infospace, Map-Blast!, MapQuest, Expedia, Yahoo! Maps or Maps on Us on the Internet, fill in the addresses, state and zip code and the computer is supposed to find the two addresses, compute the best route between them and give you corner by corner driving directions.

Maps on Us suggests the driver take a road that doesn't exist,
recommending the driver plow across the Municipal lawn, through
Skygate and city buildings on a nonexistent road, to get from
Kapiolani Boulevard to South Beretania, rather than driving on
Alapai Street. That off-road route is marked from the
"S" on the map, up to the "1" on Beretania Street.

So when I had to leave the Star-Bulletin here on Kapiolani Boulevard and travel to Natsunoya Tea House in Alewa Heights, I figured no problem; the Internet will light the way.

First up was Infospace which gave me step by step directions. Go north on Kapiolani, turn left on South Beretania, turn right on Pali Highway.

This looked good. It even estimated the time and mileage: total distance 107.3 miles, estimated travel time 116.7 minutes. Yikes!

When I asked to see the map, the directions stayed the same, but the driving estimates went up to 127.1 miles and 168.8 minutes.

I was lost already and I hadn't even left my keyboard.

Maps on Us had the driving time down to 7 minutes and only 2.7 miles.

But there was a problem.

The News Building must be too confusing for the Internet's most complex software. The corner brings together a grand confluence of motorways: South, King and Alapai streets and Kapiolani Boulevard, a great puzzlement to map-making algorithms.

Maps on Us urges the driver to eschew turning right on Kapiolani and proceeding up Alapai; instead it directs motorists seeking the tea house to get on Kapiolani and plow through Skygate and City Hall until you reach Beretania.

Next up was MapBlast! which estimated the driving time at 9.7 minutes to travel 2.9 miles.

From Kapiolani it told me to bear right on Lauhala Street, a neat trick, because it is four blocks away and would require me to blast through the state office building. Now I see why the site is called MapBlast!

Yahoo said simply, "We are sorry, but this starting city cannot be found."

Another search engine: Lycos apologized, "Sorry, we don't have routing information for Hawaii."

MapQuest, which is supposed to be the great repository of all transportation arteries from boulevards to bicycle paths also was unable to compute.

Keith Bellesfield, product development manager with MapQuest and its parent company, GeoSystems, self-described as the "world's leading supplier of geographic information products and services for the information publishing industry," says that the subject of putting Honolulu on the map never came up.

There are no plans to add routing maps for Hawaii, he said. All 48 mainland states have routing and the company, which is in partnership with National Geographic Society to publish maps, does have Internet routing in Mexico and Canada.

Bellesfield figured they could do it, if there were enough interest in not getting lost in Honolulu, but they would have to put in special software to make sure they didn't create maps with driving directions between Honolulu and San Diego or other points East of here.

As for directions to Natsunoya's, take School Street to Houghtailing, turn right on Hillcrest, left on Skyline and right on Makanani -- but don't follow me.

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