Which city route-planning websites are best?

PublicRoutes.com is a website that offers point-to-point public transportation, walking, and driving directions in 10 U.S. cities. But at least some of the cities covered have similar websites, which raises the question: Which is better? To try to get a sense of what makes PublicRoutes better or worse than sites that offer similar services, I pitted PublicRoutes against the local Bay Area transit information website 511.org for directions around San Francisco.

I set up a fake day out for myself to test the systems. First, I'd go meet my sister for breakfast at Zazie (near the intersection of Carl St. and Cole St.), and then I'd head to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Could both sites get me from food to culture? The answer was: yes, easily. But each site offered a slightly different set of strengths and weaknesses.

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I liked that 511.org gave me specific train and bus times (PublicRoutes kept it general), and that it also listed fare information and route news that might have affected my journey. PublicRoutes performed well because it gave me very clear (much clearer than 511.org) walking directions in addition to the public transportation information. It also listed the train/bus stops I would pass before my station, which I always like because it gives me a sense of when to prepare to get off the train. Had I decided to hoof it the whole way or drive downtown to the museum, PublicRoutes could have given me best route information as well (if I were brave enough to bike in San Francisco, I could have used 511.org's mapping tool for cycling routes).

There's no clear winner here, it just sort of depends on what information you're looking for. My guess is that the case is similar in other cities, so the only recommendation I have is when in doubt, reference both. No matter what, it's great to have this kind of information so easily accessible. Thanks Internet!

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