Going the Distance with Walkscore’s Travel Time API

Greg Bates, April 15th, 2013

You have a hectic business trip to Seattle coming up and its time to choose hotels. Sure, there’s cost, availability, checkout times ad whether it has a pool or gym to consider. But there’s another important factor: proximity. The Travel Time API demo uses Seattle. See graphic below.  You have 4 meetings scheduled over a couple of days: At Amazon’s headquarters, a drop in at Starbucks for a chat with a friend, meet at the headquarters of Walkscore, and then lastly at Zillow.

So here’s the question: How can you find a hotel that you can walk to each meeting from, and how can you tell how long it will take to walk to each one? You obviously need to know how long each walk will take so you aren’t late.

The Walkscore Travel Time API can sort this all out–find the hotels, tell you how long it takes by car, public transport, bicycle, and walking from each one. If you look at the graphic with the Seattle map below, you’ll see the four meeting places, many hotels flagged. At the demo (not the graphic here), if you click on the hotels listed on the left, they pop up on the map so you can see exactly where they are.

But you could be anywhere: The Travel Time API is supported in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

As the Walkscore API documentation points out,

“There are two versions of the Travel Time API. The HTTP version is used to make server-side requests and returns travel times for a set of locations. The JavaScript Library can be used to show a travel time visualization on the map or get travel times in JavaScript.”

The HTTP API returns a JSON response.

This latest API release of Travel Time, comes on top of other APIs that can help you find apartments and real estate (this should be a great service for realtors), and score how walkable your town is–or any town you want to visit. I knew my own tiny seaside neighborhood in Belfast Maine would represent a true test–does it have a walking score for a town of 6,700? The walking score is calculated out of 100, the higher the better. New York City has a score of 85, reflecting how close things are.

So, I figured, a tiny town in rural Maine would have a low score if this were done by slapdash calculations. But, in fact, Walkscore got it right, assigning a 75, which seems to match my experience; highly walkable. Looking really closely at the photo of High Street, I can tell you when this photo wasn’t taken: not on a Sunday between noon and 1:00. At that time we always have a small group of antiwar protestors on the far corner–look to the right past the lights. They aren’t there.

In any case, check out Walkscore’s great APIs–and come visit!

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