GoPhillyGo is trying to make it easier to live in Philly without a car

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With the recent launch of its bike share program and the city’s ongoing emphasis on sustainable transportation, it would make sense that Philadelphia would benefit from a route-mapping tool with sustainability in mind. As of yesterday, there’s an app, or at least a website, for that.

GoPhillyGo, a new multimodal mapping tool, launched this week. Created by the Clean Air Council, GoPhillyGo is powered by open data and allows users to map out step-by-step directions from location to location in the Greater Philadelphia area.

But how is this tool any different from Google Maps or MapQuest (if you’re into that sort of thing)? Here’s what we know:

Multimodal directions

First off, instant mapping, even for biking and walking, is not new tech. What is new, however, is the ability to seamlessly merge the two, along with public transportation, according to your liking. With GoPhillyGo, users can select which modes of transportation they want to use on their trip. From there, different routes are created based around those options.

This is especially useful for reaching destinations that aren’t as accessible by public transit, and for which visitors usually rely on cars. Rather than hopping in the station wagon, travelers can use a combination of environmentally friendly options, which is at the heart of GoPhillyGo’s mission.

“If we can get rid of the ‘get in the car’ and go right to ‘lets take public transit and bike there,’ that is a good thing,” said Clean Air Council Executive Director Jospeh Minott.

Explore the city

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Philly is a big city and GoPhillyGo wants you to get out of your neighborhood. While offering point-to-point directions, the website also offers a discovery options. From here, you enter your starting point, how long you’re willing to trudge, and your modes of transport. Hit enter and up pops a map showing you both your area of reach as well as featured destinations and timely events in that zone. Additionally, the map reveals both Indigo Bike Share locations and bike routes.

“One of the things we are really hoping to accomplish here is to allow people to not only go where we all go everyday, in terms of Center City locations, but actually the natural exhibits and natural places that are a little bit further way but are well worth the trip,” Minott said.

Smarter route planning

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While Google Maps may be great for walking directions in a pinch (Where is the closest Chipotle, stat?!), it has its limitations. Unless you know the city’s roads fairly well, it can often be hard to tell which is of the offered routes is best, other than distance and ETA.

Here is where GoPhillyGo dominates. Whether you are using the website to find directions or to explore what’s around you, it allows you to customize your route for desired qualities, such as safety and intensity. Willing to walk a few miles? Not a problem. Want to stick to bike paths? You can do that, too.

Open sourced software and data

Anyone who drives with a GPS frequently knows that there are always roads that don’t exist, turns that are illegal in all 50 states, and shortcuts that get overlooked. Now you can fix the glitch instead of just cursing at TomTom.

The application is developed by Azavea, a Philadelphia based geospatial analyses firm (they make maps), and runs off a combination of open source software and open data. The software is built using Open Trip Planner, an open source application that started in Portland and now powers transportation applications around the world. Anyone can edit and update the software.

“It’s global in scale and like the Wikipedia of geography,”Azavea GIS Project Manager John Branigan said. “As road infrastructure and the bicycle network grows, Open Street Map will grow with it.”

No mobile app release on the calendar

While a great tool with great potential, GoPhillyGo is currently a desktop-focused program with little mobile compatibility. At the website’s launch event, representatives made it clear that a mobile application is the next obvious step, but a timeline has not been released. Meanwhile, the website does offer a sharing option allowing users to send a link containing an image of the route along with turn-by-turn directions to your email, which can then be accessed anywhere.

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For more information, check out GoPhillyGo’s promotional video below:

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