I think that Google Maps is overlooking a basic function: In the real world, people sometimes go east, and sometimes go west.
Yesterday for the third time in a couple of years I relied upon Google Maps for directions and was sent to the wrong place. Caveat Emptor strikes again.
In Montreal, east-west streets which bisect St. Laurent Boulevard (which, no surprise, goes sort of north-south), start their numbering in both east and west directions from there. Hence you can have two equally valid addresses on a given street, given the proviso that one is designated as “East” and the other “West”. (Hey! It’s Captain Obvious!)
Fortunately, the address I was looking for was 151; during an hour of going around the neighbourhood looking for parking around “151 Laurier” (East as proposed by Google Maps), I found out that that address wasn’t a dépanneur that sells a huge variety of microbrewery beers, and looked like it never was, and finally decided to go further down the street looking for similar businesses. I suddenly had a V-8 moment and realized “Ooops what about 151 Laurier WEST?” I high-tailed it in the opposite direction and found the business in question. And to my disappointment, they were out of the particular beer I was seeking — Weizenbock, by La Brasserie Les Trois Mousquetaires, which has replaced my previous definition of ambrosia, Trois Pistoles by Unibroue.
Twice before I have had similar experiences:
About a year ago, while in Western Canada in completely unfamiliar territory on a business trip, I had looked up a client’s address, and not knowing about any local east/west splits that addresses on the Trans-Canada Highway may have in that locality, I tried to find the address, on the east end of town, that Google Maps had provided; I was about 45 minutes late by the time I finally managed to suspect that my client’s address was a “West” address and got there.
And just to quash any participant in the Peanut Gallery out there about to say “Aha well when using Google Maps you should know that in such cases they’ll always send you to the East address, so be sure to always check both!” a couple of years ago I had looked up a local address for client, and Google sent me to Gouin Boulevard West here in Montreal, a solid 45 minute drive away from my client’s Gouin Boulevard East address.
Now the Peanut Gallery may have a point: In the real world, people sometimes go east, and sometimes go west. And when it comes to using a free online service, you get what you paid for. As such, when looking up an address on any online service, one should notice “Hmmm this is an east-west street which may bisect such and such a street and as such have East addresses and West addresses; I should specify both east and west in my address search.”
But I wonder how many other people place enough faith in Google that under such circumstances — such as when they don’t know that there’s an East and West of a given street — they would reasonably expect in the case that a street has valid East addresses and valid West addresses (and likewise for North and South addresses) that Google’s response page would come back with “Did you mean (A) 151 Laurier East, or did you mean (B) 151 Laurier West?” Certainly Google seems good enough at asking such a question when you slightly misspell a street or city name, or decides that it doesn’t recognize the address you supply and provide you with half a dozen options, as often spread across the country as spread across the city.