Bike trip planner via Google Earth?

Bike Portland has details of plans by Portland’s Metro transportation planning agency to integrate with Google Earth more deeply than anything else I have seen to date.

Metro’s got all of Portland’s bike paths available for download as KML, but now they’d also like to provide a trip planner for bikes using these paths, just like the trip planner that already exists for cars on roads. This sounds like it would take some work on Google’s end, and it doesn’t seem to be a done deal just yet, but Metro is asking for feedback:

Note: the trip planner is not yet available. Metro is exploring the use of this technology. Tell us what you think.

I wonder if there is a core trip-planning technology Google has that can then be adapted to arbitrary path topologies, or do trip planners for roads come riddled with exceptions to avoid nonsense results? If it’s the former case, then the work of providing a trip planner for bikes might involve little more than properly meshing a path network to a generic trip-planning API, and if that is the case, then perhaps soon anyone will be able to create their own trip planner services. But now we’re purely speculating.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. I wonder, would such a trip planner be sophisticated enough that it can use Google Earth’s altitude data to calculate gradients, and then offer cyclists is San Francisco the least upwardly steep route among its options?

2 thoughts on “Bike trip planner via Google Earth?”

  1. Hey. I’ve implemented a least-hilly bicycle trip planner for Seattle using USGS 10-meter-resolution elevation data and TIGER/line roadmap, and plot the results in a website using Google Maps. You can play with it here:

    Email me and tell you all about the backend. It makes me sort of giddy to see this post here: you’re jumping a certian gun on publicizing this.

  2. Oh that is mighty sweet. And it’s obvious, in retrospect, that this is the future of intelligent trip planning.

    You can probably guess what my feature request will be: converting the route to KML and viewing it in Google Earth, because there you you can actually see your route avoiding the hills. Perhaps you might consider exporting all three varieties as one KML file, depending on how your server takes it.

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