Mapping routes with hundreds of stops
February 4, 2004 10:50 PM   Subscribe

I Need Super-Mapquest [More inside]

I've worked and volunteered for several campaigns and political organizations; I've done quite a bit of canvassing, and organizing for canvassing. Anyone who's done this should be familiar with the process: take a bunch of addresses, short them, and put them together with a map that the grunts can follow as they walk around.

This is time consuming. It's also subject to human error, and bad human organization. Anyone who's spent any time canvassing has probably had the "a baby threw up on my map" turf: the highlighted areas you're responsible for are small and scattered all over the place.

So, what I want is a program into which I can input hundreds of addresses, and come out with a map that displays the optimal route for getting to them all. My assumption is that, if Mapquest is possible, a program like that wouldn't be too difficult to create; I just don't know if one exists.
posted by Yelling At Nothing to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
There are probably algorithms out there for doing some optimization but before you get your hopes up too high, take a look at this.
posted by vacapinta at 11:05 PM on February 4, 2004

Optimal was the wrong word to use; let me clarify:

The absolute shortest route wouldn't necessarily be required; it would be nice, of course, but simply drawing me a route given a bunch of addresses would work, too. The areas in question should be small enough that a little inefficiency wouldn't be a major concern.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 11:10 PM on February 4, 2004

I'm not aware of a specific application that will do what you want.

But I might suggest contacting your local Univ. and finding a GIS, Mathematics, or Comp. Sci. grad student with an understanding of Dijkstra's Algorithm , access to a rather recent version of GDT's Dynamap Postal Carrier Routes, and who supports your candidate and/or will work for ramen.
posted by cadastral at 2:15 AM on February 5, 2004

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you but won't any mapping software that you buy do this? I thought you could just punch in destinations for your "road trip", hit a button and it would give you options for "scenic route", "fastest route", etc.
posted by dobbs at 7:45 AM on February 5, 2004

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you but won't any mapping software that you buy do this?

I think that what YaN is looking for is a program that combines mapping with database management, in which case you need not only GIS software, but a practitioner who knows how to use it (unless you can find some very basic software which probably will not be robust enough to meet your needs, especially with regard to route mapping.)

MapInfo and ESRI are the leading companies selling GIS software and services. You will probably need to follow cadastral's lead to talk to your Friendly Local University GIS Department (connected to schools of planning, geography, and the like) to elict their assistance. You may be able to find a politically-active student who not only has skills and the motivation to volunteer, but also access to digitized and geocoded (address-matched) maps that you can use.

Good luck, and good canvassing.

(By the bye, if the student is really good, s/he will be able to import the maps and the databases into PDAs, so that you can just walk, canvass, and click.)
posted by Avogadro at 9:01 AM on February 5, 2004

You might want to look at Microsoft MapPoint or a similar program. I know that Streets & Trips from Microsoft allows you to enter in addresses (one at a time) and then have it calculate an optimal route. From what I gather, MapPoint is simply Streets & Trips with database capability for the addresses, so perhaps that might work for you.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 11:12 PM on February 5, 2004

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