Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mapping your way to Groveland-Yosemite

Photo by Terri Metz
A week ago the local newspaper, Union Democrat, published an article on the mapping services, (Mapquest, Google & Yahoo Maps to mention the biggies) and the directions they provide for travelers to get to Yosemite via Groveland and Highway 120.
This is the story:

I started trying to get corrections a few years ago after visitors had shown me the directions they got online that sent them up Old Priest Grade, Down New Priest Grade and up Old Priest Grade again. In writing the information suppliers, I was given contact numbers for the database companies that provide the information, NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas, but was unsuccessful in finding anyone who wanted to help correct the problem. Every few months a new guest would come in with faulty directions and I would follow up again without success.

Heading the Marketing Committee for the Yosemite Chamber of Commerce, I have regularly published the progress through the newsletter and kept the properties informed, encouraging others with similar concerns to team up on them with oodles of similar storied letters hoping that we would get the changes we needed. A few months ago the Union Democrat got my name as a resource for this story.

Researching the story for the the Union Democarat took them to Cal Trans, the Highway Patrol and the companies that provide the databased information. It took Rebecca Howe to introduce herself as a reporter for someone to listen to the problem and get to work fixing it. The story ran on Tuesday, 12/4, and by Friday, 12/7, the Sacramento News 10 television station was in Groveland doing a followup on story. Watch the clip:

Both media teams got the message almost right which was very exciting.

The direction errors that send someone up/down/up the grade need to be fixed and all drivers should be given both options, old and new priest. The implication when using the map companies is that the routes suggested are going to be regular highways, no restrictions. Well our little Old Priest Grade is not good for heavy or long vehicles or those pulling trailors. The pitch of the incline can overheat even the sturdiest of vehicles.

For someone who hasn't been to Groveland or used this route to get to Yosemite, letting them know that there are two options and the pros-cons of each is the better way to be of service to the traveling public. However if they can only offer one set of directions, it should be the set that will qualify all vehicles, unrestricted—and that is New Priest Grade.

We have seen 18 wheeled big rigs on Old Priest, they don't make it to the top. We have seen folks in RV's renting them for their first time and nervous to the point that they can't continue. The new grade, with a far more gentle pitch and big sweeping curves with good visibility and lots of pull off spots is by far the better recommendation if a company can only suggest one route.

Today, December 10th, I heard from Jessica of Mapquest who had called me to let me know that the Priest Grade change would be going through their system this week instead of "within a year" as NAVTEQ quoted for a change to be implemented. We had a lovely conversation and I came to understand a bit more of this process and how unique it is that we are getting this change. Thanks so much to the Union Democrat, Sacramento News 10 and All the folks that wrote those letters! We are heading towards a success.

But....Let's not end it here, lets keep up the communication and follow through with all the routes that aren't quite right for our area and get them submitted for review and correction. Especially now that we know change IS possible! Courious about which route should be next? How about Coulterville to Yosemite, where folks are sent over dirt roads (Cuneo, Jackass Ridge & Merrel) telling them to turn here and there when none of these dirt roads are sign posted.

While the Mapquest interface allows one to click a box to choose non-freeway routes, the implication is that all routes will be regular, class A routes. Maybe someday the mappers will have a box that searchers can click that lets them choose paved roads only. ;) Let's tell them what needs fixing!

NAVTEQ Global Corporate Headquarters/North America
222 Merchandise Mart, Suite 900
Chicago, Illinois 60654
USATel: (312) 894-7000
Home Page:
Map Errors:

Tele Atlas Americas Headquarters
11 Lafayette St.
Lebanon, NH
Tel: (603) 643-0330
Home Page:
Map Errors:

So, this was my media week of fame, first the Union Democrat newspaper, then the Sacramento News 10 local news television. All quite exciting! But for those who are counting, it was only 2 of my 15 minutes!


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