No one wants to get stuck in traffic or in a crowd of people while out and about. A new Google Maps feature helps us avoid busy areas – here’s everything you need to know
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Google Maps has evolved over the years to become much more than tool for easy navigation. One of its recent features lets you find out how busy an area before heading there.
Getting stuck in a busy traffic or crowds is inconvenient at any time, but during a pandemic it can be quite anxiety-inducing as well.
The new “Area Busyness” feature on Google Maps helps solve this issue by highlighting when an area in your neighbourhood or part of your city is busiest, so you can plan your trip in a way that avoids the crowds. Here’s how to use the feature.
What is the “Area Busyness” feature and how to use it
The ‘busyness’ icon appears when you zoom into an area on the map, when the scale reads around 2,000 feet or one kilometre. When the area comes into view, the orange Busy Area icon begins to pulse.
If you tap the icon, you will be able to see information about the area, including a bar graph showing how busy it is at the current time and a note about how the current number of people compares to the average day and hour.
The feature allows you to scroll through each day of the week to see the typical crowd levels, which means you can plan your trips in advance when crowd levels are lower.
This information screen also offers directions for how to get to the area in question. Maps automatically saves your last chosen mode of transportation, but you can also tap Directions to change it.
Another element is the “plus code” feature, which is a string of six or seven numbers or letters with the town or city name. You can save this code and copy into the Map app’s search box to find a particular place again and navigate there.
How is the busyness of an area calculated?
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While the “Area Busyness” feature is relatively new, busyness information has been part of Google Maps since 2016. You could find the information by simply tapping a particular place on the maps.
Later, Google Maps also introduced indicators such as “Usually as busy as it gets” and “Usually not too busy” under location names.
This information was based on a combination of live busyness trends from places in an area, like stores, restaurants, parks, cafes, and more to determine its overall busyness level.
Google used data from users who have opted in to Google Location History, which is off by default. Details like popular times, wait times, and visit duration are shown for the business if it gets enough visits from these users, but this can’t be added manually to your location and will appear only if Google has sufficient visit data for the business.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.