MONTREAL, Que. – Old maps get some people cross-eyed with excitement, but dynamic maps, like the one Transports Quebec has on its Web site, are where it’s at for jacked-in truckers. Its route map, updated on March 15, is the most...
MONTREAL, Que. – Old maps get some people cross-eyed with excitement, but dynamic maps, like the one Transports Quebec has on its Web site, are where it’s at for jacked-in truckers. Its route map, updated on March 15, is the most current of its several electronic maps designed for the trucking industry.
It offers a way to see all of Quebec’s highways at a variety of scales that would normally require an armload of paper maps.
The entire province and its key highways are visible at a scale of one centimetre equals 200 kilometres (1:200 km). Or, double left-clicking your mouse lets you dive-bomb into any area until street names appear at 1:200 metres. You can keep on auguring in until swimming pools and large family dogs are clearly visible at 1:6 m.
There are a number of useful functions, but before getting to that, here’s where to find the map: Google the Transports Quebec Web site and hit the drop-down menu Companies, then Trucking (Entreprises/Camionnage). At the bottom of the page in the See Also (Voir Aussi) box is the link to the map. In an odd little French/English burp, the page with the maps is only in French (see “Reseau de camionnage sur les routes du Quebec” and click “visualizer la carte dynamic”). The tools on the map proper, however, are labeled only in English.
The key that explains the four route colours is only in French, but no problem. Green routes are authorized for heavy vehicles, with few restrictions. Yellow routes have some restrictions; ie., weight restrictions, insufficient headroom or nasty twists and turns. Brown routes have even more restrictions; ie., time of day. Red routes are off limits to trucks.
There are four groups of functions: Tools, Base Map, Options and Navigation. The Navigation functions slide the map around and control the zoom, but it’s easier to use your mouse: Left click, hold it down and drag your mouse around the room to pull the map across the page. Double left click to zoom in and double right click to zoom out. A handy button for quickly leaping around the province is ‘Zoom to.’ Click it, and a drop-down list of Quebec territories; ie., Montreal or Outaouais appears.
Click one and the map jumps to that area.
Options and Base Map offer minor amusements, but Tools is more fun. A little push-pin button lets you make notes on the map section you’ve selected; ie., “Saw three moose here!” Using the e-mail function, you can then share your marked-up maps.
A distance-measuring function suggests all sorts of possibilities. Unlike some distance tables, which spit out trip length based only on the origin and destination you select, this function adds up all the legs of a run. This seems particularly useful for, say, working out the shortest total distance for a milk run in a city.
I used it to investigate an alternate route truckers are using to avoid the A-30 tollbooth. Driving toward Montreal from the Ontario border, lots of truckers are taking Exit 14, heading south on route 201 to the A-530 eastbound and then catching the eastbound A-30. The only inconvenience is seven traffic lights in Valleyfield.
The distance function tells me that Exit 14 to the 530/30 interchange is 17.3 kms. The other way, taking the A-30 exit off the A-20, through the tollbooth and down to the 530/30 interchange is 23.5 km – 6.2 kms longer and 75 cents per axle more expensive.
The map’s entertainment value alone offers salvation to bored truckers with a laptop and Web access (you have to be online to use it). There are several more functions that add power and convenience to this map. Too, since the highways are overlain on a Google map of the world, you can make unauthorized excursions outside the province to anywhere. I made a quick trip to Cuba, and then flew over sandy Africa, for example, sans passport. Using the distance function again, you can measure up anything you want; ie., did you know that Anticosti Island, out in the mouth of the Saint Lawrence, where all those tasty little deer are, is 223 kilometres long? Did you know that the Gulf of Mexico is about 1,656 kms wide? This map makes studying geography darn near fun. I test-drove the map for several hours, on four different machines: It worked great on my desktop (iMac) and laptop (Macbook Pro). It crashed miserably on my iPod. Things went well on a borrowed iPad until I couldn’t turn off the distance calculator.
The next time you are killing time in a hot zone, take it for a spin.