An isochrone API is a service that generates a polygon showing a reachable area based on a maximum travel time.
We will take a look at a range of different comparison areas, but the table below summarises the main differences between a Mapbox polygon and a TravelTime polygon:
|Mapbox Isochrone API
|TravelTime Isochrone API
|Driving, Walking, Cycling
|Driving, Walking, Cycling, Public Transit
|Maximum Travel Time
|Level of Detail
|GeoJSON, JSON, KML+XML, WKT
|Python, Java, NodeJS, Ruby
|Python, Java, NodeJS, Ruby, R
While the Mapbox Isochrone API supports Driving, Walking, and Cycling modes of transport, the TravelTime Isochrone API supports all of these modes plus Public Transit.
This ability to create catchment areas for public transit is particularly important when looking at urban areas, where this is more likely to be a popular transport choice.
For example,Apartments.com(a TravelTime customer) allows their users to search for rentals within a maximum journey time by public transit from their chosen location. This is perfect for users hunting for an apartment within an easy public transit commute from their office.
Access to public transit polygons through the TravelTime Isochrone API also has the benefit of promoting greener transport options that are not possible when using mapbox to create the polygon.
This allows the environmental impact to be more easily taken into consideration in decisions both by end users (e.g “where should I look for an apartment?”) and businesses (e.g “where should we look for a new office?”).
Maximum Travel Time
Through their Isochrone API, Mapbox can draw a polygon of maximum 1 hour travel time, whereas the TravelTime Isochrone API can generate polygons of up to 4 hours.
In use cases such as logistics planning and trade area coverage, these longer travel times can be particularly useful. For example, if we are operating a fulfillment center in Kansas City, and we want to know where we can deliver to in a maximum of 4 hours, we can use the TravelTime Isochrone API to generate a suitable catchment area:
In contrast, it is not possible to create this 4 hour driving polygon with Mapbox.
Level of Detail
The Mapbox Isochrone API and the TravelTime Isochrone API differ quite significantly when it comes to the detail of the shape that is produced.
Both offer different ways of configuring the granularity settings in each API request, but below we have compared the results when using the default options for each.
Example 1 - a one hour driving isochrone in New York
Example 2 - a 15 minute driving isochrone in New York
A higher level of detail has several potential benefits, but a couple of the biggest ones are:
- More reliable analysis when combined with other datasets- for example, when using an isochrone to filter demographic data, we wouldn’t want to be wrongly including or excluding data based on an overly-simplified shape
- More trustworthy results for end users- for example, when an end user sees that unreachable areas like bodies of water are covered by the isochrone (as can be seen in the 60 minute area from Mapbox), they may lose trust in the results as a whole
Why are there disconnected areas in the TravelTime isochrone?
We only return areas as reachable if it is possible tofinisha journey there. This means that roads/bridges/tunnels that you can drive along but not stop are not included in the reachable shape. This results in disconnected areas where the route involves going along one of these roads and then reaches a junction where it is possible to turn onto a smaller road where stopping is allowed.
Ease of Use
The Mapbox Isochrone API and the TravelTime Isochrone API both offer various tools and features to help make integrating them as easy as possible.
- They each offer adeveloper playgroundwhere the API can be used in an interactive way:
- They each support SDKs in a range of languages:
- Mapbox SDKs- Python, Java, NodeJS, Ruby
- TravelTime SDKs- all of the above, plus R
- In terms ofResponse Format, Mapbox support geojson polygons, whereas TravelTime support GeoJSON, JSON, KML+XML, and WKT formats - these additional formats may be easier to work with for specific use cases
Overall, there are some obvious similarities between the Mapbox Isochrone API and the TravelTime Isochrone API, but there are also some important differences. Based on your use case, having access to public transit isochrones, longer travel times, and more detailed shapes may make TravelTime a more appropriate solution.