Apr 26, 2023 • Blog

Comparing Mapbox Isochrone API vs TravelTime Isochrone API

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An isochrone API is a service that generates a polygon showing a reachable area based on a maximum travel time.

In a previousblog postwe compared the TravelTime Isochrone API to the HERE Isoline API. This time we are taking a look at theMapbox Isochrone API.

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:

Feature Comparison Mapbox Isochrone API TravelTime Isochrone API
Transport Modes Driving, Walking, Cycling Driving, Walking, Cycling, Public Transit
Maximum Travel Time 1 hour 4 hours
Level of Detail Low High
Developer Playground Yes Yes
Response Formats GeoJSON GeoJSON, JSON, KML+XML, WKT
Supported SDKs Python, Java, NodeJS, Ruby Python, Java, NodeJS, Ruby, R

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Transport Modes

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.

Rental search map by Apartments.com

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:

maximum_travel_time

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

MapBox isochrone 60min
TravelTime 60 min isochrone

Example 2 - a 15 minute driving isochrone in New York

mapbox isochrome 15 min
TravelTime isochrone 15 min

A higher level of detail has several potential benefits, but a couple of the biggest ones are:

  1. 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
  2. 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

Summary

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.

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