Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free Panama map online

The local tourism authority has a digital map online called the ATP GPS map developed by Geoinfo (BVP: GEOI). This company has has been trading its shares since 1994 and has years of experience in gathering the data required for customized Panama maps in different technological formats.

Like all Panama government sites, it has a lot of Flashturbation. Apparently, government big guys are easily impressed by webdesigners but it seems that the issue of bandwidth is never brought up before shelling out taxpayer balboas. The map requires access from a desktop and cannot be used with a PDA Wifi when stopping by a Panama City Hotzone.

Once we deal with that small issue, we went to the menu (the English icon at the right just sends you back to the Spanish menu). The 4 menu items stand for :
Map: Street Map > Satellite Map > Combine Map > Map Index > Stored Views > Description > Print
Navigation: Zoom In > Zoom Out > Main View > Move Map
Tools: Search > Street Search > Route Generator > Neighboring places > Images > Identifier > Bathroom
Help: Help > Home > About

We looked up "Calle 47" (Herramientas > Busqueda de Calles) and got 5 hits. The search is nationwide so we got streets with the same name in Belo Horizonte close to Tocumen Airport, Brisas del Golf (47A Street), Bella Vista (47 East) and Chorrera (47 North and 47 South).

The results came as a surprise because for 40 years everybody who lives in Bella Vista has considered 47 Street East to be a street 3 blocks South of landmark 50 Street, running from HSBC Panama and Ocean Plaza Building to Federico Boyd avenue. So thought the restaurant owners whose businesses are listed in Google when "Calle 47" Panama is searched . According to Geoinfo, 47 Street runs from Via Espana in front of La Cresta to the Miramar Intercontinental Hotel.

Apparently, it gives directions also (Herramientas > Generador de Rutas) but after clicking on the "Crear Rutas" icon, we were asked to "click 'Obtner Direcciones' arriba" on a tab which we never found. The map is called "GPS" but we could not enter directions with GPS coordinates.

The map may not be very good giving directions to the newcomer but we cannot underestimate the task involved in making a very complete inventory of the streets in Panama City suburbs and towns from as large to David and as small as El Real de Santa Maria. This comes handy when going off the beaten path into the Interior - just make sure that all maps that may possibly be needed are printed BEFORE the trip because hi-speed access is hard to come by in the Interior.

Most locations of interest to the tourist (hotels, restaurants, ATMs) appear already on the map as icons. The location shown is more accurate than Google Maps which tends to show items one mile off to the Northeast.

My rating: 4 out of 5

No comments: