Google Maps Now Shows Busy Sections of Neighborhoods — Brooklynian

Google Maps Now Shows Busy Sections of Neighborhoods

In a new update hitting desktop, Android and iOS today, the Google Maps team has done a little design housekeeping to clear some of the clutter and create a cleaner look across the board. While doing away with certain elements like road outlines, the update also adds a new feature that highlights active neighborhoods or "areas of interest."

These areas of interest are now shaded light orange are meant to highlight "places where there's a lot of activities and things to do" like popular business districts or neighborhood strips. According to the Google Maps blog, these areas are determined by "an algorithmic process that allows us to highlight the areas with the highest concentration of restaurants, bars and shops," although some additional human interaction is apparently needed to determine the busiest spots in high-density areas like New York City.

Take a look at areas like Nostrand, Franklin, Washington, and Vanderbilt and you can see that they get a lot of these areas right! It makes for interesting neighborhood watching.


  • Commercial strips!
    Very handy when visiting someplace new and wondering how far where you will be staying is from one...
  • wow. Flatbush is virtually dead according to this. despite intersections like Church & Nostrand looking like a parade went through it on a daily basis.
  • wow. Flatbush is virtually dead according to this. despite intersections like Church & Nostrand looking like a parade went through it on a daily basis.
    If you zoom in on Flatbush, you'll actually see that the businesses are labeled and have the orange color. However they aren't noticeably labeled as commercial strips like some other areas are such as Bedford Ave in Williamsburg.
  • They're going to have to work on their algorithm. They could get sued. Flatbush has something like 1500 businesses. 

    Did anyone see this episode of the Good Wife?

    The setup is this: A Black restauranteur, whose restaurant is in a predominantly Black neighborhood, wants to sue longtime series tech behemoth ChumHum (a Google-type entity) for its newly launched mapping app, ChummyMaps. The app directs users away from “unsafe” neighborhoods and hides businesses, like hers, located in those neighborhoods. But these “unsafe” neighborhoods seem to be all the places where people of color live. She enlists Diane and Cary to make the case.
  • I wonder how they are presently gathering data for their maps.

    For example, if they are only listing districts that have businesses with a large volume of credit card transactions at sit down restaurants, the algorithm is likely to have the effects you describe. 

  • According to Google they're using an algorithm to determine these areas with a high concentration of restaurants, bars, and shops on a larger scale.They also state that in high density areas like NYC they also use a "human touch", my guess is the sheer number of shops and restaurants makes it a bit more difficult so they may have to go through and manually label them. 

    However, I'm not seeing much redlining going on. Malcolm X Blvd is clearly labeled in Harlem, so is Fordham in the Bronx, and the more residential areas of Brooklyn like Canarsie and Mill Basin have a much lower density of shops so they don't appear which is fair to me.

  • Disposable income is often closely tied to zip code.
  • While true, Mill Basin isn't exactly an area with low disposable income, rather it's just very residential and always has been. Same with Canarsie, Flatlands (Old Mill Basin), and many other areas in Southern Brooklyn.
  • Do the residents there choose to eat out and drink a lot?

    Are they often young, and often childless?
  • edited July 2016
    That's a different demographic altogether which shifts your initial argument a bit.

    In the case of Mill Basin I'd say no they aren't young and most often they aren't childless but they do go out a lot, I can speak to it since I lived there for the first 15 or so years of my life.

    To me it's just a marked difference in how southern and northern Brooklyn are. Southern Brooklyn is simply much less commercial and always has been.
  • If I were visiting from out of town, I would want google to tell me that.

    It would influence where I stayed, based on my preferences.
  • I agree this looks shady...  however i am admittedly biased against Google.  They aren't providing maps out of the kindness of their hearts.   

    I much prefer Open Street Maps.

  • I'm confused by your comment. What do you mean they aren't providing maps out of the kindness of their hearts? Also Open Street ironically is a cluttered mess.
  • edited July 2016
    It seems to have gotten better already. Avenue U in Brooklyn is now listed as a commercial area. As early as yesterday, that wasn't the case.

    There's also a ton in southern Brooklyn that have been added in Bay Ridge, Borough Park, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay.
  • Sometimes Google Maps pops up little notifications to interrogate you about places you've been on Android.
  • I'm guessing they are using their user data - people write reviews of restaurants or stores. And people don't tend to do that as much at a Flatbush ave sneaker store as they do at Trader Joe's. So this is still pretty wrong. Flatbush ave between Church and the Junction is the second largest shopping district in Brooklyn next to downtown. 
  • I suspect business owners will fill out forms asking that they be listed.
  • But like I said earlier, more corridors are popping up pretty quickly. This has only been out for a day or two at this point and it should self improve.
This discussion has been closed.