Trying to measure inconvenience

I have a question: What two places in the United States are the most inconvenient to travel between?

Saunter down this path with me for a minute.

First, let’s set some constraints. We’re talking transport via road. Start and End destinations must be on a road. We don’t have helicopters, boats, or jetpacks. We also don’t have ferries  – we’re going to assume you must travel on your own time schedule – you can’t depend on a ferry or a train because one might not be there when you need to travel. Lastly, we’re going to travel via GoogleMaps; this makes examples testable.

Let’s define inconvenience as distance of travel required divided by the distance it would take if you could go direct.

How far apart the locations are in driven mile / How far the two destinations are apart as the crow flies

Here are some of the ones I have found so far:

Grand Canyon
210 : 10.18
Inconvenience = 20.63

Long Island
191 : 8.78
Inconvenience = 21.75

Chesapeake Bay
131 : 5.46
Inconvenience = 23.99

Near Seattle
218 : 3.95
Inconvenience = 55.19

So… it’s pretty obvious by targeting Ferry routes you can nail inefficient locations. I’d be interested to see if there’s a way to do this with the inclusions of Ferries.

ASIDE – don’t you think the inconvenience equation should have some sort of scale? Doesn’t it seem less impressive at greater distances? If I’m 1 mile from where I need to go, but it takes me 10 miles of travel, that seems more impressive than if I’m 10 miles apart and it takes me 100 miles to get from A to B… I’m not sure. I think there should be some sort of logarithmic scaling, but I’m not sure the best way to do this.

As for targetting locations on the map, this is something I imagine Patrick being really good at.
Any recommendations for even more inconvenient destinations Patrick?

6 thoughts on “Trying to measure inconvenience

  • 10/3/2016 at 2:47 pm

    In my regular life, there’s one that comes to mind: from the softball fields to the brewery that we oftentimes go to after games. It’s a 6.13 mile drive, but it’s just 1.11 miles away. Inconvenience factor of 5.5. But looking at the map of that area, I found one with a 5.8 mile drive, but an 0.08 mile actual distance. That’s an inconvenience factor of over 72. ( ), and that was one of the first places I looked. I’m sure there are other similar locations at the far-flung ends of adjacent suburban developments.

    I’m sure I could do lot better, too. What about rural roads that go over/under highways without onramps? That’s the exact same location latitude/longitude, but just a matter of feet vertically. And you could bring the inconvenience factor to infinity with one-way streets (eg: you’re a micron past your address on a one-way, street, so you have to go ’round the block).

    Therefore, I’m more impressed with greater distances. Where are the areas that are worthwhile enough to build roads to, but not worthwhile enough to build convenient roads (bridges/tunnels) to connect them? You’ve listed several good ones (Puget Sound, Grand Canyon, Long Island). We’ve been to Iceland a few times now, and there’s a pretty high inconvenience factor when you’re driving around all of the fjords. Some of the fjords aren’t that wide, but they are tall enough where you have do drive all the way around the end to get to the other side. And there aren’t enough people to justify the expense of tunnels everywhere.

    What’s a coincidence about this is that yesterday we had an orienteering race in a corn maze, and I was the race designer, and I put some checkpoints that were really really really close to each other as the crow flies, but you had to figure out a long way to get there legimately.

    • 10/3/2016 at 3:15 pm

      Great point on long distances. And you’re one-way argument is very clever. I think there have got to be a few with topographical monsters amongst the rockies or through Appalachia, but I’d be hard pressed to find them. Inconveniences coming from the mississippi river could prove curious as well.

      Orienteering race through a corn maze? Nice.

  • 10/3/2016 at 8:22 pm

    Yeah, the more I think about it, I think using ratios is going to skew things short. I found one in eastern Washington that takes 117 miles to go 1 mile. Is that more or less impressive than the 219 miles it takes to go around Puget Sound between roads at Fort Worden State Park and Fort Casey State Park (3.6 miles)?

    Ferries would shorten both. There are the ferries across Puget Sound, but there are actually some river ferries in the state ferry system. The 117 miles goes around Lake Roosevelt (a reservoir on the Columbia), and there are two river ferries that would shorten it considerably.

  • 10/4/2016 at 11:07 am

    Not in the US, but Canada and that’s close enough, eh? This one is 307:1 ( ), though you’d probably need a 4×4 vehicle, couldn’t do it in winter, and timewise it would probably be easier to take a longer route with a higher ratio.

    In this case, Google won’t even acknowledge “Avoid Ferries” without coaxing it with intermediate farther destinations. I agree that a shorter distance might only seem more impressive since you can see your start and end points so easily as the crow flies. Total inconvenience time is probably more impressive.

    • 10/4/2016 at 1:47 pm

      Using that same lake, if you go from Shelter Bay, BC to Galena, BC, it’s 4.4 km straight line across the ferry. But it’s 950km if you take roads around to the “north” (which still requires you to go almost to the US), and 1185km if you take roads around the south end of Upper Arrow Lake. This is skipping several short ferry options, so you’d have to have Rainman levels of boat paranoia to choose these.


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