The Fairmount Web Spot

The Google Map of Fairmount

the problem (21 february 2009)

Google Satellite Map of Fairmount south of Tyler Street, with the fictional Johnson Street in translucent white.

Here is the Google map of Fairmount.

I first noticed something was wrong around the first of the year when I looked at the Google map of my home town and found myself looking at a street that simply does not exist. The street was on the map. When I brought up the satellite view, it showed the fictional street superimposed on plowed fields, back yards, even straight through someone's house. And Sycamore Street was extended into a plowed field to meet with Johnson. You can see for yourself in the first image.

Johnson Street does not exist. It has never existed. The street is on plat maps to show where lots should be laid out if the street ever came about. But that plat was laid out in the Gas Boom days. The only street in that part of town that was ever developed was Main Street, as the first image shows.

I bring this up because I have loved maps since my childhood days, and have always believed that maps should accurately reflect the land, water, streets and buildings depicted on them. If a map does not, then it is a lie and a worthless deceit. The Google map of Fairmount was an accurate map of the town until the first of the year, perhaps before. Now it is a useless mess.

Google Map of Fairmount with alleys and nonexistent streets marked in red.

Whoever planned the Google map of my home town — and it is probably not anyone at Google, as it relies on outside sources for its map data — was deceived by one of those plat maps I mentioned. It is because of this that the following errors of streets that don't exist, now or ever, have appeared.

The discrepancies are clear when you compare the Google map to the satellite image of the town. Or, click on the thumbnail at left for a copy of the Google map with the discrepancies marked in red, indicating streets that do not exist as well as alleys and driveways that should not be on the map. In fact, there is a whole block that is depicted as a street.

the solution (2 june 2009)

I mentioned when I first wrote up this page that Google Maps gets its data from other sources. The chief source is a firm called TeleAtlas.

TeleAtlas has a feature on its site, where you can report problems with its map data. I tried it out to get Johnson Street off the Fairmount map. I got the following reply.

Your report either lacked necessary data or described an imprecise geographic location such that we cannot be sure that we have resolved the problem.

This made no sense to me at all, because I thought I was being precise. I dropped the matter and wrote this page to warn others of Google's inaccurate map.

A few months later, in mid-May, I tried again, this time with a series of defects to the Fairmount map.

Johnson Street
This does not exist.
Fairmount Avenue
This does not exist between Washington Street and Eighth Street.
Cottonwood Street
This does not exist beyond Ninth Street.
Fifteenth Street
There is such a street, even if it is short.
Exerpts of the Google Map of Fairmount with problems left to be resolved

On most of them I got the same answer; and yet there has been some action. Johnson Street is gone, and the fantasy streets and Cottonwood Street north of Ninth Street are removed.

But there is still work to be done. The phantom Fairmount Avenue between Washington Street and State Road 26 is the main fault, and Fifteen Street needs to be added. Also, all those alleys need to go: They are not thoroughfares and should not be included.

the restoration (12 october 2009)

I checked Google Maps while computing a trip to Ivy Tech in Marion for an examination. I have discovered that the Google Map of Fairmount has been fully restored to how the streets are really laid out.

It took awhile, badgering TeleAtlas to remove those nonexistent streets based on those fantasy plat maps (see below). But now Google is as accurate as those on Mapquest and Yahoo!, both of which do not waste their time on official streets that do not exist. It was a struggle, but well worth the fight.

google street view

View Larger Map

I suspect that my badgering TeleAtlas was just one reason for the restoration of Google's Fairmount map. Here is another, more probable reason.

I have always wondered whether Google will ever bother to take Street View to Fairmount. It is, after all, the home of James Dean and the site of the annual village festival in his name. A lot of people will want to know their way around.

Then, when I looked at the Google Map of Fairmount, it was surprisingly accurate now. Even the assigning of State Road 109 to the whole of State Road 9 (which I found ridiculous but did not report) has been fixed.


Google Streets has visited Fairmount!

The Google magic van has driven down Main Street, Washington Street, Fourth Street, Eighth Street (State Road 26) and Barclay Street. Here is a view of the downtown on the left (for those of you who can view it).

why did this happen at all?

As to how TeleAtlas made such a hash of the map of Fairmount in the first place, I can only surmise that it must have visited the Grant Count Web site and its interactive plat map.

That is the problem with plat maps: They are meant to depict how property is divided up within a city, town or township. They are not an accurate reflection of how the streets and property lines are actually laid out.

Sometimes they even refer to streets by their original names long forsaken. Washington Street started its existence as Main Cross Street (see the plat map on this page). It is still called that on the plat descriptions.

Thus, there was a Johnson Street intended for the land south of Tyler Street. It was never built. But legally it still exists, because it was drawn up into the plat by whoever granted the land to the town.

Why the alleys and the phantom Fairmount Avenue were in the plat map, however, is a mystery.

Copyright © 2013 by Andy West. All rights reserved. Last updated 11 August 2013.