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Pictou residents upset with Google Maps leading ferry traffic to their front door

Billy Pope, who lives on the corner of Spring Point Lane and Three Brooks Road near Caribou, N.S., said misguided motorists looking for the Caribou-Wood Islands ferry are being led to his driveway and neighbouring lane, which is wreaking havoc with their properties and causing safety concerns.
Billy Pope, who lives on the corner of Spring Point Lane and Three Brooks Road near Caribou, N.S., said misguided motorists looking for the Caribou-Wood Islands ferry are being led to his driveway and neighbouring lane, which is wreaking havoc with their properties and causing safety concerns.

CARIBOU, N.S. - Okay Google, pay attention.

Spring Point Lane is not home to the Northumberland Ferries terminal, known to many as the Caribou-Wood Islands ferry.  

The half dozen residents who live on the rural lane know this, as do most people in Pictou County, but anyone using the Google Map app on their phone or computer could be easily led astray.

“I am not very computer savvy, but when you type in Caribou Ferry, it brings you right down here and you go down Spring Point Lane,” said Billy Pope, who lives on the corner Spring Lane and the Three Brooks Road.  

A quick Google Maps search for “Northumberland Ferries in Caribou,” or “P.E.I. ferry,” takes motorists to the correct destination, but anyone who types in “Caribou ferry” is led to Cara Van Veen’s driveway down Spring Point Lane.

VanVeen said residents living on the gravel roadway noticed unusual traffic on the lane last summer, but it seems to have increased even more this year.

“It was quite a few once it started last summer, “ she said, “and I know this summer there is more and more.”

She said some stop and ask where the ferry terminal is, but most people will turn around once they realize that they are in the wrong location.

However, when they turn, they often drive over lawns or make dangerous manoeuvres onto the roadway.

“They go down there and they shouldn’t be going down there in the first place, but the thing that aggravates me is that when they come up, they cut across my lawn,” said Pope. “They are digging my lawn to pieces.”

He said most of the misguided traffic happens in the morning, with often between five and 10 motorists each day getting lost looking for the ferry terminal.

“You can see how close we are to the corner, and they drive like hell by here and I am scared to death there is going to be an accident,” he said.

Pope said he has helped people back out of the lane, and VanVeen said she has used Google Translate in order to give instructions to non-English speaking people on how to find the ferry terminal, which is about a kilometre from their homes.

The residents said some of the motorists are unhappy — others are panicked — when they reach the dead-end lane and are unable to find the terminal.

“They aren’t too pleased when they have to find a place to turn around,” said Pope. “The other day I had a guy go down with a motor home and I helped him get out because I was scared he was going to turn into the pond.”

[GPS leads tourists to dead-end en route to Keji Seaside]

Surprisingly, he said, most of the traffic turning into the lane comes from the direction of the ferry terminal, meaning people would need to drive by it before coming to his neighbourhood.

When he looked on Google Maps, he said the route to the Caribou ferry shows traffic travelling along the Trans-Canada Highway, but it directs them to turn right onto Ferry Road and then take a left on Three Brooks Road until they find Spring Lane. There are large bold letters on the screen with a red marker showing people where the Caribou ferry is located.

Pope said not everyone who travels down the lane is from out of the country. Recently, he had a woman from Prince Edward Island stop on Spring Lane after following the electronic directions.

Residents have put signs at the end of their driveways with an arrow and the letters, PEI, written on them, but no one seems to pay attention, said Pope, adding plenty of roadside signage directs people to the PEI ferry.

“You would think that when they come to the end of this road and see the signs that (a resident) put out, they would realize it, but they don’t,” he said. “They are looking at that electronic contraption. You think of it now.  Every young person today goes by that, and you will go where it takes you.”

Pope and VanVeen both contacted Google in hopes of getting the ferry address corrected, but Pope only received an email in return saying the situation would be reviewed. He also contacted his county councillor, Darla MacKeil, who put a motion forward during a recent council committee meeting to send a letter to Google asking that the change be made on the electronic map.

VanVeen also contacted Northumberland Ferries, and was told the matter would be handed over to its human resources department.

A Northumberland Ferries employee directing traffic at the Caribou terminal on Tuesday said she hasn’t heard any complaints about people ending up on Spring Point Lane, but she’s heard that some people who type in P.E.I. expecting to end up on the Confederation Bridge, instead land at the ferry terminal.

Luke Young, owner of Lucas Technology in Pictou, said it’s easy to see how such mistakes happen, considering that the world can be a crowded place and digital maps can be detailed and granular.

“I use my technology extensively anywhere I am going and it is very helpful, but there are enough times when it is not,” he said. “People get lost. I have heard stories of people wandering around random places in the United States and not getting back.”

A quick Google search of people gone astray comes up with stories of a woman lost in the Grand Canyon for five days and a man in Newfoundland who was led to a back road in the middle of a snowstorm while looking for the Gander airport.

“Be cautious and you shouldn’t trust technology 100 per cent,” he said. “The communication outage a few weeks ago showed us how much we rely on technology.”

He said residents can contact Google to have the mapping changed, but he has had little success in the past with contacting the Internet company.  

In the end, Young said, the best solution for the residents might be to rely on larger signs that specifically state, “Stop, this is not P.E.I.”


By Sueann Musick

The News

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