tedster - 5:42 pm on Sep 30, 2011 (gmt 0)
Maps are not really the province of this forum (they belong in our Local Search forum) - but you bring up several points that are interesting from an organic SEO point of view about the changes in the + - " area.
I'd say this change (and it has been gradual, not all in one stroke) is part of catering to the average Google user over the power user.
Another factor is that Google seems to have stepped up the speed of their usual "rapid iteration". Changes are getting pushed live even faster, and then gradually tweaked to remove the errors over time. They always operated this way, but now it seems even more intense.
Frustrating for the power user? Oh yes.