Mike Blumenthal noticed that Google is now showing and highlighting in the search results the service area businesses service directly in the map preview on the right side of the page.
For example, Mike provided a screen shot showing how Google highlighted the service area of this specific A/C company.
Mike provided several other screen shots and you can probably trigger them yourself for searches on local type of keywords, such as [barber shops], [plumbers] and so on. For the service area to be highlighted, the business has to actually provide that data via Google Places.
I am not sure how much of an impact this will have on the searcher, but for people like you and I, this is a bold change.
Forum discussion via Google+.