Random Etc. Notes to self. Work, play, and the rest.

Posts Tagged ‘Transport’

Greetings Tube Fans

Thanks to some curious emails and a couple of dormant Google Alerts, it's come to my attention that the Travel Time Tube Map I made a few years ago has had a sudden resurgence of internet fame. My original blog post informs me that it's over 5 years old. Wow!

I'm not sure who rediscovered it first, but thanks to everyone who's linked to it so far including Fast Co. Design, Creativity Online, Wired UK, PSFK, Roomthily, Inteloquent, OpenStreetMap and numerous Twitter and Facebook users.

The map has been picked up by a few books and exhibitions over the years, including the wonderful Form + Code by Casey Reas and Chandler McWilliams. If you're interested in how this kind of work gets made then the book is essential.

If you're interested in a more thorough theoretical exploration of isochrones I can recommend Nicholas Street's Time Contours paper on the subject. If you find yourself yearning for an even deeper treatment of transit data, look around for people like Mike Frumin who take research far more seriously than I do!

If you want to play around with this code for yourself, it should be relatively easy to fix up for current versions of Processing (probably just the fonts will need updating, please leave a comment if there's anything else) and you can get the data here.

I've had a few requests to update the map with current data, including the East London Line and Heathrow Terminal 5, as well as suggestions to include the overground in south London and elsewhere. Sadly I haven't found a coherent and consistent data source that I could drop-in as a replacement for my hand-edited original. The official Transport for London data sources on data.gov.uk look promising, and I've had a couple of under-the-table offers from people with access to time-table data, but these all require more time and effort than I have for the map at the moment. In future I'd like to move the map to a more 201x format like Canvas or SVG, perhaps porting to Processing JS. Perhaps an app? One day...

Airport Scheduling

It turns out Oakland airport has a form to fill in if you want flight schedule information. I haven't tried it yet, so I'm not sure if they'll respond to casual interest, but it's nice to know they're accessible.

They also have an interesting PDF talking about how to interpret the data. Heathrow had nothing of the sort when I worked with their schedules at my last job. It was more a combination of hearsay, logic and rules of thumb to predict gate assignment there. Good stuff.

Welcome to the Future?

Barclays have launched a combined credit, Oyster and cash payment card for travellers in London (a textbook Greenfield device if ever I saw one). At the moment there are ads for it all over the tube featuring a variety of mocked-up Minority Report-style futurescapes based on present day London. Thanks to Flickr I found that Ned Richards grabbed a couple of snaps of them; he's definitely right that the golf courses aren't as exciting as roller-coasters.

I love this kind of imagery, but my last year of travel has pretty much convinced me that you don't need to mock them up. I haven't been any of the cities that get the most attention for their present day sci-fi realities (Tokyo, Dubai, Shanghai or Singapore), but there are pockets of unevenly distributed future all over the place. Here's a picture I took last week from London's Docklands Light Railway:

Future London? From DLR

And one of the same part of London from the 23rd floor of One Churchill Place:


(apparently it was one of the first skyscrapers to be completed after 9/11 and therefore one with a tough attitude towards security and structure stability, which is good because just over to the right of this photo is London City Airport's runway)

I started thinking about the future-now of Western cities in May when XTech in Paris placed us in a hotel overlooking a tried-and-failed Modernist complex near the Eiffel tower. References to Alphaville were inevitable, the French origins of Parkour were entirely explained.

Paris from the Novotel


I'm not the only one taking these snaps though, my friend Adam took this one in Chicago recently. As if the city-scape there isn't sci-fi enough, his phone camera was kind enough to accidentally filtr it into concept territory, just so:

Welcome to the future.

Typists = £30 per week

Typists = £30 per week, originally uploaded by Just_Tom.

I love it when old bits of London are revealed temporarily. Like this poster at High Street Kensington a few weeks ago.

It may as well say, "Hot blonde in short skirt wanted, for typing and stuff." Any idea of the date?

Historical Blips

Gorgeous writing from Maciej about a flight from New York to Beijing over the North Pole.

"The unreality of jet travel continues to unsettle me. One moment you are in one place, and hours later you have crossed the most insuperable physical barriers by flying high in the atmosphere at nearly the speed of sound, and no one finds this unusual. The sun is over the wrong horizon, everything is different, but life goes on around you like nothing has happened."

I still find it unusual.

The view from an aeroplane window is number one on a very short list of things that I believe will never be tiresome. That air travel is so reliable and so routine strikes me as magic. We're in the middle of a blip in history where for just a few short decades the average altitude of a human being has been infinitesimally raised. The age of affordable consumer flight probably won't, and possibly shouldn't, continue throughout my lifetime. It's hard to see how we can justify it forever, such a significant environmental impact as it has.

We continue to build airports expecting two-to-tenfold increases in passenger numbers, depending on the expected trajectory of your economy. And yet, as the fuel becomes ever more precious and consumer flight declines, flying will once again become the exclusive domain of the rich and famous. The proverbial high-flyers will be the only true jetset left.


Nicholas Street, a recent MEng Computer Science graduate from Imperial College London, posted last week to the mysociety maps mailing list about his final year project work, TimeContours: Using isochrone visualisation to describe transport network travel cost.

His work includes a comparison with my own maps, which he says are "effective prototype implementations, but the unfamiliar unlabelled layout makes it difficult to relate to the underground". Touché! To his credit, Nicholas addresses almost all the deficiencies of my tube maps with his own software and goes significantly further in implementing the same kind of analysis for other transport networks (even including an example of using street data from my friends at OpenStreetMap).

His approach and background reading are covered in detail so the final paper will be a great resource for people working in this area in the future. I do hope he finds time to release the software for us all to use too. As well as the more traditional academic and print references, it's nice to see a hat tip to people putting their thoughts and experiments online such as myself, Rod and Oskar. Whilst a blog is no substitute for peer review and academic rigour, I strongly believe that the more of these ideas we share then the better all our work will become.

MySociety Travel Time maps of the UK

MySociety's Travel Time maps of the UK take a more rigourous and comprehensive look at the same kind of ideas I was exploring with my Travel Time Tube Map (and contours). Lovely results!

Computing for Emergent Architecture

For better or worse, I share my attention between three blogs: this one which syndicates to Processing Blogs, my personal blog Random Etc, and Computing for Emergent Architecture at UCL.

Often the things I write would be equally suitable for all three, so I thought I'd point you at two recent CfEA posts, one on an interesting project called Waiting and one on some thoughts for Real-time Ego-centric Isochronic Maps.

(If you're being completist about your e-stalking, you'll also want to subscribe to OpenGeoData and PintCast - the latter is a new podcast with Steve Coast and friends that is still finding its feet, and is yet to buy a good microphone...)

Tube Travel Contours

A variation on the tube map time travel applet, this version maintains the geographical layout but adds contours to show how long it takes to travel between stations. The contouring method isn't quite right (I should have used 1D textures), but it's good enough to experiment with.

Travel Time Tube Map

I've finally had time to get my Travel Time Tube Map applet to a presentable stage.

Here are a couple of screen shots to compare with Oskar and Rod.

There's a list of desired improvements on the applet page, but the next step for me is plotting this information on the Harry Beck style diagram rather than a geographic map. If anyone knows of a vector format tube map I could use to get me started, please let me know.

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