Sunday, 11 December 2005

London Underground tube map by travel time

For those who've not encountered it yet, Oskar Karlin's Tube map measured by travel time is very interesting and useful - an ingenious and well-executed idea. You can download it in PDF - there are different versions, that's the best one in my view.

It's obvious when you see it, though harder to describe in words. He's overlaid onto a Tube map "contour lines" based, not on the traditional height above sea level, but on "distance" in terms of travel time (in 5 minute intervals - 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes etc) from Elephant & Castle Tube station. Very helpful for figuring out rough travel times to different stations. Obviously more useful if you start from the Elephant than elsewhere! It was part of a student project and the Elephant was where his college was based, hence that starting point.

As he says in his blog post, Mr Karlin has capitalised on the key fact that today time is the scarcest commodity for many of us, and that when it comes to travelling people generally think in terms of travel time, not distance. I certainly do: I won't take on a weekly commitment if the venue is more than an hour's travel away for me, irrespective of physical distance (in London, for me at least, an hour each way is about the average "distance" in terms of time for most of my regular commitments). But if I have to go somewhere only once a month, I might be OK with up to an hour and a half of travel time, etc.

Some caveats. The map was drawn around the end of 2003 so it may be a bit out of date. As mentioned, it only gives the times from the Elephant. Mr Karlin also seems to have estimated the times himself, it's not clear exactly how (but if he did the travelling it must have taken him forever). Plus, for reasons he's explained (logical for him maybe, but sadly less so for users of the map!), he hasn't followed the traditional colours in his map e.g. red for Central Line. He has put up a version with the usual colours but unfortunately that doesn't include the "contour lines" which are what makes it useful. Perhaps if there is more demand he'll be kind enough to produce one...

I'd also join in with those who would like:
  • a map with the Tube lines matching the original colours e.g. yellow for Circle Line
  • incorporation of official travel times (actual ones, not optimistic London Underground estimates!), with realtime updating of the database for live up to the minute travel times (what with near constant signal failures and other delays on various lines etc) - or, as Kosso has suggested in a comment, harness the power of people, the Net and aggregation ("social timemarking", perhaps, to coin a phrase): " I can see a way where I could use OPML with a suggested ‘time’ attribute to store and display this data on their maps. It wouldn’t be too difficult to provide an interface for people to add to this data, aggregating different travellers’ experiences and the time it took to get from A to B."
  • an interactive version, based on a database, where you can (say) enter your chosen start and end stations, or better still (as Bill commented) generate a map centered on your chosen station on request
  • ideally something which factors in interchange time.
I hope that London Underground and other travel networks take this concept on board and design and provide maps, ideally interactive ones, like this.

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Tom Carden said...

I think my experimental interactive travel time tube map (inspired by Oskar's map) meets about half of your requests.

Interchange times are tricky though...

Anonymous said...

I have heeded your request and created

The database is currently empty, but allows you to put in travel times between any Tube or DLR station. Please start filling it with data, and I will then be able to generate maps of people's average journey times!

Improbulus said...

Thanks guys, very cool. I'll post about both those shortly and spread the word!