Archive for the 'Transportation' Category

WalkScore Heat Maps

Anyone who lives in a city can tell the walkable neighborhoods–with a vibrant street scene, welcoming shops and restaurants, and high accessibility–from the remote, cold office and industrial complexes that are the bane of urban living.  Since July 2007, WalkScorehas been quantifying and mapping the “walkability” of neighborhoods throughout the country.

The map above is a “heat map” walkability chart of Seattle, one of WalkScore’s most recent additions.  The site’s algorithm plots the locations of businesses, restaurants, shops, and other popular destinations block by bloc across a city.  Red areas are car dependant, meaning that there are a small number of accessible destinations spread out across a large area.  Green areas are just the opposite–lots of destinations in a smaller area.

The map of Seattle shows how the neighborhoods vary in their walkability, with downtown and the north-central part of the city registering high walk scores, and the coastal and southwest parts of the city registering low walk scores.  Click here or on the picture above to see the full, zoomable map.

For folks without cars, try to live in the green neighborhoods–it means you can accomplish most of your errands on foot!

[via Greater Greater Washington]


Mondays with Minard: Wine and Liquor in a Land of Luxuries

France has always been a cultural trendsetter, from the architecture of Versailles to the fashions of modern Paris.  French wine and other spirits hold an important place in the French cultural pantheon, and Charles Joseph Minard sought to map how they were manufactured and shipped across the country.  Today’s map, the next in our ongoing “Mondays with Minard” series, shows the major land and water thoroughfares for wine and spirits across France in the mid 1800s.

Minard plots land transport via railroads in pink, and river transport via boat in green.  Yellow lines represent overseas exports.  Minard drew each line to represent 100,000 tons for each 33 millimeters of thickness.  Click here or on the picture above to see an enlarged version of the map.

The map shows how clearly Paris was the nexus of the French transportation system.  Most of the French-made wine and spirits were destined for consumption there, but even the little that was exported usually had to pass through the city before reaching its final destination. 

French rivers, particularly the Garonne, carried in large amounts of wine and spirits until they reached major cities like Bordeaux where they could be loaded on railroad cars for easier transport.  The same phenomenon is visible with Rouen on the Seine.

The map also shows how, even in an industrialized country like France, wine and spirits sometimes had to travel hundreds of miles down relatively small rivers until they could reach the first major node in the rail network.

This is a post in our continuing “Mondays with Minardseries, exhibiting Charles Joseph Minard’s excellent cartographic handiwork.  This map was photographed specifically for use here at Cartographia from the collections of the Library of Congress.  Feel free to reproduce the map in any way you wish, but please cite us as the source. 

Lights Out in DC

The power is out all across downtown Washington, DC this morning resulting in major commuter delays, traffic accidents, and stranded workers.  These problems are being compounded by a pair of probably unrelated fires on DC’s Metro system.  Even the White House is running on emergency generator power.

The Washington Post has produced a map of the affected area, above.  The scale of the outage is enormous–approximately 40 blocks according to some reports.  Every subway line in the city has stations in the affected area.

Click here or on the picture above to see a larger map of the outage.

Traveling on Public Transport

Most people are familiar with maps of public transport systems, including subway and bus maps, but although these maps show the extent of the transportation systems they represent, they do not show the amount of time it takes to get from origin to destination.  And as any commuter knows, the time it takes to make a morning commute has a direct relationship to home prices, with homes closer to commercial hubs frequently costing more than those farther away.  These of travel times and home prices can be mapped to show important relationships of real estate and public transportation.

In 2006, the UK Department of Transport approached to produce maps of public transport travel time using publicly available data.  They leveraged this data to produce a series of time maps that functioned like common topographical charts, with contour lines representing half-hour time intervals, and highlighted with colors to further emphasize the differences.  The map above represents travel time from central London using only public transport, with red areas being accessible more quickly, and those in blue requiring more time to get to.  Click here or on the picture above to see a larger image of the map.

This map shows at a glance how residents of central London can easily move about the city fairly quickly, but that residents of far-out suburbs may have a more lengthy commute if they live farther away from the points of quick access that surround train stations.  For example, although it is relatively close to central London, the areas around Richmond Park, to the southwest, are much more inaccessible by public transport than areas further out served by commuter trains, as indicated by islands of red in a sea of yellow and blue.

The UK Department of Transport, impressed by MySociety’s work, came back to them in 2007 and asked them to improve the maps and relate them to additional data.  They were then able to relate commuting time to local housing prices, developing a set of interactive maps with sliders to show how housing costs related to commute time to three locations in central London. 

For these maps, MySociety revised the “heat map” scheme and simply darkens the areas that meet the requirements set by the sliders.  Click on the picture above to see two of these interactive maps of travel time and home price.

These maps provide valuable data to help people decide where to live or travel depending on where they need to commute to every day.  Imagine if maps like these existed for New York City, Washington DC, and other US metropolitan areas.  They would provide potentially revolutionary ways for people to see where to live and work, and provide valuable information for improving and understanding the impact of public transportation systems.

Running on Fumes

With the double-whammy of spiking gas prices and Memorial Day holiday trips, America is facing a “perfect storm” of fuel costs.  However, gas prices vary in different parts of the country depending on a variety of factors such as proximity to refining facilities and state-level gas taxes.  To show these fluctuations, the folks over at have developed a detailed temperature map of gas price averages by county.

The map of U.S. gas prices crosses the spectrum of colors, with green representing the lowest gas prices (<$3.68/gallon) and red representing the highest (>$4.14/gallon).  Wyoming and Arizona are among the cheapest places to buy gas; and California, Michigan, and Connecticut are among the most expensive.  The Great Plains and the Gulf Coast have moderate to less-expensive gas prices, whereas the Midwest and Upstate New York suffer from higher prices.

Click here or on the picture above to see the full U.S. gas price temperature map.  And click here to see a Canadian gas price temperature map from the same people.

Information discovered via Jalopnik.

The Golden State Bullet Train

Modern high-speed rail travel hasn’t caught on dramatically in the United States as it has in Europe and Japan.  The exception is the Northeast corridor, between Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, served by Amtrak’s Acela Express Train.  But now, California is looking to create its own statewide high-speed train system to ease congestion and improve the state’s environment.  If built, the California High Speed Train System would connect the state’s major cities with a state-of-the-art transportation conduit for people and goods.

The map above shows a segment of the proposed train lines crisscrossing California.  Click here or on the picture above to see a full route map.  You should also click here to explore an excellent interactive route map that allows you to plot distance, time, and cost of travel between any two of the proposed stations.  Cleverly, the map also shows the pounds of CO2 saved for each trip plotted. 

A few examples:  a trip from San Jose to Irvine would take 2 hours and 45 minutes and cost $55.  San Francisco to Los Angeles would take 2 hours and 38 minutes and save 325 pounds of CO2.  Like the fist example, this trip would also cost $55, compared to $126 for a flight and $86 by car, according to the map.  The longest possible trip on the system–Sacramento to San Diego–would cover nearly 600 miles in 3 hours and 35 minutes, for only $68. 

To build the train system, California voters will have to pass a $9.95 billion bond proposal on the November 2008 ballot.  The state government is pulling out all the stops to convince voters to support the proposal.  The project’s website claims the trains will create 450,000 new jobs, eliminate 10,000 automobile accidents per year, save 22 billion barrels of oil per year, and attract tourists and business to less accessible parts of the state.  The site also includes snazzy videos that show gleaming trains speeding across California rural landscapes dotted with environmentally friendly wind turbines:

America has lagged behind much of the rest of the world in developing high-speed trains like those California is proposing.  If the studies are to be believed, these trains can reduce congestion, improve the environment, and make it easier and more affordable for people to commute and travel long distances.  Whether it succeeds or not, California’s plan is on the right track.  If the system is built, it may rightly spur other states to develop similar transit plans.

I found the original information on this train system via Greater Greater Washington.

The Boston Rapid Transit Map: 1954

I came across this interesting map of the Boston rapid transit system via Greater Greater Washington.  Unlike later subway and rapid transit maps, this map from 1954 holds to a more realistic depiction of the surface area covered by the system.  In this case, the map is superbly detailed with miniature pictures of major Boston landmarks, and of the railway stations themselves.  Look closely and you’ll even notice tiny trains drawn onto the tracks. The railway map is over an outline of the Charles and Mystic Rivers and the Boston Harbor. 

As mentioned in an earlier post, later subway and transit maps compensated for the increased complexity of their systems by reverting to more abstract and unrealistic depictions of both their own networks and the territory they covered.  This map making methodology is still used today in the world’s more complicated transit systems, but this map shows how things used to be back in the day.

The legend suggests that this map used to be colored, but it still shows great detail even in black and white.  The map was created by the Richard F. Lufkin Company, which seems to have gone out of business (I can’t find any listings of them).

Click here or on the picture above for a full sized picture.

Zoning Out

Today is May 1.  To most folks around the world, that means Labor Day or May Day.  To most Americans, it’s just another day.  Except if you live in Washington, DC, where May 1, 2008, means Meter Day.

On October 17, 2007, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty announced that the city’s cabs would be switching from the old zone system, established during the Great Depression, to a meter-based fare system.  To those unfamiliar with DC’s zone-based fare system, it’s a simple concept: the city is divided into zones, and taxi fares are calculated based on the zones covered rather than a true distance covered.  Click on the picture above to see the full zone map from the website of the DC Taxicab Commission.

The major benefit of the system was that riders weren’t penalized for their cabs getting stuck in DC’s notorious traffic, and drivers had an incentive to take riders on the fastest route to their destination because the on-the-ground distance or drive time didn’t matter.  The downside, though, was that visitors to the District had no knowledge of the zones and were sometimes (perhaps frequently) cheated by unscrupulous cabbies.  Some riders (myself included) are also guilty of taking a cab to a zone line and walking a couple of extra blocks to save a buck or two instead of crossing the line and incurring an additional charge.

Cab drivers in DC have generally been opposed to the idea of meters–partly becuase they can be pricey and the drivers will have to provide them at their own expense, and partly because it alters a system that, quite frankly, most DC residents had grown accustomed to.  The District has required that all cabs be running on meters by today, and fines for noncompliance are as high as $1000. 

Regardless of the outcome, it looks like the familiar zone maps in the back of each DC cab are going the way of the dodo.  Farwell, zones!

A Vintage Vignelli for Nostalgic New Yorkers

A classic New York City subway map has recently been re-issued in a limited edition run to raise money for charity.  As chronicled at The Map Room and in today’s New York Times, the 1972 subway map by Italian designer Massimo Vignelli caused quite a stir in the Big Apple.

Previous subway maps had emphasized surface features such as parks and streets to help riders find their destinations and navigate the complex system.  But as the system expanded, maps became cluttered and more confusing to read.  Vignelli’s design marked a radical shift away from the realistic depiction of surface features.  Vignelli’s map was more abstract, nearly eliminating surface features altogether.  Trains ran in straight lines and only turned in 45- and 90-degree angles.

Vignelli’s map was both praised as a work of graphic design and critized as a poor navigational tool.  Evan as abstract subway maps became common in other large metropolitan areas, New Yorkers had difficulty adjusting to the design.  In 1979, the city finally relented and returned surface features to the map, where they remain to this day.

Now, in association with Men’s Vogue, Vignelli is releasing a limited run of 500 prints of his iconic subway map, including updates to reflect additions and changes to the system since the original publication.  Interested cartophiles should hurry and purchase their Vignelli map

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