A Topologically Correct, Geographically Insane Tube Map

I’m a sucker for alternative maps of the London Underground, and here’s a great one – the Twisted London Underground Map by Francisco Dans (see the original in high-resolution on Flickr) – it’s perhaps not going to be useful to navigate by, but is a great bit of art.

A recent trend of alternative maps is to show geographically accurate ones, that inevitably end up crumpling the dense centre of the network and leave huge gaps on the edges. This is a map does the opposite – it has taken the geographical deformity of the underground network map to its (il)logical extreme. The real map has never pretended to correspond to the actual locations of the stations on the surface, placing stations in roughly correct locations, but only relative to each other and not the map as a whole. This does away with that rule too. But importantly, it is a topologically accurate map – the official connections are shown correctly. Everything else is curves of various radii – only the Underground logo and the station connectors are straight lines.

Francisco writes on his posting that he is looking to add in the DLR and Overground lines to a future iteration, plus fix a couple of bugs with the existing map that eagle-eyed observers have spotted. Hopefully the Thames will go in too, it’s the one non-tube feature that everyone loves. I wonder what that will end up looking like?

Thanks to Francisco for permission to reproduce the map and to IanVisits on Twitter for the heads-up. Cross-posted from the Mapping London blog.


London Riots Maps

James Cridland has created and is updating a map of verified reports of looting and rioting in London – and elsewhere.

I much prefer this to another map which is automatically updated from postcoded tweets (similar to the UK Snow map) as Twitter is as much a source of disinformation as information, particularly for emotive subjects like this (false rumours propagate just as quickly as true news) and also information that is not relevant – the cluster around Tottenham for example is by-and-large relating to offers of assistance rather than reports of trouble.

I’ve combined James’ data (as at 3pm today) in KML form, with a choropleth map from the London Profiler showing London-only deciles of the 2004 Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), and overlaid both on an OpenStreetMap map, using MapTube. You can see this here. Please note I’m not suggesting there is any correlation or causality between the IMD and the locations of the disturbances.

The riots have affected me slightly, in-so-far as it is difficult to find any supermarkets in north/east Zone 2 (i.e. inner-city London) open in the evenings, and I’m taking a long way round to home, via Tower Hamlets rather than Hackney, to avoid a couple of flashpoints on the way (and going home during daylight hours.)

Data Graphics London

Sense and the City

The Sense and the City exhibition at the Transport Museum in Covent Garden opens today, and runs until March next year. It includes a number of transport visualisations contributed by the team at UCL CASA, including a themed version of my own Bike Share Map, and a similar animation I’ve done for Oyster card tap ins/outs, and also Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick’s bike movement animation. I was along with Martin (pictured above and below!) and some of the others in the team, for the private view on Wednesday.

The exhibition is in three main sections – downstairs there are a number of big screens, showing the aforementioned animations. The area is quite dark, so the graphics have come out really well. The second section is up a spiral staircase (easy to miss) where a number of touch-screen computers show more visualisations from CASA and others, each selectable by the user. The system that runs this will allow us to update the animations during the course of the exhibition, so if we do some newer related work, you may well see it here! Behind this is the last section, which is more conceptual, with a number of “visions of the future from the past” magazine covers, and other bits of futuristic transport technology – a Sinclair C5 and a “Ryno” one-wheeled motorbike. Sadly a Barclays Cycle Hire bike is not there in the flesh, but you don’t have to walk far from Covent Garden to run into them in real life. Finally, just outside the exhibition area is a “smart” bus-stop. You have to look carefully to spot the video camera, which apparently detects how much interest people are taking in the advertising panel, and adjusts its advertising appropriately.

Of course, being the transport museum, all the regular tube trains and buses are still there. The “New Bus for London” mockup is there, as is a classic Routemaster, and it would have been rude not to have gone for a ride…

Below – the Oyster card animation and Steven Gray’s Tweet-o-Meters.

Bike Share Data Graphics London


Pleased that a feature on spatial data visualisation at UCL CASA has appeared as a video on the BBC News website today. It includes some work I did with Martin Austwick on animating the bike share in London – I did the routing, he did the amazing animation in Processing. It also includes visualisation of bus journeys, Oyster card taps and tweet stats for cities around the world.


Tweets in London

From the Mapping London blog:

Many Twitter messages, or “tweets”, are sent with latitude/longitude information, allowing an insight into the places where the most amount of tweeting happens. For a magazine article, I produced the above map of London, with help from a colleague Steven Gray, who collected the data across several weeks using some technologies he has developed. It is a heatmap of sorts, with particular locations where the level of tweets are very high. The data is collected in a 30km radius around central London.

London’s city centre stands out, as would be expected, as well as a distinctive streak of tweets heading directly north – an arm of London where the typical Twitter demographic – young and connected – makes up a particularly high proportion of people living there. Other features – such as along a road in the North West that suffered severe roadworks during the collection period, the A13/Eurostar travel line running along estuarine Essex, and the runways of Heathrow Airport, also appear. It’s also interesting to see how large parts of surburban London are “empty” of tweets.

Further detail on Steven’s Big Data Toolkit blog.

The map contains data which is CC-By-SA OpenStreetMap and contributors (the River Thames) and which is Crown Copyright Ordnance Survey (OpenData) 2011.

Bike Share London

Dock Monitor – Keeping an Eye on Boris Bike Docks

Transport for London have gradually been adding docking stations to the Barclays Cycle Hire network in central London – and occasionally they remove, rename or relocate the existing ones. TfL do now have a webpage which is manually updated with docking station news, but there’s no good way to spot when a new docking station might have appeared in your neighbourhood – without coming across it accidently or waiting for the official page to be updated, so I’ve created Dock Monitor. It’s a blog that is automatically updated as soon as new docking stations appear, or changes happen to the existing ones. Every hour, a script downloads the latest list of stations from the official map, compares with its existing list, and then submits new blog posts as appropriate.

Changes happen surprisingly often. Docks often shrink in size to 0 as they are temporarily operated on (rather than disappearing from the map or having their status changed to not installed.) New docks are sometimes put in with the wrong name or location, these normally get corrected soon after. To try and cut down on the noise, I only post about size changes where more than 20 docking points in the dock are affected, and docks have to have been missing for more than 48 hours before I announce these. TfL has also been changing the IDs associated with some of the docks – which is not something that impacts people using the system, but is a big headache for third-party developers who were hoping that TfL’s IDs were going to be canonical. Looks like I’ll need to create my own set of IDs… Anyway Dock Monitor should spot this too.

Because the blog posts are automatically made, then a data error at source may course a massive burst of blog posts to appear. If this does happen, I’ll try and manually clean up the blog once I notice it.

You can see Dock Monitor here (or subscribe to the RSS feed). You can also view just newly added docks, or the corresponding feed.

Data Graphics London

Your Life on a Map – Thanks to the iPhone

A recent discovery, revealed at the Where 2.0 conference, of a hidden file on iOS4 iPhones and iPads (and on computers that they are synchronised to) is proving to be rather interesting find. The file contains a couple of tables – ‘CellLocation’ and ‘WifiLocation’ that contain records showing times, locations and accuracies of mobile phone masts and wifi points that your phone has come across. [Update: Or more likely, ones that you might expect to come across, based on your current measured location or existing detected masts/wifi.] iPhoneTracker is a great utility which finds the file, parses and displays a gridded heatmap of the places that your iPhone thinks you’ve been to. In my case, it reveals my various trips around London, to towns in England and my travels up to and around the Scottish Highlands in the New Year.

Here’s what a bit of the wifi data on my phone looks like:

You can even see all the MAC addresses of the wifi points (and their locations/accuracies) – again this is nothing you couldn’t collect, and indeed is what Google was busy collecting with their StreetView cars, along with the 360-degree photos. Unfortunately for Google, they also collected the unencrypted data coming from some of these wifi points, which landed them in a bit of bother.

The iPhoneTracker application, as run, grids the data to 1/100th-degree latitude and longitude squares, and only looks at the mobile-phone mast data, rather than the wifi data, as the latter is more likely to be inaccurate (it’s reliant on a look-up database which can go out of date quickly). However, a simple change and recompile of the application in XCode (it’s open source) allows a more accurate map to be included, along with the wifi data if so desired.

The map above shows my travels around London in the last few months, including both the mobile-phone mast and wifi data – the former is generally less accurate and so your location tends to wander, so it shows as circular clumps of small yellow dots. The latter is more concentrated so shows up as the red/purple larger dots, but in fewer locations.

As well as the positional random inaccuracy of the cell-phone triangulations, resulting in these distinctive circles of yellow dots, there is sometimes a systematic inaccuracy. I am 99% sure I haven’t been to East Ham/Barking in the last nine months, but there’s a distinctive clump around there (far right of the screenshot above.)

I’m not going to get into the debate about why Apple has persisted such a file on your phone (and in the computer backup) or whether it’s a good thing that this data is so easily accessible. It’s nothing that’s not on the mobile phone companies’ own databases. The big deal is now you can play with your own location data (and so can someone swiping your computer.) I guess if you don’t have any secrets to hide it’s a great, if imprecise, insight into your spatio-temporal life – tracking how you move around your hometown and indeed the world (my set includes my recent trips to Sicily and Prague).

The background map is from OpenStreetMap. iPhoneTracker is proving so popular, since it was revealed yesterday, that it has quadrupled the normal daily number of map images being served from the OpenStreetMap servers. The gridded visualisation is from OpenHeatMap, written by the same author as iPhoneTracker itself. It’s a great way of showing imprecise, large-volume spatial data like this.

Bike Share London

Disposable Boris Bikes

A nice April Fools from Firebox – a disposable cardboard bike. The design bears more than a passing resemblance to the Bixi-designed bikes used for the London Cycle Hire scheme – complete with ID number. Also includes a paper-chain chain and egg-box saddle – I like!

London London 2012

New Aerial Photos of Central London in Google Maps

Google Maps has today updated its aerial imagery for central London. The new imagery appears to be from sometime late last summer, and reveals the many new buildings and features that have appeared in the capital recently.

Above is the Olympic Stadium (with the triangular lighting gantries casting shadows into the bowl) and the partially complete Aquatic Centre. The high-capacity bridges linking to the stadium are in place. Below shows the coach park for the Olympics intruding into East Marsh, part of the famous Hackney Marshes. I’ve also included some pictures of the curvy new Walbrook building, on Cannon Street, which is squeezed around a tiny churchyard, and the new Shoredich High Street Station, with surrounding brownfield land.

…and here’s a plane in a very central location.

Bike Share Data Graphics London OpenStreetMap

Boris Bikes Flow Video – Now with Better Curves!

Dr Martin Austwick and I have produced an updated version of the animation of Barclays Cycle Hire bikes on a typical weekday:

Martin has once again done some programming magic to show the River Thames, Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens and Regent’s Park to add context, plus the trails for the bike “motes” are longer, allowing the road network to be picked out more easily – and the network lines remain as faint “ghosting” in the video. The bikes are also more blue! Although the bridges aren’t specifically marked, their locations quickly become obvious from the volume of bikes crossing them.

I’ve redone the routing, to fix a few problems around Trafalgar Square and a couple of other obvious places. As before, the routing is done using OpenStreetMap data and the Routino routing scripts, optimised for bike usage (i.e constant speeds on all road types, obeying one-way roads and taking advantage of marked cycleways.) I’ve tweaked the desireability of road types, so that trunk and primary roads are now only slightly less desirable than quieter routes. The traffic in most parts of central London is so slow that, based on my own observations, such roads are not such a significant deterrent to cycling. As before, I’m assuming the bikes go along the “best” route, I don’t know where they actually went. Hires that start and end at the same point – popular in Hyde Park – are shown with the motes spinning around the point.

I’ve also included road curves this time. This means bikes don’t go in straight lines between junctions. This was particularly noticeable when they cut the corner of the Thames in the last animation! Watch the bikes as they carefully curve around the kinks of West Carriage Drive in Hyde Park, around the graceful arcs of Regent Street and Aldwych and along the Victoria Embankment. (I don’t think there are many other classic curves in the central London area?)

Expand the video to full-screen, and, if your connection can take it, click the HD button to get a higher-quality with even bluer bikes!

The data for the bikes themselves is from Transport for London, with the Thames, parks and the underlying network being faithfully drawn by OpenStreetMap contributors. One of the great advantages of using OSM data – apart from it being easy to access, is it’s often very up-to-date. For example, you can see the kink at the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge, on the animation, where the road bends around the Blackfriars Station redevelopment site.