Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mapping Distance and Time

Time as an element of space (simplification) is a tricky thing. Mapping the time is even worse. It pops up here and there and some nice example have been developed recently, mainly in connection with digital application. A series of posts on this blog have been dedicated to this problem. There was an early one on aquarium and one on different aproaches that I have tried with my data and an other one with examples of software to deal with this.

Image from strange maps - Dicken and Lloyd 1981

Interesting on those time space maps really is how a distorted image emerges. Space, or better the shape we know looks different as distances become longer or shorter due to the aspect of time it takes to travel it. On the above map the South East of England almost vanishes as it is quite accessible from London where as western and northern areas are quite stretched out.
Since 1981 the Eurostar Tunnel has been opened and travel times to mainland Europe have changed. Paris is only just under two hours away from London these days. For the construction of Euralille the leading planning office OMA has produced a set of nice graphics visualizing how Europe moves closer together with the Eurostar and TGV network expansion.
Time can also be a very interesting on a smaller scale. Again OMA used it during the planning of a project in Yokohama. It was part of the programming process. Mapping the different uses over twenty-four hours gave a good insight on how the development will be used. Density and location are adjusted as needed.

Image taken from S M L XL Project - Euralille Project and Yokohama project timetable.

The use of technology such as GIS, database and mapping services such as Google Maps, Yahoo Maps or Open Street Map have give rise to a new breed of interactive time maps on the internet. One such example on London commuting times can be seen here. You can use the two sliders above the map to adjust desired travel time and property prices. The visualization is based on excluding information. The map does not distort as seen above, the sliders basically simply direct a black overlay that turns areas of the map invisible. In this sense it is a rather simple visualization. But it gives a good sense of the geographical area that a certain time frame applies to. Mainly for map reading trained people though. For others this might just add to the confusion. The simple travel times provided by London transport might be, in most cases more helpful. In terms of accuracy one can argue here, that there will be a delay or any sort of other complication anyway and it hugely depends on what time of the day you are actually traveling. So basically the time frame for the time frame would be important.
In short the perception of travel time is a very important factor. This is probably more important than the actual travel time. TFL somehow has the problem, that people expect it to be slow and unreliable and this probably affects the perception of travel time dramatically.

Image by

BBCone Has produced an animation of crime over time in Oxford. They are looking at a week and document how the amount of crime builds up. Again it is based on a normal map and colour dots fade in and out to indicate locations and a time slider on the top gives information about the time of the day and the day of the week.

Image by BBCone - Oxford crime map over time