Friday, 11 March 2011

Mapping Distance on Time - Paris Crunch


As we all know from experience, maps generally focus on the physical quality of the space. They follow the box like idea of pace a a container with objects and chart these features one after the other in metric separations. Creating a mesh of abstract relationships.

How frustrating this can be in practice everyone has probably experienced. Taking the bus from Euston station to Kings Cross to connect to the Eurostar to Paris can be a lot longer than simply walking the distance, since practically always the bus will get stuck on Euston road in traffic.

Very similar with London tube stations, almost always one stop trips are quicker to walk, especially in central London. By the time you have reached the platform and afterwards marched back up to the surface again you have walked a lot further through tunnels and up and down stairs, than you would on street level.

Such representational concepts were developed as for examples by Dicken and Lloyd. They mapped out the impact of the new European High S[eed Rail Network. The map showed how London and Paris moved closer together as a result, putting them closer than London to some of the larger cities in the UK. Some more on Mapping Distance and Time in an earlier blog post HERE.

UK time map
Image from strange maps / Dicken and Lloyd 1981

The time it takes to travel from one place to the other is in everyday practice often a lot more important than how far it actually is. The cultural concept of being on time plays an important role herre. Since we are living together in this city every individual has to arrange his or her needs around the general practice. The bus leaves at this time, the first tube opens then and shuts down after midnight. The density of inhabitants inflicts a strict agreement.

With the density there are also transport mode internal differences occurring. Congestion at peak times can dramatically change the journey times. Traffic jams or free flow times are something the everyday experience teaches inhabitants over time.

Paris time map
Image from Xiaoji Chen's blog / The map of central Paris drawn according the time requirements. Mode of transport from left to right, bicycle, metro, car.

Xiaoji-Chen, a MIT student, looked into this problem and has developed a map representation that changes according to the time required. She explains: "In these distorted maps of Paris, the distance between a spot and the city center is not proportional to their geographical distance, but the cost taken to get there."

To develop the tool processing was used, with Open Street Map data. For the connection data she used Google Directions, RATP.com



Xiaoji-Chen also visualised the differences between the modes of transport, as car, bicycle and walking with obviously shrinking maps as a result. It is fast by car, yes, but as Xiaoji-Chen points out the carbon emission is of course higher, so she introduces this additional information, telling the user also how much carbon this mode produces. In this way the mode of transport for a journey can have on the map a number of different factors included in the decision making process. This is the new thing, the extended map. A map enabled to take multiple factos into a account. This extends the abstract and objective map into the realm of experience, definitely a great development.

Paris time map
Image from Xiaoji Chen's blog / The emissions for the car journey.
Paris time map
Image from Xiaoji Chen's blog / The emissions for the metro journey.
Paris time map
Image from Xiaoji Chen's blog / The emissions for the bike journey.

Via arkinet

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