Do-It-Yourself Maps of Real-Time Information

Eric Fischer wondered how fast San Francisco’s transit system really was, so he asked the transit agency’s realtime data feed, and drew a picture of the answer:

Muni by eric fischer

The blog Burrito Justice, where I found Eric’s work, immediately saw the potential as abstract art, much as I’ve done, in idle moments, with Google Earth.

Eric explains the colors thus:

Black is less than 7mph. Red is less than 19mph. Blue is less than
43mph. Green is above that. The day is the 24 hours just before I posted

Quibble:  The red, of course, is too big a range.  An average speed of 19 mph is very high for a local-stop bus in traffic, but 7 mph is pathetic, so it would have been more useful to divide that segment up more.

The green lines correspond to freeways, including some where there is no transit service, so these probably represent buses running empty to and from the garage.  (“Deadheading” is the sexy insider term for that activity, if you want to impress your friends.  I believe the term predates the Grateful Dead.)

And of course, these are just in-vehicle operating speed, which doesn’t account for the impact of frequency on your actual travel experience.

Still, I think we’re just seeing the beginning of the mapping and analysis of real-time information data, analysis that you can do at home.  There’s no longer any need to wait for something like the San Francisco Transit Effectiveness Project to assess your transit system’s effectiveness, in 25 different ways, in visceral color.

4 Responses to Do-It-Yourself Maps of Real-Time Information

  1. Tom West April 27, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    There’s a version with different colour ranges – see . I’d love to see a version where the colour is continuous, rather than discrete.

  2. Ted King April 27, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    Re : Deadheading
    The OED says that the “empty vehicle” usage can be traced back to 1911 (def. #3).

  3. George April 27, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    I have done a similar thing with the data that I have available for the Toronto streetcar system (currently only 3 or 4 routes)…I have about 4 months of data in the system…it’s available at:
    It animates locations on the map, and also does graphs (somewhat slowly currently) and “service heat maps” which are based on how far you can go in 40 minutes (including transfers) – you can also select a location to see how far you could have gone in a given time. It also highlights bunching and gaps.
    I would love to work with others to add more data from other systems, please let me know if you would like to help out.

  4. Nathanael April 27, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    I’m a big believer in open data, as it allows the enthusiast to do free work analyzing it. 🙂 In the long run it should lead to a massive boom in “charitable” urban planning, so to speak.