online “map movies”: useful?

Can animation help people understand their transit options?  The Rotherham Metro Borough Council in the UK has done some simple "map movies" that highlight the paths followed by buses and trains.  Here's a still:

Rotherham map movie still

Watch the actual animation here.

As they stand, they're limited in usefulness, as the icons move along the routes with no indication of frequency.  They certainly do advertise complexity, which is accurate; this looks like a very complicated network.

But it's easy to imagine taking this to the next step, showing by animation the scheduled paths of all the services in a transit system.  This would be especially helpful in helping citizens understand pulse systems, where the integrated scheduling pattern is an essential part of how the network gets you where your going.  Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure this has been done, but I've never seen it on a public information website, which is the obvious next step.

9 Responses to online “map movies”: useful?

  1. Nicholas Barnard February 8, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    I can see this helping with a pulse system, but as it stands I think this was an interesting experiment, but not something I’d ever think of using if I visited Rotherham. Its about as useful as this animation of air traffic over the planet is for figuring out how to get from New York City to London. Bout all this tells me is to plan on making that trip at night…

  2. Chris M February 8, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    It isn’t a bad idea, but I think to be useful to constrain the geographic focus a bit more (so you were looking at only one of those colour groups at once) and include scheduling information.
    Also worth noting is that this only shows services focused on Rotherham and that there are considerable overlapping networks centred on Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster that might provide useful connections and would presumably need to be shown. That’s more a specific issue relating to the density of public transport in Great Britain though (it’s actually possible to go from Cornwall to the far north of Scotland only using local bus services – and if you’re over 60 for free!).

  3. rhywun February 8, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    Ridiculous. It’s amazing how many systems can’t be bothered to put out a normal map, but can find time for stuff like this. I was looking for a bus map for Barcelona the other day – there isn’t one. But there is a 3D animation of every route, useful the next time I want to imagine myself flying 30 feet above a bus and watching it move around, I guess.

  4. Zoltán February 8, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    Actually, frequency is mapped – the thicker lines are more frequent.
    However, this is still no substitute for a good network map that displays frequent services prominently, which presumably could have been done very well with the same resources.

  5. Wai Yip Tung February 8, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Interesting to watch. But not useful.
    When it comes to usefulness, I think Google Transit is the best. You choose the starting point and destination, it return the route plus 2 or 3 alternatives right away, without distraction of other unnecessary of limited hour lines. They should set it up in as many bus shelters as possible. It can also double as an information broadcasting system (and also MUNI wifi transmitter).

  6. anonymouse February 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    … except I’ve known Google Transit to outright lie sometimes (possibly because of inaccurate data), and its results are not always the ones you’d want or expect. And I’m sure it has limitations: for example, how does it deal with times at stops other than timepoints? How does it deal with service frequency? I’m sure it’s possible to solve all these problems in a trip planner, but Google Transit as it stands today is far from a perfect solution.

  7. Dave February 9, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    Cute. Perhaps useful as a clever advert for a transit system. Raise awareness that there really is a bus to lots of places in a city. But then you need links to static maps (frequency and specific routes) or trip planners for when you decide to use the system.

  8. Ted February 9, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    I’d like to see this sort of thing used to show problems with a complex routing structure. For example, three routes that are scheduled to work together on a common portion but have three branches are extremely problematic to operate reliably as any delay incurred on one branch impacts the bus spacing on the common portion. So an animated map that shows this situation could be a powerful tool to take to decision makers when deciding on route structures.

  9. Ralph February 18, 2011 at 2:04 am #

    Someone, somewhere, sometime, had an animated map of the New Jersey Transit commuter rail system (LIRR and M-N may have been on there too but I remember NJT). It started out at 4:00 AM or whenever the first train left and the dots moved along the tracks as time advanced. It was quite amazing to see just how many train movements were happening at one time over the whole system. I can’t, for the life of me, find it anymore. Its either hiding or disappeared.