perth: a frequent network map

For over four years now, this blog has been encouraging transit agencies to map their high-frequency networks, and encouraging citizens to map them themselves if the transit agency doesn't.  We've featured many over the years, including a rapidly rising number of maps by actual transit agencies.  Just enter "frequent network maps" in our handy new searchbar.  —>

Here's a new citizen entry, from Perth, Western Australia, by a Mr. OC Benz on the Bus Australia discussion board.

Perth frequent network

And zooming in a bit:


Although the definition does not include weekends, when Perth service levels drop sharply, the map is remarkable nonetheless.  Greater Perth is a young and mostly car-oriented area with a population of around 2 million, but it has a lot of frequent bus service — more than Brisbane, its closest peer in both geography and economics, and far more than almost any US city of similar size.  

The bus service is also intended for more than going downtown, indeed, you can also see disciplined efforts to construct a high-frequency grid against overwhelming geographical obstacles: downtown is at the convergence of two squiggly rivers that make it difficult.  (Again, a dramatic contrast to Brisbane, the only big Aussie city with no orbital frequent transit service at all.)

email of the week: a new map for the moscow metro


(Updated with final version of map.)

From Ilya Petoushkoff in Moscow, explaining this remarkably beautiful map (download this draft version here, or the final version here):

Moscow 2014 draft

Here I'd like you to see a beta-version of a result of a zillion-year struggle.  Moscow finally is going to have a transit map with not only metro, but also regional rail and bus/trolleybus/tram connections between adjacent metro lines.
From the beginning of 20th century and till nowadays there hasn't been any kind of common map. Presently we still have a metro-only map inside the whole metro system, and regional-rail-only map inside some 30-50 percent of all regional trains …. Even the transfers between metro and rail are not announced on the trains! Until 2010s, city politicians simply didn't understand that it is a significant problem, many of them believed in 'who the hell will have a ride on a regional train when we have our metro'.
Sounds like the conversation Paris had a decade or so ago.  Many US cities are just starting to think about how regional commuter rail can be repurposed to form useful links within the core city.
Most of the city inhabitants … are not aware … that many destinations in the city are covered with regional rail services.  Now it's to be that everyone finally becomes much more familiar with what our transit is capable of.
The regional rail trains are quite frequent, running from 4 a.m. till midnight with a frequency of 6…10 [trains per hour] (sometimes more) and a strange 'technical daylight break' between 11 a.m. and 1 or 2 p.m. (except Sat.& Sun.), when there is no service at all.
Sounds like one of those clauses that make labor contracts such a dramatic read.
This very map is extremely important, finally bringing citizens and authorities to the fact that city has much more lines of rapid rail than those 12 of the metro system, and the regional rail should be developed as soon as possible, while certain areas of the city do not need new metro lines at all, they already do have rails and trains to use. …
Also the interesting fact is that connecting services between metro lines have been put onto this map. Many people are just unaware … that they don't have to stuff themselves into metro and have a ride to the center and backwards to get to adjacent lines, stations and city areas. Now it's a first significant attempt to make it clearer.
The color codes on those links are about technology, rail/bus/tram, but of course those don't tell you which is fastest.  Frequency, I'm assured, is not an issue, as all of these services are frequent.  
Still, I perused this map with great pleasure, and respect it not just as a clear diagram but a work of art.  

defending new york’s subway from british sneers

Guardian journalist Bim Adewunmi recently traveled from London to New York and slammed the subway as compared to her beloved Underground.  The blowback has been delightful.  She seemed especially angry about the information system that isn't exactly what Transport for London would do.

The city’s subway map is dense and needlessly complex. Where in London the Central line (red) is distinct from the Piccadilly (dark blue), which is markedly different from the Hammersmith and City line (pink), New York’s map has designated the same forest green to the 4, the 5 and the 6 lines. The B, D, F and M all rejoice in exactly the same shade of violent orange. … Why would you do this? The whole thing resembles a child’s approximation of a city transit system: it makes no sense.

She's talking about branching lines.  If she were from Paris, whose elegant Métro is nearly branchless, she'd have a point.  But what a comment for someone from London!

In New York's map, the common color helps you navigate the core part of a line while the numbers or letters help you sort out the branches.  This is a very common way of making branching lines clear.  Meanwhile, in London, where transit is presumably designed by sober adults, we have this:

Northern Line map

No 4, 5, and 6 to confuse you!   No, just a beast called the Northern Line even though it's both northerly and southerly, consisting of two entirely different lines through the central city.  Is there a direct train from Waterloo to Mill Hill East?  How would I know? As Clive's Underground Guide helpfully explains:  "The pattern of service … tends to change with each new issue of the timetable."  

You see, Bim, Americans like maps and nomenclature systems that actually indicate where their train will go!   In London I'm sure you just somehow just know what the next Northern Line train might be up to.  But all that aristocratic just knowing that you Brits do is exactly why you lost your Empire!  


indianapolis: upcoming meetings on your transit system!

Last spring, Jarrett Walker + Associates was contracted by IndyGo, the transit agency serving Indianapolis and Marion County, to lead an update of their last Comprehensive Operation Assessment. This project involves consideration of the design, performance and mobility outcomes of IndyGo's existing network, followed by an extensive public engagement and redesign process. Next week, we will be on the ground in Indianapolis for a series of meetings, asking stakeholders and members of the public to share their views on the future of the network, including one very fundamental question: to what degree should IndyGo pursue each of the competing goals of high ridership and high coverage?

As always, one of our first steps was to draw a map showing IndyGo's midday route frequencies. To the agency's credit, it already incorporates frequency into its general purpose map (along with a lot of other useful information).

Frequency - Midday - Existing '14-08-25

 Next week, IndyGo and JWA will be hosting three meetings to discuss the future of the network at The Hall, 202 N. Alabama Street:

  • Thursday, Sept. 18: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. 
  • Friday, Sept. 19: 9 – 11 a.m. 
  • Friday, Sept. 19: 4-6 p.m. 

We'll be discussing immediate changes to the network responding to the 2015 opening of the new Downtown Transit Center, as well as long term priorities and plans for future rapid transit lines. For more information, and to take a survey on these questions, head on over to IndyGo's site for the events:

Transitmix: a new tool for armchair transit planners (and pros too?)

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Another interesting web transit app, this time from a group of Code for America developers:

Transitmix is a sketching tool for transit planners (both professional and armchair) to quickly design routes and share with the public. 

Transitmix is simple way to think about transit in terms of bus requirements and real costs. Basically, the user draws a route on a map and plugs in span and frequency. The app then calculates a vehicle requirement and cost in both hours and dollars, factoring in an adjustable layover ratio, average speed and dollar cost per service hour.  

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Transitmix is very similar to (though much simpler and prettier) the sort of cost estimation methods used in transit design processes , and as it stands is a fun sandbox to think about transit in your city. It's still very much a beta, but the prospects are intriguing. 

Its clear that the developers of Transitmix see it as much more than a curiosity. They've actively sought feedback from people in the industry, and are working hard to build an app that could one day replace some of the tedious documentation work of network design with an interactive, visually attractive interface. Apparently functions like summary tables, GIS file exports, and the ability to save multiple iterations of one design are all in the works.

I can imagine all sorts of possibilities for a tool like this, particularly if secondary data sources were incorporated. How about a public or stakeholder  involvement process that would actually give people a way to view demographic and ridership data and make real, financially constrained transit choices with a familiar, modern toolset? Or an update to our transit network design courses, where participants are given the same information for a fictional city and asked to design a transit network from the ground up? It's great to see transit concepts picked up by a talented group from an organization as reputable as Code for America. A project worth keeping an eye on!

visualizing transit: subway operations made beautiful

Grad students Mike Barry and Brian Card have produced an impressive new set of interactive visualizations of Boston's subway system. It's worth having a look for yourself here; much is lost when these are reduced to a screenshot. They've looked at key transit metrics like travel time, passenger volume, vehicle delay, and station congestion among other topics, all drawn from MBTA's open realtime data, in a style inspired by the content-first approach of design guru Edward Tufte.

 The image below is an example, showing the time of point-to-point trips of individual trains through the day. In this chart, the steeper the slope of the line, the longer the trip took. Scrolling through the day, the effect of the peak periods becomes apparent as the quantity and steepness of lines increases. 

Another example of the type of work skilled information designers can produce when public agencies make their data available. 

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looking for structure: the metro maps of Jug Cerovic

Paris-based Serbian designer Jug Cerovic tipped me off a month ago to his remarkable work on subway maps, collected at his website and since hailed at Atlantic Citylab.    If you want to geek out on beautiful detail, go to his website now.  Here, I'm interested in looking from a fuzzier distance.



His work interests me because I'm always trying to help people see underlying principles of network structure, such as the high-frequency grid in all its forms, and often contending with the seductive allure of its opposite, the seemingly endless loop.  

Cerovic's eye has picked out these forms, and fondles their contrast expertly:  He picks out a central loop in every city that provides a hint of one, organizing map after map around a geometrically perfect circle or oval.   Berlin:


His maps of comprehensive East Asian metros call out the circle line in most of them.  Beijing and Shanghai are both rigidly circle-and-spoke like Moscow, but Beijing's outer circle is far enough out to create orthogonal grid effects in relation to the straight lines it crosses.  Cerovic, perhaps sensing this, renders the loops as rectangles:


But it's hard to resist the beauty of the circle.  Tackling Paris, Cerovic seizes on the ellipsoid loop formed by Metro lines 2 and 6, rendering them as a perfect circle that seems to unify the image.  Only the color change signals that you can't go around forever.


I have long argued that the Paris metro is mostly an orthogonal grid system, with most routes in north-south or east-west paths that intersect to form logical L-shaped travel opportunities.  In fact, it's a great example of a grid system fitted to a gridless city.  Lines 2 and 6, and the more recent T3 tram that Cerovic renders as a quarter-circle, are really the only predominantly arc elements and even they function like east-west grid elements in the actual geography, 

In Madrid, Cerovic reveals the Expressionist quality of the metro network:  lots of emotive scribbles and personality quirks but without a clear structuring idea.  


The gently collapsed loop at the center reminds me of a Jean Arp sculpture.

In London, he ignores the obviously potential of the Circle Line, which despite its new tadpole shape could easily have been made into a perfect circle or oval.   Instead, the perfect circle that anchors his map is an emerging, ghostly London Overground, bristling with spurs:


I like Cerovic's maps for their stripped-down emphasis on the drama of line vs. loop.  Lines are from Mars and loops are from Venus.  They will never understand each other.  The challenge — in all the dimensions of design — is in making them dance, and helping both impulses succeed.


more maps of your freedom: job access and transit

The Regional Plan Association, the New York-region planning think tank, has produced a great new map as part of their Fragile Success report:

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This map takes the travel time methodology regular readers of this blog know well, but then within that area of access shows all of the jobs, categorized by sector, as a dot density map. The effect is to visualize the quantity and number of jobs that can be reached from a give point in a given time, by walking, transit, cycling, or driving. The map is also able to quickly calculate the number of jobs inside the AM peak travelshed on the fly, and even allows the user to toggle on and off different job classifications. If you want to see all of the education jobs within a 30 minute walk of a given location, now you can. 

To revisit a 2012 post, this sort of map of personal mobility is useful for two reasons:

  • Helping people and organizations understand the transit consequences of where they choose to locate, and thus to take more responsbility for those consequences.  This, over time, can help people who value good transit to locate where transit access is good — something that's very hard to discern from a typical bus map but that becomes very obvious here.  You can even assess access to specific things that you value, based on exactly where the blobs are.  

  • Helping people visualise the benefit of transit — access to your city — as a freedom, and thus to understand more clearly what transit does for them.  It broadens the narrow notion of travel time  – which is often understood for only one typical trip — into a picture of your options for accessing all the things you value.  The percentage of a city's resources (jobs, housing, retail etc) that is in the blobs for a particular location could also form the basis for a meaningful Transit Score that could replace the technologically biased scores now used by

email of the week: googling your freedom

From Jeffrey Bridgman:

Google maps is showing me my freedom to stay a bit more and chat now.

It says that this route runs every 15 minutes from 5am to 11:30pm, which means if I get talking with someone, I don't care that I'm missing the 8:27pm bus since there'll be another one in about 15 minutes. That's a great improvement from the "Catch the next bus at 8:27" directions it used to tell you.
I think we're just seeing the beginning of this.  We don't just want directions, we want options!



holiday map immersion

If you're hiding with your laptop in the laundry closet because an ancient family argument has broken out over holiday dinner, it's a great time to geek out on how fast mapping is changing.  Go over to Atlantic Cities and explore Emily Badger's great overview of 10 ways that mapping has evolved over the past year.

My favorite: I usually try to be race-blind in my thinking about transit and cities, but I have to admit I was absorbed by Duncan Cable's Dot Map of Everyone in the US, which is color coded by ethnicity.  Not really everyone: You can't zoom in to find your personal dot, but it's still a magnificent rendering of how dot-crowding conveys density on a map more naturally than shaded zones.  Chicago, for example, displays pie-slices of single-ethnicity neighborhoods (blue is white, red is Asian, green is African-American, orange is Latino/Hispanic), but you can also see where the borders are soft, where they're hard, and where highly mixed areas exist or are emerging:

Chicago racial dot map

Houston, where I'm working now, is also made of pie slices, but the colors are more muted, indicating more mixture almost everywhere.  Near the center of this image, the greater Montrose and Heights districts are rainbow pointillism.  The Asian node in the south is student areas near Texas Medical Center.  

Houston racial dot map

And my home town, Portland, with downtown on the far left (as it is), showing the new concentric-circle pattern, as lower income minorities (because of income, rather than race) are forced to settle on the fringes of the old city (top edge and far right) or what we'd now call "inner ring suburbs."   The bike-and-transit-friendly city you've seen pictures of is mostly white with small dashes of color. The exception is downtown, which still has a mix of housing types tending to both income extremes, and the continuing black presence in the neighborhoods straight north of downtown even as these gentrify.  (As a small child in 1970 I remember seeing a cover of the local free weekly that showed a hand drawn line around this district with the title "Red-lining the Ghetto," about the impossibility of getting loans to buy or improve homes in that area.  Now, it's on fire with higher-end redevelopment.)

Portland racial dot map

Of course these are also fascinating simply as density maps.  Did you know that Oregon cities have had Urban Growth Boundaries since 1972?  The hard edges show around many Oregon cities … Here's the north edge of Portland's western suburbs (the "Silicon Forest"):

Wash co racial dots

For contrast, here's a same-scale image of the north edge of Clark County suburbs, just over the river in Washington:

Clark co racial dots

Washington loses farmland to development much more rapidly than Oregon does.  It makes a difference.  

In the end, what I love most about these maps is that they're beautiful.  As in art, patches of a bright color are beautiful, but so are intense mixtures of color.  So I look at these maps and feel good about both single-ethnic communities and mixed-ethnic communities, and my eye enjoys the patterns of density, hard edges here, soft there, even more.  These maps take an emotive kind of diversity and render it as serene.  The perfect geek-out for serene holidays.