Map of the week: Personalized Metro travel time map
Ian Rasmussen created this travel time Metro map for a friend who was moving to Petworth:
Travel time maps are those that show places which take longer to reach as farther away. It follows the hand-made graphic design of Peter Dunn's Boston T travel time map, but lays out places in a way that resembles MV Jantzen's automated travel-time maps.
Personalized maps could be the future
- It was made for a friend who had just bought a house in Petworth. Thus the center of the map's concentric time circles (each of which are one minute of travel time) is the Georgia Ave station.
- The travel times and headways were taken from the WMATA weekday peak schedules.
- The distance, in time, represented by a station where you transfer is half the headway time of the train you would be going to. This equates to the average wait time for your next train.
- The breaks in the lines are necessary so as not to violate the space-time continuum. What is shown on the map is the shortest travel time to any station (within 45 minutes of Georgia Avenue).
This map specifically applies to people whose home station is Georgia Ave-Petworth. Normally, we all use the same map. But why must this be so? In some places, it must be; there is only going to be one printed map on the wall of a Metro car, and a tour guide of DC will have the same maps for everyone who buys the book.
With technology, however, we could imagine maps being far more customized to the individual. My mental map of DC is different from another resident's. Mine has a lot of detail of the streets right around my house and not as much detail in a more distant neighborhood. Mine has certain Metro lines, bus lines, and bike routes I use frequently, while there are others I'd almost never use. Yet both get equal weight in the classic map.
Maps can't include everything, so they generally pick and choose based on modes or administrative divisions. The Circulator maps shows all Circulator routes and no Metrobus routes. There is a bike lane map and a separate bus map. None of this is on the Metro map. Sometimes that makes sense; if you're on a bike, you probably want to know the bike lanes. But you might also want to know about bus lines that have bike racks.
A map that shows the streets, places, bike routes and transit lines that you are likely to take, based on your own life, where you live and the places you go, could be massively useful. A hand-made map, like Ian Rasmussen's, Peter Dunn's T map, or Peter Dunn's H Street "spider map" can look amazing (especially that spider map!), but is a lot of work to make, while a computer-generated map still looks clunky. MV Jantzen's demo is great, but the lines and station names often overlap in ways that makes the map hard to read, because it's not easy to write software to avoid that.
There's no reason sophisticated-enough computer software couldn't do both, but it would take much more work which nobody has yet done. OpenPlans and others have talked about wanting to do projects in this area; if they can, one day people could be used to consulting entirely personalized and far more useful maps in addition to the ones we use today.
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