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Time Evolution of Twin Cities

Google Earth Engine lets you see the evolution of Landsat photos. We did this for the Twin Cities. Go here: Timelapse of Minneapolis - Saint Paul Andrew notes:
I think the most amazing thing is seeing the path of the Minneapolis tornado appear in 2011
TwinCitiesTimeLapse Cross-posted at Streets.MN


The earth is approximately a sphere, yet we try to force this round object into a square grid through the use of latitude and longitude and Ordinance Surveys. Why?

The rationale for use of grids depends on scale. We have naturally come to think of the earth rotating on an axis with a prime meridian reflecting that access on the surface, intersecting the axis at the north and south poles, complemented by an equator belting it. The equator has a natural physical meaning, but the prime meridian is arbitrary. Greenwich, England is no more the start of time than any other place. But longitude, if not latitude is arbitrary. The idea of longitude lines running north-south does have convenience in that it tends to align with the magnetic poles, and benefitting navigation.


Geodesic domes, developed by Buckminster Fuller (who did not invent soccer, but whose name was given to the Fullerene) enclose spherical areas with a mesh of triangles, forming many hexagons and 12 pentagons.

We could remap the earth using geodesic principles. Fuller did this with his Dymaxion Map. The triangular cut marks do not align with latitude and longitude. However, one should be able to align the triangles with either latitude (the equator) or longitude (a prime meridian), though that might cut land masses, which dilutes the political point Fuller was trying to make.


There are many ways to skin the earth, and stretch it out like a tanner stretches leather. The way we present this 3D object in 2D affects how we perceive it. We expect (in western countries) north to be up, and are disoriented when maps are presented otherwise. Yet we don't expect our environment to clue us in very often, we don't typically see compass marks in the pavement to show us which direction is north, to help us reorient (meaning turn to the east, oddly we never reoccident and turn to the west).

The map is the user interface to the environment, and we need to give it more consideration. We should also better embed navigation clues into our environment. Some cities post wayfinding systems around, especially near transit stops. Even (especially?) in the age of the almost ubiquitous smart phone, this still seems wise, so people can keep their eyes looking ahead, focused on the real environment, rather than face down in a phone, or staring into an imaginary distance with glasses.

Going Underground

Figure c8 f3a

Figure c8 f3b

Figure c8 f3c

Figure c8 f3d

Prior to the advent of the steam railway, London was a metropolis of just over 1 million people. It was well served by both canals and turnpikes connecting to other parts of Great Britain. Internally, there were omnibus services. The London & Greenwich Railway was the first of many railways to reach London, with the first section opening in 1836 and being completed in 1838, making it possible to reach Greenwich in twelve minutes instead of the hour required by horse-drawn omnibus or steamboat. Famously built on a viaduct, the route was initially paralleled by a tree-lined boulevard that operated as a toll road, serving those unwilling to pay rail fares. However, the toll road was disbanded when the viaduct was widened to enable more frequent services to the densely populated urban core, ultimately growing from two tracks to eleven.

Soon many other railways sought to connect to London. To avoid disruption in the core, a Royal Commission on Railway Termini, appointed in 1846, drew a box around central London and decreed no line shall enter the cordon. [This box resembles the congestion charging zone adopted in the early 21st century, which aimed to reduce cars, rather than prohibit trains]. The result was railway terminals locating on the edges of the central region. London, like many cities, has no unified railway station, as the North, South, East, and West lines have no common intersection. The problem is worse though in London, as even lines from the north run by different organizations would be build adjacent (St. Pancras/ Kings Cross), or nearly adjacent (Euston), stations without convenient interchange. Later (between 1858-60) some penetrations of the box were permitted by Parliament, but most of the City of London (the original walled city where the financial district still lies) remained untouched. While preventing railways from severing the most densely populated part of the city, which would have been expensive for both the railways and the city, it created a need for a connection between the termini to allow transfers. The Metropolitan Railway, a private concern like all railways of the era but with some support from the Corporation of the City of London, was approved by Parliament in 1854. It aimed to connect the northern termini (Paddington, Euston, St. Pancras, King's Cross, and Farringdon, which was later added to the plan) to ease movement for through travelers.

The trends in the City of London were quite different from the rest of London. The City of London has seen a long trend of depopulation from 1851 (prior to the first Underground line) and for many years saw increasing employment, lending support to the notion that the railways, especially the Underground, enabled decentralization of residences and concentration of employment.

The Metropolitan Railway opened in January 1863, and was extremely successful. Clearly the market was much larger than inter-line transfers. The firm paid dividends throughout its life. Accounting in the early years of the Metropolitan Railway, especially prior to the Regulation of Railways Act of 1868, was a bit dodgy, and dividends were reportedly paid out of capital. To quote Jackson (1986) p. 38, describing the era of 1865, ``It was . . . a house of cards, a precarious game in which the level of dividend was kept up at all costs, by finding money from somewhere, with no regard to sound accounting or financial rectitude.''. Emulation is the proof of success. Many new railway lines were proposed, the 219 London-area railway bills brought before Parliament during the period 1860-1869 totaled 1420 km (882 miles).

Some of those lines were proposed prior to the opening of the Metropolitan, indicating the smell of success was in the air, though the peak years were between 1863 and 1866, following closely on the heels of the Metropolitan's opening. The most important of these was the Metropolitan District Railway (later called the District line), which ran just north of the River Thames, but south of the Metropolitan, connecting a number of the southern railway termini (Victoria, Charing Cross, Blackfriars, Cannon Street). Proposals for what became the Circle Line service linking the Metropolitan and District (roughly inscribing the box described above) were quickly proposed, but the two lines were not connected on both ends until 1884. Both the Metropolitan and District lines were constructed using cut and cover techniques. Later lines, from the City and South London Railway (first section opened in 1890) onwards, generally used deep-level tunneling techniques to avoid disruption of city streets, existing railway lines, and public utilities when they needed to be below grade. Outside the Circle Line however, the railways could emerge above ground and competed fiercely in some markets, while operating unfettered in others, to provide suburban services. In some cases this involved building new lines, in others it involved acquiring running rights on (or ownership of) existing lines. The development of suburbs was a way to develop traffic for lines that in the city, though profitable, were operating below maximum capacity, and thus maximum profitability.

Adapted from

Also see:


From the archives, we see that proposals for LRT in Hennepin County are not new, This 1988 document (PDF) has maps of the : Comprehensive LRT System Plan for Hennepin County

. The debate about the location of the Southwest and Northwest corridors as they approach downtown remains alive. [This mostly about whether to speed the commute of suburbanites or serve the needs of local Minneapolis residents.] The South corridor has become Freeway BRT. The priorities of which gets done first and second have changed, but the main part of the corridors are unchanged. Of course only a the Hiawatha line was done within the 20 year life of the plan. Some more discussion at City Pages.

I am still looking for a digital version of 1970s "Regional Fixed Guideway Study" proposing a 37 mile transit system for Twin Cities. Anyone have scan/map?

(Other cool documents here). Also AJ Froggie's site.


KurzweilAI: How memory load leaves us ‘blind’ to new visual information

"Professor Nilli Lavie from UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, who led the study, explains: ‘An example of where this is relevant in the real world is when people are following directions on a sat nav [GPS receiver] while driving.

‘Our research would suggest that focusing on remembering the directions we’ve just seen on the screen means that we’re more likely to fail to observe other hazards around us on the road, for example an approaching motorbike or a pedestrian on a crossing, even though we may be ‘looking’ at where we’re going.’"


In my lab today we had a discussion over the proper way to say the word "Route" dictionaries and professional linguists who were consulted give both "root" and "rout" as acceptable pronunciations, leaving us no wiser than before.

But online, we find this Dialect survey (color matching the map).

Dialect Survey Results:

"26. route (as in, "the route from one place to another") 
     a. rhymes with "hoot" (29.99%)
     b. rhymes with "out" (19.72%)
     c. I can pronounce it either way interchangeably (30.42%)
     d. I say it like "hoot" for the noun and like "out" for the verb. (15.97%)
     e. I say it like "out" for the noun and like "hoot" for the verb. (2.50%)
     f. other (1.40%)
     (11137 respondents)"

As a north-easterner myself, It was always take Root 29 or Root 95, but in the South, we were on Rout 85. In the midwest, it seems more Rout than Root. In any case the "e" is superfluous, as it doesn't modify in a consistent way, since we already have a double vowel. The word is also superfluous, since we already have the word "road" from the same root. Damn French imports.

Etymology online says: route (n.) early 13c., from O.Fr. rute "road, way, path," from L. rupta (via) "(a road) opened by force," from rupta, fem. pp. of rumpere "to break" (see rupture). Sense of "fixed or regular course for carrying things" (cf. mail route) is 1792, an extension of the meaning "customary path of animals" (early 15c.).

See also this on Highway Linguistics

Alexis Madrigal @ The Atlantic: How Google Builds Its Maps—and What It Means for the Future of Everything - Technology :

"Or as my friend and sci-fi novelist Robin Sloan put it to me, 'I maintain that this is Google's core asset. In 50 years, Google will be the self-driving car company (powered by this deep map of the world) and, oh, P.S. they still have a search engine somewhere.'

Of course, they will always need one more piece of geographic information to make all this effort worthwhile: You. Where you are, that is. Your location is the current that makes Google's giant geodata machine run. They've built this whole playground as an elaborate lure for you. As good and smart and useful as it is, good luck resisting taking the bait. 

Linklist: May 16, 2012

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Kottke: Fantastic time lapse map of Europe, 1000 - 2005 A.D.

In Vancouver, Buzzer Blog: New wayfinding signage is going up around the region

Massive Tornado, Can it Happen Here? [MPR succumbs to Sweeps Month] If you're stuck in traffic, you have no good choices"

A local Car Dealer (Walser) is encouraging trading in used cars for bikes (and cash). The campaign is here: New Wheels

The Scholarly Kitchen: The Emergence of a Citation Cartel :

"In a 1999 essay published in Science titled, ‘Scientific Communication — A Vanity Fair?’ George Franck warned us on the possibility of citation cartels — groups of editors and journals working together for mutual benefit. To date, this behavior has not been widely documented; however, when you first view it, it is astonishing.

Cell Transplantation is a medical journal published by the Cognizant Communication Corporation of Putnam Valley, New York. In recent years, its impact factor has been growing rapidly. In 2006, it was 3.482. In 2010, it had almost doubled to 6.204.

When you look at which journals cite Cell Transplantation, two journals stand out noticeably: the Medical Science Monitor, and The Scientific World Journal. According to the JCR, neither of these journals cited Cell Transplantation until 2010."


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Jason Hong sends me to his project: Livehoods:

About the Livehoods Project The Livehoods Project presents a new methodology for studying the dynamics, structure, and character of a city on a large scale using social media and machine learning. Using data such as tweets and check-ins, we are able to discover the hidden structures of the city with machine learning. Our techniques reveal a snap-shot of the dynamic areas the comprise the city, which we call Livehoods.

Livehoods allow us to investigate and explore how people actually use the city, simultaneosly shedding light onto the factors that come together to shape the urban landscape and the social texture of city life, including municipal borders, demographics, economic development, resources, geography, and planning. Livehoods is a research project from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.

Cool maps at the site.

Linklist: February 16, 2012

Steve Brandt @ Star Tribune: Minneapolis not keeping up -- how do your streets rate? : "A recent infrastructure study estimated that the city needs to spend $133 million more than it is now on track to spend by 2030 to avoid further residential deterioration."

Benedikt Groß – Metrography: London Tube Map to large scale collective mental map

Chris Harrison: Visualizing the Royal Society Archive [via infosthetics ]

FailBlog: Drive Thru Funerals

Transportation Nation sends us to this: Google Street View: Not Just For Directions Anymore : "When you’re a desk toy doomed to a stationary existence, you don’t get out much — unless you know how to use the Internet. Address is Approximate is a short stop motion film that imagines the toy “tak(ing) a cross country road trip to the Pacific Coast in the only way he can – using a toy car and Google Maps Street View.” You can follow along as the toy goes over the Brooklyn Bridge, through cities, forests, and deserts–ultimately making it to his West Cost destination. Watch it below!"

From Global Urbanist ... London's useless bus route 'spider maps' due for an overhaul

A take down of London's bus maps. (But at least they have maps, all we get are useless signs at most of our bus stops).

(Via Human Transit.)


The Economist leads me to London Tubemap - A new angle on the London Underground which contains another proposed revision to the famous Beck map, with somewhat more geographic accuracy, though retaining stylization, but with 30 and 60 degree angles, rather than just 45 degrees. Buckminster Fuller might approve.



A cool redesign of the London Underground/ Railwaymap: here, I am not sure how I feel about it yet. The Union Jack is a bit gaudy, the Thames is a bit swirly, the zones are a bit too prominent. Compare with Harry Beck's original below.

(Via Lisa Schweitzer.)


MTA.ME New York's subways in musical motion

GOODAn App That Organizes Your City by Travel Time : ""

Mapnificent is a Google Maps application that provides a brilliant new way of looking at your local geography. Rather than letting you specify a start point and end point and then giving you directions and travel time, as most map applications normally do, Mapnificent allows you to specify a starting location and then see all the places you can reach by public transportation within a certain amount of time. This lets you pick an apartment, restaurant, or bar based on the amount of travel time you can tolerate. Someone hire this Stefan Wehrmeyer fellow (and not just for the fun accent).

This sounds a lot like our Accessibility mapper for the Twin Cities, which is multi-modal and does more. I assume this works off of Google Transit Feeds, which seems a reasonable approach for scaling up. Of course the video focuses on jobs (great) and coffee shops, which is the irrational target destination of 20-something planner types.

Mapnificent from Stefan Wehrmeyer on Vimeo.

Greater Greater Washington is running a redesign the DC Metro Map contest: See the redesigned Metro maps and vote for your favorite!

Zhan Guo at NYU has a very nice paper in TR part A about the distortionary effects of Harry Beck's London Underground Map: Mind the map! The impact of transit maps on path choice in public transit:

The conclusions (the paper is behind a paywall) Emphasis Added:

"This paper investigates the effect of schematic transit maps on travel decisions in public transit systems. The relationship might have significant implications for public transit operation and planning, but so far it has been largely overlooked by both academics and practitioners. The paper first defines four types of information delivered from a transit map: distortion, restoration, codification, and cognition, and then discusses their potential influence on travel location, mode, and path choices.

The case study on the London Underground confirms that a schematic transit map indeed affects passengers’ path choices. Moreover, the map effect is almost two times more influential than the actual travel time. In other words, underground passengers trust the tube map (two times) more than their own travel experience with the system. The map effect decreases when passengers become more familiar with the system but is still greater than the effect of the actual experience, even for passengers who use the underground 5 days or more per week.

The paper also shows that the codification of transfer connections is also important. Different codification can make a transfer look more or less convenient on a transit map than in reality, which will either decrease or increase the perceived transfer inconvenience for the corresponding stations. This paper observes both situations in the underground case study and quantifies this codification effect, in terms of the number of attracted or precluded transfers, for four major transfer stations: Baker St., Bank/Monument, Victoria, and Oxford Circus.

Of course, these results are only based on the London Underground, a unique case in many aspects. Few transit maps enjoy such public popularity as the tube map in London. Many transit maps include prominent geographical features, which dilute the map effect. Other systems have different past or present versions of their transit map, which precludes a lasting and stable map effect. Many metropolitan regions possess an easier-to-comprehend urban form than London, which could weaken the role of a transit map in the formation of a cognitive map. The subway map effect in New York City is probably different from that in London. Therefore, readers should be cautious about making generalizations.

If a transit map has an impact on travel decisions, what are the implications for transit operation and planning? First, if passengers trust a schematic map more than their own experience, all planning efforts aimed at changing travel behavior need to consider the map effect; otherwise, the effectiveness of those efforts might be weakened. For example, this map effect might partially explain why Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) often yields modest improvements in terms of travel time savings in public transit ([Hickman and Wilson, 1995], [Avineri and Prashker, 2006] and [Ben-Elia et al., 2008]). Secondly, a transit map might cause certain operational problems. For example, it might unintentionally shift more passengers to a congested segment in the network and thus form a bottleneck. The overcrowding at the Victoria and Oxford stations and on the link between the King’s Cross and Old Street stations, which is much shorter on the tube map than in reality, are possible examples.

Accordingly, a transit map could potentially become a planning tool to solve operational problems and improve system efficiency. For example, link lengths could be revised, and transfer stations could be re-coded on a transit map in order to change passenger behavior and mitigate platform and train crowding. Annotations of waiting time or crowding for selected stations on the map might also be important (Hochmair, 2009). Clearly, this approach has its own limits: we could not redraw a transit map however we pleased.

In terms of future trends, ATIS and alternative travel information channels, such as smart phones and the internet, might change the role of a transit map in mixed ways. On the one hand, they may weaken the transit map effect. For example, internet-based trip planners may recommend specific travel paths based on their actual attributes. On the other hand, they may strength the map influence as well. For example, a transit map might become more accessible to passengers through, for instance, smart phones or the internet. Travel information, such as crowding and delays, delivered in a map format could be more effective than other media ([Hato et al., 1999] and [Talaat, 2011]). Conventional media like the transit map will still likely be critical and indispensible for trip planning despite the prevalence of real time information (Cluett et al., 2003).

In summary, transit maps can have a profound impact on passengers’ travel decisions and system performance. Both individual passengers and transit agencies should ‘mind the map’ in order to make their best planning decisions.



Will London’s New Wayfinding System Get More People Walking?: ""

Changing Londoners mental maps

The thinking behind the new system is to encourage more people to walk around London instead of driving or using already overcrowded public transport. By catching people at key decision points – such as tube stations – and providing them with the right information on walking times and local attractions, it is hoped that they will choose to walk.

According to TfL, information really is key in achieving modal shift. Research found that most Londoners mental map of London is based on the tube map which is geographically distorted and can be very misleading. For instance there are over 100 connections on the underground where its quicker to walk than take the tube! Legible London maps will often show users that their destination is closer and more walkable than they think.

(Via Kelly Clifton.)

A Numeric Topology of the United States Eisenhower Interstate Highway System


Hedberg Maps makes "A Numeric Topology of the United States Eisenhower Interstate Highway System " which looks quite cool, though is not quite free. A full discussion is here


The interstate system has another quality besides the creation of corridors, boundaries and districts: it orders and grids the country. In creating the basic numbering plan for the highways, its creators followed a tradition that includes not only previous highway systems (including the 1920’s U.S. Highway System), but street layouts dating back to William Penn’s Philadelphia, the initial “nine squares” of New Haven, and the very definition of United States territory, the 1785 Land Ordnance with its grid of 6 x 6 mile townships. It has become so common for American cities to lay out streets in a square grid with numerical names that it can be surprising to go to countries where this practice is unknown. Learning to navigate even older American cities like Boston, where what grids there are are haphazard and streets change names seemingly at whim, can be daunting to those raised in orderly Omaha or Chicago.



Some ground-rules quickly emerged:

  • I would try to keep the “5-roads” as my guideposts and conform everything else to them (but what do you do when 1-80 and 1-90 become one road in Ohio and Indiana?)
  • One roadway = one line.
  • Two-digit routes would be drawn with a heavier line weight than three-digit routes. Where they share a pathway, the heavier line takes priority.
  • State boundaries would be topologically correct: every road intersection and state boundary road crossing would be shown in the correct order.
  • Odd-prefix three-digit routes (i.e spurs like I-394) would be shown as straight lines, and even ones (i.e. loop roads like I-494/694) would be made of circular arcs.
  • As much as graphically feasible, routes would be encouraged to lie along their numbered place in the grid for as much of their length as was graphically feasible.
  • A minimum of 1⁄4 inch would fall between each major intersection. Mostly.
  • I would use only straight line segments and arcs. No other curvy bits.
Birdseye View of Minneapolis and Saint Anthony From Big Map Blog:

Birdseye view of Minneapolis, Minnesota – 1867: ""

Remember Minneapolis and Saint Anthony (now SE and NE Minneapolis) did not merge until 1873. It is still quite recognizable.

(Via TFC)

Oyster Flowprint

From Anil Bawa-Cavia and Urbagram, The Oyster Flowprint. Oyster is the London transit payment system. The movie shows the flows on the system across the day.

This Oyster flowprint visualises trips made using London's RFID transport card on the London Underground on a typical weekday. Each trail is an individual passenger making a trip, tapping their card at an origin and destination. The actual routes taken are inferred using a simple shortest path algorithm. The animation uses a 5% sample of passengers on the network made available as a Transport for London Data Feed.

Activity on the network is charted along the bottom of the graphic. The double-humped dynamics typical of commuting are evident, and these constitute the characteristic signature of the living city. Twice a day the flowprint expands and contracts, sending its tendrils deep into North London; the diurnal 'pulse' of the city in action.

Synchronisation of travel during the morning rush hour, with a steep ramp in activity peaking at 8:40AM, is much greater than during the afternoon, which sees a much broader peak in activity, with people leaving work at a range of times. The afternoon rush hour doesn't subside until after 7pm, evidence perhaps of Londoner's love of an after-work pint.

Oyster Flowprint from Anil Bawa-Cavia on Vimeo.

Greg's Cable Map

Greg's Cable Map: ""

All the Undersea Communications Cables in the World, harvested from Wikipedia. It would be really cool to see this by year of construction. (ed. 5:21 pm, Greg writes:
That's something I'm working on, it should be up in 2-3 weeks; I'm very busy with real work and won't have much time to complete the task before the end of the month. Just keep an eye on the site, when I get that done, it'll appear as an entry in the changelog.

(Via ">James Fallows.)

Amtrak as a Subway Map

Cameron Booth maps Amtrak as a Subway Map. He also has done maps of the US Interstate Highway system similarly. The network structures are very different.

The Geography of Recession

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Via Daring Fireball A timelapse map of unemployment rate by US county. Mountain Time Zone seems to be doing relatively well, as are the western Great Plains and Washington DC. Also state capitals and university towns seem to pop out.

Mayor orders Thames back on map

From BBC Mayor orders Thames back on map

The most recent TfL Tube map had deleted the Thames to simplify presentation.

Who owns bus schedules?

Bus schedules are public data, aren't they?

From VentureBeat
Apple kills Routesy app, my iPhone gets less useful

Apparently, predictions of bus arrival times are not necessarily public data (this is disputed), so NextBus Information Systems (now separate from NextBus) has had the Routesy application for the iPhone killed.
Discussion here and here. (and a response here

Too bad it has come to this, NextBus had a nice thing going in Emeryville in the late 1990s.

David Levinson

Network Reliability in Practice

Evolving Transportation Networks

Place and Plexus

The Transportation Experience

Access to Destinations

Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Financing Transportation Networks

View David Levinson's profile on LinkedIn

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