1. Transport
November 12, 2015updated 28 Jul 2021 3:17pm

These tools let you map journey times in the world's major cities

By Ed Hickey

Earlier this year we told you about TfL’s shiny mapping tool, which you can use to work out journey times from anywhere in London to, well, anywhere else in London.

But maps can bring joy to everyone, not just Londoners. Lucky, then, that there are other tools which let you do the same thing much of the rest of the world.

Mapnificent is the creation of Stefan Wehrmeyer, a German data researcher.  The tool mines a database of timetables submitted directly by municipal transit authorities, and estimates any connection and waiting times between changing modes of transport. Starting life as a project which looked at transport accessibility in Berlin, it now covers 99 major cities worldwide (though it seems to be more reliable for some than others).

Are you stuck in a major world city and want to know how far you can travel within half an hour? You can do that. From downtown Manhattan?

From Notre Dame, in the heart of Paris?

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From the centre of Sydney?

What about amidst the throng of central Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil?

(It’s worth noting that these images aren’t necessarily all to the same scale.)

Closer to home, the tool covers cities including Manchester and Dublin. In London, though, Mapnificent produces some results that are strangely inconsistent with official TfL tool.

Below, as an illustration, we’ve used estimated travel times from the heart of Westminster. TfL reckon that you could reach as far as Covent Garden or Pimlico in 15 minutes (the central dark patch on the left hand image). Mapnificent suggests you could reach as far as the City of London or Elephant and Castle.

We think the latter is the more accurate assessment – a tube from St James’s Park to Cannon Street underground stations takes just 9 minutes, but the TfL mapper places the journey well inside the 15-30 minutes bracket.

That said, Mapnificent does appear to be less reliable when estimating journeys to outer London. A journey from Westminster to Romford, for example, can be completed in around 50 minutes, but the tool suggests considerably longer than that.

In its defence, Mapnificent doesn’t claim to be completely accurate: it doesn’t assess any of the raw data it uses, so discrepancies are likely to be down to data errors or an over-simplification of the connection times between two transport modes. But its creator claims the majority of errors are of less than 5 minutes, so it remains a useful indicative tool.

For those in the UK wanting to look at cities other than London or Manchester, there is an alternative. Mapumental served as the inspiration for Mapnificient, and allows transport accessibility mapping of any part of the UK with journey times of up to two hours.

A fast train from Birmingham to London takes just over 80 minutes. The Mapumental image below shows, starting from Birmingham city centre, where else you can travel within that time. Again, it has its issues (on the map below, we think central Nottingham should be lit up, for example). But for transport planners and those of us with an unhealthy interest in maps it is a great resource.

You can try out Mapumental and Mapnificent for yourself here.

(H/T for Mapnificent: the Guardian’s David Shariatmadari.)

This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.
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