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— urbantick

Tag "transport"

The busy city is one of them in recent years much overused mental images. It is busy of course and major hubs such as London even more so. The rise of mapping and visualisation since 2005 supplied a wealth of actual images and renderings illustrating the busyness of urban areas in colour and depth, not just in numbers.

Traffic is, of course, one of the foremost topics here perfectly lending itself to the subject. It is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy though using the rush hour to illustrate the madness of the daily migration. There you are, look at how busy the busiest airport in the world is.

That is the conundrum much of the recent debate around urban area management is facing. It is revolving around the established assumptions continuously enforcing them unable to break the spell to reach beyond. If we keep looking at the numbers, lines and trailing dots not much is coming from it any longer. Even the excitement is subsiding, and insight is scarce.

Where are the real hocks to wring some insight from the pool of information? Is it visions that are lacking or the absence of a coherent urban concept to frame the question?

Video taken from the Guardian / Layers of London air traffic build up over 24 hours – video animation. “A video animation shows the layers of air traffic associated with each of London’s five major airports over a 24-hour period. Made in July last year the visualisation illustrates the buildup of more than 3,000 flights a day handled by air traffic controllers as well as more passing over the capital”.

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Home delivery keeps the urban areas busy and promises the busy citizen a hassle free consumer live style. Delivery trucks a clogging the streets of most large western metropolis for later today, same day or next day deliveries.

Not the road, but the sky is the limit so little surprise drone technology has attracted the interest of large delivery companies. There are a number of project in development. Currently the hurdle is not so much the technology but the legal requirements.

Nevertheless test are being undertaken. One example for a smaller scale autonomous food delivery system is being tested in Iceland.

The Iceland project does sound like a scam, but it has been covered by Inside, the Verge, Fortune and actually investigated by TNW.

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How does the public transport network sound? What noises could you derive from the different lines and tracks?

Probably commuters will have a very individual and specific sound scape in mind, thinking about the journey on the public transport network. Every journey sounds different and heavily depends on various factors. But there is still a general feeling for different spaces according to sounds.

Very much as discussed earlier in the MyTime interview ‘On SoundTimeSpace’ with Salomé Voegelin sound is generating presence. As she puts it: “Sound is never an a priori, it is not there before its experience, but is generated in our audition and this audition is what extends its present moment to include all that could sound as well as what does”.

Image taken from mta.me by Alexander Cheng / NY Subway trains visualised as a string instrument. Turn your head phones up.

Relating this back to the transport network, Alexander Chen has developed his own interpretation of the transport network music and uses the New York Subway map to conduct a simple piece. The lines are turned into strings and are played at the crossing of lines. When ever train crosses another line it playes the line-string like a string instrument.

The rhythm is based on the actual train shedule. The trains are running as feed is pulled in directly from the MTA’s public API. The actuall visualisation runns on MTA.me. The site is built in HTML5/Javascript with some flash running the sound.

Alexander explains: “Length determines pitch, with longer strings playing lower notes. When a string is in the middle of being drawn by a subway car, its pitch is continually shifting. The sounds are cello pizzicato from the wonderful freesound.org, a set recorded by corsica_s. A complete chromatic scale was too dissonant. Ultimately I settled on a simple major C scale but with the lowest note as a raised third E, which keeps it from ever feeling fully resolved.”

And as a suggestion for your next day at work come via a comment left on Alexanders blog: “Thanks to your boss suggestion, I opened up 3 tabs and I haven’t felt like turning my iTunes back on again because the entropic free jazz strumming is so bewitching! Sweetness on top of sweetness.”

Maybe seeing the tube network in such a way might alter the individual soundscape. Length of journey and time of crossing. Also have a look at Alexanders mta.me for the full screen visuals that are actually based on the 1972 Massimo Vignelli (hear Vignelli talking about his work HERE. Extract from the great Helvetica film) diagram. And also note that the lines since have changed and between 00h00 and 02h00 Alexander runs some ghost trains to keep the concert going. It runs as a look so you can listen to it all day long.

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A guest post by Duncan Smith, contributing to the second Ecological Urbanism discussion hosted by Annick Labeca, Taneha Bacchin, DPR-Barcelona and urbanTick.

Connectivity and Sustainability in 21st Century Cities
Transportation is only one domain of urban sustainability, yet it is a critical aspect as connectivity is (arguably) the fundamental social and economic purpose of cities. Furthermore transportation has widespread consequences for urban quality of life, and of course for energy use and carbon emissions. This discussion is a reflection on a talk given by Prof Michael Wegener at CASA UCL.
The history of urbanism is one of massively increasing mobility, both within urban regions and between them in terms of travel, trade and globalisation. The graph below illustrates the dramatic change in vehicle miles over the last fifty years in the UK. This has been enabled by greatly reduced costs of motoring, through unprecedented fossil fuel exploitation and growth in the global car industry. Yet this change is fundamentally a result of social behaviour, that is the desire of people to maximise their opportunities and choice by using increased mobility to live, work, shop and socialise over greater and greater distances.

Figure taken from Department for Transport, 2009b / UK total travel distance by mode 1952-2008.

Wegener argues this era of increased mobility has ended. The threat of anthropogenic climate change compels us to massively reduce transportation carbon emissions, and commitments made for example at the EU level to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 require massively reduced motorised travel and subsequently mobility. The second strand to this argument comes from the finite nature of oil supplies and the inevitable price increases as global supplies dwindle. Unfortunately these demands are in sharp contrast to major economic trends of increased globalisation, with greater interaction between cities, and specialisation with intensive spatially segregated economic functions requiring greater travel. Current urban form solutions to this potential conflict revolve around ideas of ‘networked’ and ‘polycentric’ cities, with multiple nodes closely integrated through public and active transport links.
Just as modernism fetishised speed and motorisation, technological fixes to urban transportation sustainability are constantly promoted and are always just around the corner. Amazing innovations in electric drive train vehicles can remove local pollution from cities, but will not overcome energy and carbon emission challenges. A more radical overhaul of the automobile is required. The humble pedestrian, bicycle and the tram/streetcar currently remain the best tools we have for providing connectivity and liveability, and the most successful cities for sustainable travel (e.g. Copenhagen, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Munich..) prioritise these modes. Progress relies on planning and design that enables connectivity through less energy intensive means, as well as a political consensus to tax fossil fuels, which research shows is the powerful means of influencing travel behaviour.


Duncan Smith is a researcher in GIS and urban geography at CASA UCL, completing a PhD on the topic of polycentric urban form and sustainable development. He also works as a research fellow at the Greater London Authority Economics Unit.

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More and more location data becomes available and makes it possible to visualise the beat of the city over longer periods and/or compressed as a speed up sequence.

Eric Fischer has recently published online a few mappings of online available location data. Most popular were the flickr maps of world cities. This time it is bus movement data through which he visualises San Francisco. The data was collected of the period of one month.

Clip by Eric Fischer / Overlay of Muni vehicle movements for all of June, 2010.
Thanks to Matt for the link via flowingdata.

Visualisation of public transport vehicles in Vienna, Austria put together by Max Kossa on wissenbelasted.com . It is built from a database containing 1048 stops along 44 bus lines, 18 night bus lines and 29 tram lines. Within 24 hours there are some 510.026 total stops for all vehicles.

The different vehicle types are coded in colour. Green are the night buses. This is quite obvious at 01:30. At this time the regular service shuts down and the blue (tram) and red (bus) dots vanish for the rest of the night.

The author has published the scraped data base file for download if you want to have a play.

Clip by Max Kossa /24 hours in the life of the public transport network of Vienna.

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Visualisation of the transport network of Washington D.C. over 24 hours. Developed by Rahul Nair in Processing. It is visualised in processing with a data set from WMATA transit system. The transport network has made their dat available through the open Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). If you want to have a go the set is available from HERE. It has been made available to allow for the third party development of application, especially mobile applications for travellers. This way the transport provider hopes to source attractive and convenient applications without having to pay for it. A good plan I guess. However, what I didn’t know is that there is a whole lot of feeds available through this GTFS schema. The list can be found HERE, only US, but pretty cool.
Beautiful how the the dots buzz around. The back and forward pattern is not as obvious as expected, for this the D.C. area is simply too busy. The overall pattern of an ebb between two and four in the morning is something one would expect, however it seems surprisingly short.

Second try can be found HERE.

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Once more a nice timelapse for the approaching weekend. I think the title of the clip actually is a bit misleading, or a t least it unveils to much of the detail about making it. However the coours and the blending in is really nice and makes you wana go to Liverpool street for a lunch break.

Lunch-Time-Lapse Thursday 09-04-09 from Ace Renegade on Vimeo.

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With the latest iPhone software update, version 3.1, the long awaited augmented reality applications finally have arrived on the iPhone platform. Already a month back acrossair’s Nearest Tube application was hyped on the net and in the news, but now it rather quietly was introduced. It featured on the blog before here.
It is now available on the itunes app store for £1.19. I wonder how a software price of 1.19 is calculated?
Together with it came a bunch of similar public transport applications for example the London Bus application for £ 0.59 by presslite.
Of course both developers cover a range of cities with their apps, where you have to by the app for each city separately, of course.
Presslite does cover, London, Paris, Berlin, Lyon, Moscow, Washington, Marseille, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Madrid, Amsterdam, Beijing and Hong-Kong. Acrossair on the other hand covers New York and London.
I can imagine that it is a battle over this field, as potentially there are a lot of customers. It is for the commuters, but also for tourists and then it is for everyone else who is in the city. I guess that the companies assume that nearly everyone needs their app. I don’t think it is that simple, though. For one, not everyone has the gadget to actually use the software and two; the idea of getting lost in the city is a myth. The believe that everyone in the city needs this sort of navigation aid is based on the idea that no one knows their way round and constantly get lost. Well, in a large city such as London it is impossible to know every corner, but I believe that people know their daily route quite well and are perfectly capable of navigating along familiar trails. Only when it comes to out of routine activities on unfamiliar territory navigation aids are use. For example in most cars here in London you can spot an A-Z on the back seat.
However, back to the functionality of the applications, the Nearest Tube works beautifully, it is as simple as it gets, both, in terms of graphics and functions. You tab the icon it opens and shows as a camera overlay the direction to the tube stations. The only thing you have to confirm is an iPhone operating system specific question, because the program wants to use the location information to locate the position, so the user has initially to confirm that the software is allowed to do so. Other than this there is no button, no developer logo, no info or about, nothing – how nice! You can, however, tab on the displayed tube sign and it will take you to Google Maps and shows the direct route to get there. It is a five star application; it does what it is meant to do and nothing more.
The London Bus on the other hand, does not convince at this stage. It claims to give you bus route information in London, but actually it is limited to central London and to a fraction of the bus lines and only covering major bus stops. Those are basically the tube stations. Although there are a number of bus stops on Tottenham Court Road it directs you either to Tottenham Court Road Station on the South end of the road or to Warren Street Station on the North end of the road. Out side the centre, I tried to use it to get in to work this morning around Tufnell Park; the software would not even register the location and therefore not even give information about distant stations.
It also features Augmented Reality but only as an additional visualisation, where as Nearest Tube only builds on AR. London Bus is map based with the option to use AR and it is not as neat as the acrossair version.
So Nearest Tube is cool, London Bus is not so cool.

Image by urbanTick – Nearest Tube information in my bathroom

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Most of us travel to work daily and most likely we travel in a mass of fellow travelers towards a destination most likely in a inner city location. This collective daily migration also known as the rush hour is part of the city beat and pumps through the city’s veins of streets like a liquid. The public transport plays a major role in this choreographed routine. Here in London its the tube and the big red buses that take the lot.

The daily trip on a London bus as seen from the back, in a time laps animation by urbanTick for urbanDiary. Shot with an iPhone using TimeLapse, processed in Quick Time.

tlBusDailyRoute_090512 from urbanTick on Vimeo.
Music “If You Are the One to Take Me Home” by ::thinkstandard:: at mp3unsigned.com

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The puls of the transport network does play a big role in the constitution of the cities puls. The pace of the departure of the public transport, the frequency of the stops, but also the location of the stations spatially drive this rhythm. Any live tracking transport site gives a good idea of the puls of the transport network.
The following visualisation of the commuter trains around Copenhagen give a really good impression of the frequency. It represents the realtime position of each train on an abstract network map.

Image by Jim Larsen / Click HERE to see the live map. Works best in Firefox or Safari

The time laps captured at a tube station visualizes the puls from a different angle and show how the arrival and departure of trains pump the commuters through the network.

tlCTstationFull_090127 from urbanTick on Vimeo

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