Random metro map of the week: Variable life expectancy in Greater Manchester

Trams! Image: Getty.

Oh, hey, this is cool. Researchers at the University of Manchester have made their own map of the city's tram network.

It doesn't address any of our concerns about the readability of the network (boo). But it does do something else.

Click to expand. Slightly. Ful size version here.

The purple blobs are female life expectancy at selected stops; the light blue ones are (lower) male life expectancy. In between there's a tiny dark blue number, showing how deprived the area is: basically, high numbers are rich, low numbers are poor.

And would you believe it, there seems to be a correlation. In well to do areas, like Didsbury and Timperley, people tend to live longer. As lead researcher Kingsley Purdam noted in a blog about the research:

The journey from Timperley to Rochdale (one of the most economically deprived areas of Greater Manchester, where life expectancy is 69.4 years) can take around 75 minutes for a journey of 26 kilometres, but the difference in life expectancy between the areas is more than a decade – around a year for every 7 minutes.

He goes on to note:

The life expectancy gap between men and women is striking at the local level. For example, in Timperley life expectancy for men is estimated to be 78.3 years compared to 81.3 years for women – a difference of 3 years. However in Rochdale life expectancy for men is estimated to be 65.7 years compared to 74.3 years for women – a difference of 8.6 years.

It's a pretty striking illustration of how deprivation can vary within a single city. It reminds me of this piece of work, by James Cheshire and Oliver O'Brien – two researchers at UCL's Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis – which plots life expectancy by tube station. The shading shows reflects deprivation in individual areas:

(Full, interactive version available here.)

The similarities are not a coincidence. The two projects both have variants of the name "Lives on the line", and Purdam's blog links back to the London version, suggesting it was an inspiration.


What both projects show, I think, is metro maps can be a really useful device for helping to communicate aspects of a city that have nothing to do with transport. The geography it represents may be distorted, but it's also more recognisable through familiarity. That makes the difference in life expectancy between Rochdale and Timperley hit home.

Just one more way in which cities without decent transport are losing out.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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More than 830 cities have brought essential services back under public control. Others should follow

A power station near Nottingham: not one owned by Robin Hood Energy, alas, but we couldn't find anything better. Image: Getty.

The wave of cities worldwide rejecting privatization is far bigger and more successful than anyone thought, according to a new report from the Transnational Institute, Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation. Some 835 cities in 45 countries have brought essential services like water, energy and health care back under public control.

The persistent myth that public services are by nature more expensive and less efficient is losing its momentum. Citizens and users do not necessarily have to resign to paying increasingly higher tariffs for lower standard services. The decline of working conditions in public services is not an inevitability.

And the ever larger role private companies have played in public service delivery may at last be waning. The remunicipalisation movement – cities or local authorities reclaiming privatised services or developing new options – demonstrates that cities and citizens are working to protect and reinvent essential services.

The failure of austerity and privatisation to deliver promised improvements and investments is part of the reason this movement has advanced. But the real driver has been a desire to meet goals such as addressing climate change or increasing democratic participation in service provision. Lower costs and tariffs, improved conditions for workers and better service quality are frequently reported following remunicipalisation.  Meanwhile transparency and accountability have also improved.

Where remunicipalisation succeeds, it also tends to inspire other local authorities to make similar moves. Examples are plentiful. Municipalities have joined forces to push for renewable, climate-friendly energy initiatives in countries like Germany. Public water operators in France and Catalonia are sharing resources and expertise, and working together to overcome the challenges they meet.

Outside Europe, experiments in public services are gaining ground too. Delhi set up 1,000 Mohalla (community) clinics across the city in 2015 as a first step to delivering affordable primary health care. Some 110 clinics were working in some of the poorest areas of Delhi as of February 2017. The Delhi government claims that more than 2.6m of its poorest residents have received free quality health care since the clinics were set up.


Local authorities and the public are benefiting from savings too. When the Nottingham City Council found out that many low-income families in the city were struggling to pay their energy bills, they set up a new supply company. The company, Robin Hood Energy, which offers the lowest prices in the UK, has the motto: “No private shareholders. No director bonuses. Just clear transparent pricing.”

Robin Hood Energy has also formed partnerships with other major cities. In 2016, the city of Leeds set up the White Rose Energy municipal company to promote simple no-profit tariffs throughout the Yorkshire and Humberside regions. In 2017, the cities of Bradford and Doncaster agreed to join the White Rose/Robin Hood partnership.

Meanwhile, campaigners with Switched on London are pushing their city to set up a not-for-profit energy company with genuine citizen participation. The motivations in these diverse cities are similar: young municipal companies can simultaneously beat energy poverty and play a key role in achieving a just and renewable energy transition.

Remunicipalised public services often involve new forms of participation for workers and citizens. Remunicipalisation is often a first step towards creating the public services of the future: sustainable and grounded in the local economy. Inspiration can be found in the European towns and villages aiming for 'zero waste' with their remunicipalised waste service, or providing 100 per cent locally-sourced organic food in their remunicipalised school restaurants.

Public services are not good simply because they are not private. Public services must also continuously renew themselves, grow, innovate and recommit to the public they serve.

The push for remunicipalisation in Catalonia, for example, has come from a movement of citizen platforms. For them, a return to public management is not just an end in itself, but a first step towards the democratic management of public services based on ongoing civil participation.

Evidence is building that people are able to reclaim public services and usher in a new generation of public ownership. The momentum is building, as diverse movements and actors join forces to bring positive change in communities around the world.

You can read the Transnational Institute report, “Reclaiming Public Services: How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation”, on its website.