The 11 most irritating things about London Overground's London Overground map

Severe delays again. Image: Getty.

Here's a tweet I spotted on my travels earlier:

It’s a good point – a point, in fact, I was pondering on an Overground train only yesterday evening. (CityMetric never sleeps.)

And so, since it’s Friday, here is a litany of things that really irritate me about that map.

It's pointless

The Tube Map has a clear purpose. The Tube is London’s highest frequency, highest capacity railway, and the one that's most useful in central London. And  so, there's a reasonable chance that the Tube map will show your journey.

None of that is true of this map. Want to get from Cheshunt to Canary Wharf? Sorry, the latter isn't on there. Clapham to Camden Town? Well you could go all the way round the houses on the Overground, but to be honest you'd be better off getting the Northern Line. Trying to get almost anywhere in Central London? LOL, good luck.

What exactly is this map meant to be for?

The whole thing. Click to expand. Image: Project Mapping.

It's showing off

Mind you, it's only on trains anyway, not on platforms or apps or anywhere else you might go looking for a map. The odds of anyone ever being in a position to use this to plan their journey, even if they actually wanted to, are pretty minimal.

So why's it there? Presumably just so that TFL can show off how big its rail empire has got. It's the cartographic equivalent of willy-waving.

It's just far too orange

Depending on how you count, the Overground now has somewhere between six and 12 different routes in its empire. (I'd call it seven – East London, North London, Watford, Gospel Oak-Barking, Chingford, Enfield/Cheshunt, Romford-Upminster – but mileage clearly varies.)

Yet TfL are still intent on bundling them all together and calling the resulting mess "Overground". This not only makes the map hard to follow, and butt-ugly, to boot; it also means that you have no idea whether announcements about severe delays on the Overground mean a broken down train 15 miles away in Essex or "give up and hire a donkey".

More lines are meant to be joining the Overground over the next few years. For heaven's sake, TfL, find some other colours. Find some names even. Just stop pretending they're all the same thing.

It's also not orange enough

 

The tramlines as they appear on the tube map, contrasted with the solid colour of the District line.

Look, if you're going to force us to look at so much of one bloody colour, can't you at least fill the line in? Hollow tramlines get right on my nerve.

It doesn't show a change between Seven Sisters and South Tottenham

They're both right there, guys. They're a four minute walk apart.

You ever changed at Green Park? Did it take you more than four minutes? You're goddamn right it did.

Don't make me take matters here into my own hands here.

The way the shape of the map forces all the lines to run horizontally

Showing all the lines paralleling each other makes everything cramped. Showing all the lines paralleling each other makes the map difficult to follow. Showing all the lines paralleling each other also results in...

Its complete and utter lack of geography

Okay, metro maps generally throw geographic accuracy to the wind – that was Harry Beck's big idea, and well has it served us.

But this just takes the biscuit. West Croydon next to Clapham Junction? Cheshunt near Brondesbury? The two zone one stations so far apart they might as well be on different planets? It's madness. Utter madness.

It doesn’t show a change between Camden Road and Camden Town

Okay, there's a reason for this – Camden Town is so overcrowded it's a miracle TfL haven't started pretending it doesn't exist at all, just to stop people using it – but nonetheless it's the single most irritating absence on the map because that change would be really bloody useful.

The very fact of the Romford to Upminster line

Aww, look at the cute little thing. Which doesn't go anywhere, doesn't go there very often, and doesn't even bother to connect up with the rest of the network.

Once Crossrail comes in, it'll tie the network together a bit better...

...but at the moment it just looks stupid.

It has those confusing sword symbols next to London Fields and Cambridge Heath

The Lea Valley bit of the Overground is really two separate lines. One runs from Liverpool Street to Chingford; the other from Liverpool Street to Edmonton, with the trains then continuing alternately to either Enfield Town or Cheshunt.

The second of those sevices stops at every station on the way; the former doesn't.

Well maybe you need a better map then guys? Eh?

No really, it's pointless

Kind of repeating an earlier point here, I know, but seriously, what is the point of this thing? Why does it exist? Under what circumstances are we expected to use it?

What's it for?

Other than giving me something to moan about on a Friday afternoon.

Oh well, I guess that’s something.

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

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Five lessons for cities from a decade of Centre for Cities research

The view of Vancouver from Locarno Beach Park. Image: Getty.

With the government potentially facing years of “trench warfare” in Parliament, and Brexit set to dominate the national political agenda for the foreseeable future, local leaders have the chance to play a critical role in driving the UK’s economy in the coming years. However, it’s also clear that UK cities will face big challenges in the new economic circumstances outside the EU, and in responding to other issues such as globalisation and automation.

To meet these challenges and opportunities, local leaders will need to make the most of their existing resources and powers – and one of the best ways to do so is to learn from the experiences and ideas of other places.

That’s why the Centre for Cities recently launched a new, easy-to-navigate case study library featuring over 150 examples of good practice from cities in the UK and across the world. Drawn from more than 10 years of Centre for Cities research, the library offers examples of innovative and effective urban policy making in areas such as housing and transport, skills and employment, business and enterprise, and leadership.

In the process of compiling the case study library, five key lessons for cities stood out in particular:

1) Pooling resources with other local authorities can help places achieve more than they can do on their own.

Take Cambridge, for example. Its ability to deliver housing changed in the mid-2000s thanks to the establishment of the Cambridge sub-regional housing board.

By working in partnership with neighbouring authorities (as well as with development companies and a strategic planning unit), Cambridge has been able to reach a consensus on the importance of increasing density and introducing transport-oriented urban extensions.

2) Cities should also make the most of the support and initiatives that non-public sector partners can offer.

For example, Manchester City Council worked in partnership with NESTA and other agencies to launch an innovative ‘Creative Credit’ voucher scheme in 2010. Through this initiative, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the city region were given vouchers worth £4,000 to spend on buying services from creative companies provided they spent at least £1,000 themselves. The pilot was oversubscribed and its evaluation showed a positive impact on sales and the innovation capacity of participants.

3) Having a clear understanding of the needs of people targeted by a specific programme or project will be vital in its success.

This is demonstrated by the success of Blade Runners, an employment programme set up by the City of Vancouver to support 15-30 year olds facing multiple barriers from getting into training and/or employment (such as substance misuse, homelessness, transportation costs and legal issues).

Three quarters of the participants in the programme completed training and moved into jobs, a success rate made possible by the continuous, targeted support provided by Blade Runners coordinators. This included referring participants to appropriate resources, and providing them with breakfast and lunch, living allowances, travel tickets, tools, equipment and work gear for training.


4) Even when cities do not have formal powers to make a difference, they can still use their leadership role to influence and inspire positive changes.

For example, in 2010 the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson launched the London Apprenticeship Campaign which aimed to increase awareness of the scheme. Letters signed by the London Mayor were sent to CEOs of large businesses outlining the value of apprenticeships, and the potential benefits of recruiting apprentices. The campaign had a positive impact on raising awareness among employers and helped to boost the profile of apprenticeships in London.

5) Monitoring and evaluating projects from their early stages is crucial for their long-term success.

San Francisco offers a clear example of how long term policy making coupled with close monitoring can drive change and create jobs. In 2002, the city set itself the goal of a 75 per cent reduction in landfill waste by 2010 and zero waste by 2020. Thanks to close evaluation of the projects, the city realised its efforts were not enough to reach the target, and so introduced a further 20 laws to address these issues. The city is now ahead of its schedule in meeting objectives.

You can access the case study library and to read about these examples in more detail here. We are always keen to hear about new case studies, so please do get in contact if you’d like to share good practice from your city.

Elena Magrini is a researcher at the Centre for Cities, on whose website this article originally appeared.

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