Here's another unofficial tube map that might be better than the real thing

Another amateur designer takes on the tube map. Image:

Oh hey, so, apparently we're not the only ones who've got the hump about the poor quality of London's new tube map. Yesterday, we received an email from Jug Cerović, a Belgrade-born and Paris-based architect and designer, which included the following:

...I must say I fully agree with you on the poor legibility of the new map.

You see? We're thought leaders round here.

I am also very happy that you have featured Sameboat's map from  Skyscrapercity/Wikimedia. [It shows] that map drawing is not any more the personal monopoly of a few administrative bodies.

And then, to prove his point, he attached a map of his own.

In places, Cerović's map, even more than Sameboat’s effort, departs radically from the Transport for London design we’re all used to. In the suburbs, it throws geographical accuracy to the winds to an extent that would make even Harry Beck shudder.

And yet, for all that, in terms of legibility and aesthetics, it’s actually rather good.

In the centre of town, the map, while stylised, stays relatively true to physical geography. Note the presence of Hyde Park, for example, or the way you can now see that Paddington is quite near to Lancaster Gate (something TfL has always preferred to keep secret).

Further out, though, the map abandons geography entirely, allowing the map to stay compact while keeping lines quite evenly spaced. So, for example, lines that head broadly east now take a sudden right angle towards the top of the map:

You'll recall that we had a number of complaints about TfL’s latest effort. One was that it made no effort to distinguish between lines that run every two minutes, and ones that run twice an hour. Another was that it was uses a hideous white/grey two-tone background to represent the fare zones. Another was that parts of it were now so cramped that it was just plain ugly.

Cerović's effort sidesteps some of these problems. The zonal map has been replaced by tiny numbers next to station names:

And less frequent parts of the network appear in less vibrant pastel shades, so that the eye is more likely to skip over them. That includes the Overground, and (something absent from the standard map) the main rail links to London’s airports:

Different DLR routes are shown in different colours, based on their northern or western terminals. (The Stratford and Tower Gateway colours are a bit similar, mind.)

The map's even been designed so you can drop Crossrail in without ruining everything:

There are things we're still not nuts about. The various Overground lines are still all in one colour, which gets a bit confusing in places.

And the use of pastel colours to represent entire networks can be a bit misleading: far more trains serve most of the inner sections of the Overground than do some of the outer reaches of the tube.

Once again, though, it's hard to avoid the feeling that more thought has gone into this amateur map than has gone into TfL's official one for a very long time.

You can see more of Cerović's map on his website, here.

If you have a metro map you'd like CityMetric to publish as part of our never ending, self-indulgent search for viral traffic, then email Jonn.Elledge@CityMetric.com.

 
 
 
 

Here’s how developers are getting out of building affordable homes

Yeah, you will never live here. Image: Getty.

Our housing crisis has been thrust into the spotlight in the worst way possible with the Grenfell Tower disaster. Hundreds have lost loved ones and many are without a home. While Shelter has been calling for those affected to be placed in good quality accommodation nearby, and hopes officials make good on their promise to do so, we know many local authorities simply don't have enough affordable homes.

The main reason for this desperate crisis? A generations-long failure of our housebuilding system to build enough homes that people on ordinary incomes can afford.

Over many years, house prices have continued to soar, while wages have stagnated. The average house price is now 7.6 times the average salary – it was about half that 20 years ago. 

Meanwhile, renters right across the country are having to shell out massive amounts of money every month to cover their rent, all for unstable, short-term contracts. And at the sharp end, homelessness is on the rise, with a shocking 255,000 people finding themselves without a home at the last count.

Today we rely on private housebuilders to build most of our homes. But as profit-driven organisations they are, perhaps understandably, not very good at building affordable homes.

A favoured, and perfectly legitimate way of building fewer affordable homes is through something called a “viability assessment”. When a housing developer gets planning permission they are normally required by the council to make a number of the homes they build officially "affordable". This number varies across the country but is usually between 30 to 50 per cent and developers will be aware of the requirement before they begin drawing up plans.

But the less affordable housing a developer builds, the more profit they could make – so the developer deploys the viability assessment. This allows them to go back to the council and say that the amount of affordable housing they originally agreed is no longer possible.


They’ll often blame changes in their costs or lower than anticipated house prices (as we’ve seen recently with the Battersea Power Station development), meaning they won’t make sufficient profits to build the number of affordable homes originally planned. Their case is strengthened by the fact the law was changed in 2012 to state that the developer must make “competitive returns” (in practice, 20 per cent profit) on the development.

The massive problem here is that we can’t scrutinise these really important decisions because – guess what? – the viability assessment is private. So affordable homes are being denied to people who really need them right across the country in this way, but local communities, journalists, campaigners and charities like Shelter are not being allowed to question it. And of course, it’s those people desperate for an affordable place to live who lose out.

It can be argued that developers are simply following the instinct of most private companies in being competitive and taking the opportunity to make more money. The real issue is that they are allowed to do it so easily in the first place, and keep it a secret.

The viability assessment should only be used when circumstances have made the council’s requirements literally impossible. And in such a case, it should be published so the public can scrutinise it. After all, in such an eventuality – what does anyone have to hide, right?

This issue is among many being discussed in the recent housing special from Channel 4’s Dispatches which looks at the challenges we face in ending the housing crisis.

We need to get tougher and plug this leak of affordable homes, but this is just one symptom of a housing system that is letting the whole nation down.

There are ways to solve this, based around getting land at a cheaper price. Until the government takes bold action to commit to a whole new way of building homes like this, it will be ordinary families who continue to carry the burden of our broken system.

Steve Akehurst is head of public affairs and campaigns at Shelter. Channel 4 Dispatches was broadcast on 10 July, at 8pm. This article previously appeared on our sister site, the Staggers.