We dropped a map of Manhattan onto one of London

Tower and Brooklyn Bridges. Images: Getty.

We don't know much here at CityMetric, but one thing we do know is that people love maps. And another thing we know is that they really love maps on top of other maps.

So, just for the LOLs, this week we've decided to drop Manhattan on top of London. Here are the results:

The first thing to note is that you can instantly see how long Manhattan is: all 13.5 miles of it, so that, in London terms, it would stretch from Wandsworth Common all the way up to Edmonton.

It's wider than we'd given it credit for, too. Look at 34th Street (where the miracles happen): it stretches for two miles across town, all the way from Mayfair to the Imperial War Museum.

Perhaps the biggest indication of quite how big the Big Apple really is, though, is Central Park: 2.5 miles long and a half a mile wide, imposed on London it covers a chunk of the city running all the way from Covent Garden to the northern reaches of leafy Islington.

In this new version of reality, Greenwich Village sits above Vauxhall; Harlem, hilariously, has replaced Stoke Newington. Chelsea (New York) now occupies Knightsbridge, while Chelsea (London) lies where the West Village meets the Hudson River.

The first question that faced us when taking on this enterprise was how to align the two cities. (Actually, that was about the sixth question that faced us, behind such vital conundrums as "Do the scales definitely match?" and "How is this a real job?", but let's leave that aside.)

New York doesn't have a semi-official central point in the way London does at Charing Cross: the city started at the southern tip of Manhattan, but the central business district, if you can call it that, today stretches all the way up to the edge of Central Park. So in the absence of a better plan we decided to dump the Theater District on top of London's Theatreland. Because, well, why not.

But that's not the only way of doing it. Here's what happens if you align the points where the two cities began life, London Bridge and the Battery:

Or why not swivel the island of Manhattan so that it points east-west rather than north-south?

Or, hey, let’s try tugging that baby out into the Thames Estuary.

Somebody stop me.

No, seriously. Somebody. Please. I need help here.

If you enjoy maps on top of other maps, why not check out this one of Paris on London.


What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.