This 1928 ad for the London Underground combines data with awesome

The tube map as it stood in 1909. Image: public domain/Wikimedia.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since we originally published this piece, we've been alerted to the fact that the poster below is currently on display as part of the London Transport Museum's Night Shift exhibition. You should check it out.

So here's a thing. An advert for the London Underground*, dating from 1928, helpfully telling users when the network was at its busiest.

Oooooooooh:

This is brilliant in two completely different ways. One is the descriptions of the sort of people travelling at each hour of the day, which mix practical information ("More Business Men", "Theatres, Cinemas and Restaurants IN") with a few wry jokes ("Not all Patrons are punctual"). 

There's also an interesting insight into the class system of the time in the distinction between "The Business Man" and "The Workers". And the line, "A quiet hour. London is recreating" is just lovely.

The other way in which this is brilliant lies in what this information is actually for. The real purpose of the ad is hidden in the description of the period between 11am and 5pm:

"The Shoppers and Pleasure-Seekers are now abroad, and it's the best time too, as the Business Folk are at work and there is more room in the Trains"

In other words, what we're looking at here is an attempt to use cutesy language to convey actual statistical information about the best time to travel. Effectively, it's an 87 year old piece of data journalism.

At the time this ad was published, incidentally, the Tube was carrying 1.1m passengers a day. Today, it's anything up to 4m. The network is bigger now, of course – but it isn't four times bigger. Nice going, guys.


*(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is no longer relevant, since we have now verified the image, but we'll leave it here for posterity. So:)

Mildly embarrassing disclaimer: we've not actually been able to verify this image. It appeared on Reddit with no explanation of where it originally came from, and its earliest appearance on the internet seems to be this Tumblr.

But we're at least 98 per cent confident it's real. Partly that’s because it looks real: this was the sort of ads that London Underground used to specialise in back in the day, and the image looks original.

But mostly it’s because this would be a very odd thing to make up. Even if you were of a mind to hoax the internet's booming community of London transport geeks (hi, guys), this just isn't how you'd do it.

If I wanted to hoax you lot I'd probably make up plans for an unbuilt tube line – one through Dalston and Hackney, with a map and everything – and then claim it didn't get build because the locals opposed gentrification or something. But that's just me.

 
 
 
 

These maps of petition signatories show which bits of the country are most enthusiastic about scrapping Brexit

The Scottish bit. Image: UK Parliament.

As anyone in the UK who has been near an internet connection today will no doubt know, there’s a petition on Parliament’s website doing the rounds. It rejects Theresa May’s claim – inevitably, and tediously, repeated again last night – that Brexit is the will of the people, and calls on the government to end the current crisis by revoking Article 50. At time of writing it’s had 1,068,554 signatures, but by the time you read this it will definitely have had quite a lot more.

It is depressingly unlikely to do what it sets out to do, of course: the Prime Minister is not in listening mode, and Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom has already been seen snarking that as soon as it gets 17.4m votes, the same number that voted Leave in 2016, the government will be sure to give it due care and attention.

So let’s not worry about whether or not the petition will be successful and instead look at some maps.

This one shows the proportion of voters in each constituency who have so far signed the petition: darker colours means higher percentages. The darkest constituencies tend to be smaller, because they’re urban areas with a higher population density. (As with all the maps in this piece, they come via Unboxed, who work with the Parliament petitions team.)

And it’s clear the petition is most popular in, well, exactly the sort of constituencies that voted for Remain three years ago: Cambridge (5.1 per cent), Bristol West (5.6 per cent), Brighton Pavilion (5.7 per cent) and so on. Hilariously, Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North is also at 5.1 per cent, the highest in London, despite its MP clearly having remarkably little interest in revoking article 50.

By the same token, the sort of constituencies that aren’t signing this thing are – sit down, this may come as a shock – the sort of places that tended to vote Leave in 2016. Staying with the London area, the constituencies of the Essex fringe (Ilford South, Hornchurch & Upminster, Romford) are struggling to break 1 per cent, and some (Dagenham & Rainham) have yet to manage half that. You can see similar figures out west by Heathrow.

And you can see the same pattern in the rest of the country too: urban and university constituencies signing in droves, suburban and town ones not bothering. The only surprise here is that rural ones generally seem to be somewhere in between.

The blue bit means my mouse was hovering over that constituency when I did the screenshot, but I can’t be arsed to redo.

One odd exception to this pattern is the West Midlands, where even in the urban core nobody seems that bothered. No idea, frankly, but interesting, in its way:

Late last year another Brexit-based petition took off, this one in favour of No Deal. It’s still going, at time of writing, albeit only a third the size of the Revoke Article 50 one and growing much more slowly.

So how does that look on the map? Like this:

Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit of an inversion of the new one: No Deal is most popular in suburban and rural constituencies, while urban and university seats don’t much fancy it. You can see that most clearly by zooming in on London again:

Those outer east London constituencies in which people don’t want to revoke Article 50? They are, comparatively speaking, mad for No Deal Brexit.

The word “comparatively” is important here: far fewer people have signed the No Deal one, so even in those Brexit-y Essex fringe constituencies, the actual number of people signing it is pretty similar the number saying Revoke. But nonetheless, what these two maps suggest to me is that the new political geography revealed by the referendum is still largely with us.


In the 20 minutes it’s taken me to write this, the number of signatures on the Revoke Article 50 has risen to 1,088,822, by the way. Will of the people my arse.

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

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