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 The zonal map has been replaced by tiny numbers next to station names: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.

 
 
 
 

The Adam Smith Institute thinks size doesn’t matter when housing young professionals. It’s wrong

A microhome, of sorts. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The Adam Smith Institute has just published ‘Size Doesn’t Matter’, a report by Vera Kichanova, which argues that eliminating minimum space requirements for flats would help to solve the London housing crisis. The creation of so-called ‘micro-housing’ would allow those young professionals who value location over size to live inside the most economically-active areas of London, the report argues argues.

But the report’s premises are often mistaken – and its solutions sketchy and questionable.

To its credit, it does currently diagnose the roots of the housing crisis: London’s growing population isn’t matched by a growing housing stock. Kichanova is self-evidently right in stating that “those who manage to find accomodation [sic] in the UK capital have to compromise significantly on their living standards”, and that planning restrictions and the misnamed Green Belt are contributing to this growing crisis.

But the problems start on page 6, when Kichanova states that “the land in central, more densely populated areas, is also used in a highly inefficient way”, justifying this reasoning through an assertion that half of Londoners live in buildings up to two floors high. In doing so, she incorrectly equates high-rise with density: Kichanova, formerly a Libertarian Party councillor in Moscow, an extraordinarily spread-out city with more than its fair share of tall buildings, should know better.

Worse, the original source for this assertion refers to London as a whole: that means it includes the low-rise areas of outer London, rather than just the very centrally located Central Activities Zone (CAZ) – the City, West End, South Bank and so forth – with which the ASI report is concerned. A leisurely bike ride from Knightsbridge to Aldgate would reveal that single or two-storey buildings are almost completely absent from those parts of London that make up the CAZ.

Kichanova also argues that a young professional would find it difficult to rent a flat in the CAZ. This is correct, as the CAZ covers extremely upmarket areas like Mayfair, Westminster, and Kensington Gardens (!), as well as slightly more affordable parts of north London, such as King’s Cross.

Yet the report leaps from that quite uncontroversial assertion to stating that living outside the CAZ means a commute of an hour or more per day. This is a strawman: it’s perfectly possible to keep your commuting time down, even living far outside of the CAZ. I live in Archway and cycle to Bloomsbury in about twenty minutes; if you lived within walking distance of Seven Sisters and worked in Victoria, you would spend much less than an hour a day on the Tube.

Kichanova supports her case by apparently misstating research by some Swiss economists, according to whom a person with an hour commute to work has to earn 40 per cent more money to be as satisfied as someone who walks. An hour commute to work means two hours travelling per day – by any measure a different ballpark, which as a London commuter would mean living virtually out in the Home Counties.

Having misidentified the issue, the ASI’s solution is to allow the construction of so-called micro-homes, which in the UK refers to homes with less than the nationally-mandated minimum 37m2 of floor space. Anticipating criticism, the report disparages “emotionally charged epithets like ‘rabbit holes’ and ‘shoeboxes,” in the very same paragraph which describes commuting as “spending two hours a day in a packed train with barely enough air to breath”.


The report suggests browsing Dezeen’s examples of designer micro-flats in order to rid oneself of the preconception that tiny flats need mean horrible rabbit hutches. It uses weasel words – “it largely depends on design whether a flat looks like a decent place to live in” – to escape the obvious criticism that, nice-looking or not, tiny flats are few people’s ideal of decent living. An essay in the New York Times by a dweller of a micro-flat describes the tyranny of the humble laundry basket, which looms much larger than life because of its relative enormity in the author’s tiny flat; the smell of onion which lingers for weeks after cooking a single dish.

Labour London Assembly member Tom Copley has described being “appalled” after viewing a much-publicised scheme by development company U+I. In Hong Kong, already accustomed to some of the smallest micro-flats in the world, living spaces are shrinking further, leading Alice Wu to plead in an opinion column last year for the Hong Kong government to “regulate flat sizes for the sake of our mental health”.

Amusingly, the Dezeen page the ASI report urges a look at includes several examples directly contradicting its own argument. One micro-flat is 35 m2, barely under minimum space standards as they stand; another is named the Shoe Box, a title described by Dezeen as “apt”. So much for eliminating emotionally-charged epithets.

The ASI report readily admits that micro-housing is suitable only for a narrow segment of Londoners; it states that micro-housing will not become a mass phenomenon. But quite how the knock-on effects of a change in planning rules allowing for smaller flats will be managed, the report never makes clear. It is perfectly foreseeable that, rather than a niche phenomenon confined to Zone 1, these glorified student halls would become common for early-career professionals, as they have in Hong Kong, even well outside the CAZ.

There will always be a market for cheap flats, and many underpaid professionals would leap at the chance to save money on their rent, even if that doesn’t actually mean living more centrally. The reasoning implicit to the report is that young professionals would be willing to pay similar rents to normal-sized flats in Zones 2-4 in order to live in a smaller flat in Zone 1.

But the danger is that developers’ response is simply to build smaller flats outside Zone 1, with rent levels which are lower per flat but higher per square metre than under existing rules. As any private renter in London knows, it’s hardly uncommon for landlords to bend the rules in order to squeeze as much profit as possible out of their renters.

The ASI should be commended for correctly diagnosing the issues facing young professionals in London, even if the solution of living in a room not much bigger than a bed is no solution. A race to the bottom is not a desirable outcome. But to its credit, I did learn something from the report: I never knew the S in ASI stood for “Slum”.