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 The zonal map has been replaced by tiny numbers next to station names: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

 
 
 
 

“Stop worrying about hairdressers”: The UK government has misdiagnosed its productivity problem

We’re going as fast as we can, here. Image: Getty.

Gonna level with you here, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I’m a huge fan of schadenfreude, so learning that it the government has messed up in a previously unsuspected way gives me this sort of warm glow inside. On the other hand, the way it’s been screwing up is probably making the country poorer, and exacerbating the north south divide. So, mixed reviews really.

Here’s the story. This week the Centre for Cities (CfC) published a major report on Britain’s productivity problem. For the last 200 years, ever since the industrial revolution, this country has got steadily richer. Since the financial crash, though, that seems to have stopped.

The standard narrative on this has it that the problem lies in the ‘long tail’ of unproductive businesses – that is, those that produce less value per hour. Get those guys humming, the thinking goes, and the productivity problem is sorted.

But the CfC’s new report says that this is exactly wrong. The wrong tail: Why Britain’s ‘long tail’ is not the cause of its productivity problems (excellent pun, there) delves into the data on productivity in different types of businesses and different cities, to demonstrate two big points.

The first is that the long tail is the wrong place to look for productivity gains. Many low productivity businesses are low productivity for a reason:

The ability of manufacturing to automate certain processes, or the development of ever more sophisticated computer software in information and communications have greatly increased the output that a worker produces in these industries. But while a fitness instructor may use a smartphone today in place of a ghetto blaster in 1990, he or she can still only instruct one class at a time. And a waiter or waitress can only serve so many tables. Of course, improvements such as the introduction of handheld electronic devices allow orders to be sent to the kitchen more efficiently, will bring benefits, but this improvements won’t radically increase the output of the waiter.

I’d add to that: there is only so fast that people want to eat. There’s a physical limit on the number of diners any restaurant can actually feed.

At any rate, the result of this is that it’s stupid to expect local service businesses to make step changes in productivity. If we actually want to improve productivity we should focus on those which are exporting services to a bigger market.  There are fewer of these, but the potential gains are much bigger. Here’s a chart:

The y-axis reflects number of businesses at different productivities, shown on the x-axis. So bigger numbers on the left are bad; bigger numbers on the right are good. 

The question of which exporting businesses are struggling to expand productivity is what leads to the report’s second insight:

Specifically it is the underperformance of exporting businesses in cities outside of the Greater South East that causes not only divergences across the country in wages and standards of living, but also hampers national productivity. These cities in particular should be of greatest concern to policy makers attempting to improve UK productivity overall.

In other words, it turned out, again, to the north-south divide that did it. I’m shocked. Are you shocked? This is my shocked face.

The best way to demonstrate this shocking insight is with some more graphs. This first one shows the distribution of productivity in local services business in four different types of place: cities in the south east (GSE) in light green, cities in the rest of the country (RoGB) in dark green, non-urban areas in the south east in purple, non-urban areas everywhere else in turquoise.

The four lines are fairly consistent. The light green, representing south eastern cities has a lower peak on the left, meaning slightly fewer low productivity businesses, but is slightly higher on the right, meaning slightly more high productivity businesses. In other words, local services businesses in the south eastern cities are more productive than those elsewhere – but the gap is pretty narrow. 

Now check out the same graph for exporting businesses:

The differences are much more pronounced. Areas outside those south eastern cities have many more lower productivity businesses (the peaks on the left) and significantly fewer high productivity ones (the lower numbers on the right).

In fact, outside the south east, cities are actually less productive than non-urban areas. This is really not what you’d expect to see, and no a good sign for the health of the economy:

The report also uses a few specific examples to illustrate this point. Compare Reading, one of Britain’s richest medium sized cities, with Hull, one of its poorest:

Or, looking to bigger cities, here’s Bristol and Sheffield:

In both cases, the poorer northern cities are clearly lacking in high-value exporting businesses. This is a problem because these don’t just provide well-paying jobs now: they’re also the ones that have the potential to make productivity gains that can lead to even better jobs. The report concludes:

This is a major cause for concern for the national economy – the underperformance of these cities goes a long way to explain both why the rest of Britain lags behind the Greater South East and why it performs poorly on a

European level. To illustrate the impact, if all cities were as productive as those in the Greater South East, the British economy would be 15 per cent more productive and £225bn larger. This is equivalent to Britain being home to four extra city economies the size of Birmingham.

In other words, the lesson here is: stop worrying about the productivity of hairdressers. Start worrying about the productivity of Hull.


You can read the Centre for Cities’ full report here.

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

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook