This map shows how much the world has shrunk in the last century

Rome2Rio's map of the world by travel distance from London in 1914. Image: Rome2Rio.

Globalisation has become the simmering political issue of this generation. The heaving, tumultuous forces of anti-globalistion diatribe con artists such as Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, and Nigel Farage. Or the sheened, smiling polish of unashamedly pro-globalisation prophets (think Emmanuel Macron and the artist formerly known as Nick Clegg).

The phenomenon can feel like something that's suddenly blown up quite recently – since the 2008 financial crash, or perhaps since the end of the Cold War in 1990. From the point of view of transport, however, the key moment must be the beginning of powered airplane flights, mastered by the Wright brothers in 1903. 

But it wasn't until 1914 that aeroplanes came into their own, with flights across the channel and around Europe as part of the battle of the First World War. Which, helpfully, is where this map starts:

The world in 1914 from London. Click to expand. Image: Rome2Rio.

This is an isochronic map. Parts of the world are shaded in different colours relative to how long it takes to get there from the centre of the world – aka London. 

Western Europe, the southern parts of northern Europe, the coast of North Africa, and European Russia are all within a five-day journey from London – shaded in dark pink.

The next level out – in light pink – is a five to ten-day journey. That includes more of Russia, Turkey, the Red Sea coast, the Caucasus, and the east coast and mid-west of the US. Ten days to get to New York. Imagine. 

Orange shows how far you can get if you invest ten to 20 days of long train and boat rides. Suddenly, most of North and Central America opens up, along with the Brazilian coast, South Africa, India, Korea, a whole load of Siberia, and Shanghai and its environs. 

(By this point, going around the world in 80 days is starting to sound quite impressive.)

Green is where we get into serious long-haul territory – 20 to 30 days' journey. Here lies Japan, Hong Kong, western Australia, Zanzibar and more of the inland areas of Africa, Madagascar, Hong Kong, Iran, and today's Malaysia. 

Pretty much all of the world opens up by a 30 to 40-day-journey - coloured light blue on this map. Australia's almost totally covered, as are the Americas, Arabia, Siberia, the Pacific islands and New Zealand. By this point, the regional discrepencies in the quality of infrastructure to take you inland from the big ports and coastal regions are becoming horribly clear.

Dark blue shading indicates the longest journeys from London – over 40 days long. It's only at this point that the inland areas of South America (the Amazon), Africa (the Sahara and central African rainforests), Asia (the eastern Chinese steppes) and the Australian outback open up. 

Fairly obviously, these are the places where agressively penetrating railroads – normally built by European imperial powers – couldn't get to so easily. Where North America has the great railways criss-crossing the continent, travelling to South America lands you on a boat heading up the Amazon. Slow going. 

Compare that to the situation today (well, 2016 to be exact). 

Both maps put together, so the differences can be seen in tandem. Click to expand. Image: Rome2Rio.

If the team from Rome2Rio, the transport search engine company behind the map, had used the same scale, the entire map would have been in that dark pink shade. 

But, they didn't. Which is understandable. Dark pink on the 2016 map is where you can get to in half a day. 

The situation in 2016. Image: Rome2Rio

Again, Europe and European Russia are covered, but so are the east-coast cities of the US, a few choice west-coast cities, West Africa, most of Arabia, and a speckling of locations through India and up into Central Asia. 

If you're willing to spent a half to a three-quarters of a day travelling, you can get to most of North and Central America, much of the Brazilian coast, a whole lot of Africa, and basically all of south and east Asia excluding Tibet and Mongolia. You can even get to Alaska. 

In under a day from London, the world is pretty much your oyster, as shaded in orange – with the notable exception of Australia and New Zealand. 

A journey of one to one-and-a-half days (look for the light green shade) opens up coastal Australia, New Zealand, southern Greenland, and most of the interior of South America and Africa. 

It's worth dwelling on the fact that the most far-reaching shade here – the mid-blue indicating a journey of more than one and a half days – covers a time period so much shorter than those of a century earlier. Where journeys in 1914 could easily be in excess of 40 days, you'd feel hard-pressed today if you wanted to get somewhere and it took three days. 

So, yeah. Globalisation, huh? Cool stuff. 

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

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Urgently needed: Timely, more detailed standardized data on US evictions

Graffiti asking for rent forgiveness is seen on a wall on La Brea Ave amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Los Angeles, California. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

Last week the Eviction Lab, a team of eviction and housing policy researchers at Princeton University, released a new dashboard that provides timely, city-level US eviction data for use in monitoring eviction spikes and other trends as Covid restrictions ease. 

In 2018, Eviction Lab released the first national database of evictions in the US. The nationwide data are granular, going down to the level of a few city blocks in some places, but lagged by several years, so their use is more geared toward understanding the scope of the problem across the US, rather than making timely decisions to help city residents now. 

Eviction Lab’s new Eviction Tracking System, however, provides weekly updates on evictions by city and compares them to baseline data from past years. The researchers hope that the timeliness of this new data will allow for quicker action in the event that the US begins to see a wave of evictions once Covid eviction moratoriums are phased out.

But, due to a lack of standardization in eviction filings across the US, the Eviction Tracking System is currently available for only 11 cities, leaving many more places facing a high risk of eviction spikes out of the loop.

Each city included in the Eviction Tracking System shows rolling weekly and monthly eviction filing counts. A percent change is calculated by comparing current eviction filings to baseline eviction filings for a quick look at whether a city might be experiencing an uptick.

Timely US eviction data for a handful of cities is now available from the Eviction Lab. (Courtesy Eviction Lab)

The tracking system also provides a more detailed report on each city’s Covid eviction moratorium efforts and more granular geographic and demographic information on the city’s evictions.

Click to the above image to see a city-level eviction map, in this case for Pittsburgh. (Courtesy Eviction Lab)

As part of their Covid Resource, the Eviction Lab together with Columbia Law School professor Emily Benfer also compiled a scorecard for each US state that ranks Covid-related tenant protection measures. A total of 15 of the 50 US states plus Washington DC received a score of zero because those states provided little if any protections.

CityMetric talked with Peter Hepburn, an assistant professor at Rutgers who just finished a two-year postdoc at the Eviction Lab, and Jeff Reichman, principal at the data science research firm January Advisors, about the struggles involved in collecting and analysing eviction data across the US.

Perhaps the most notable hurdle both researchers addressed is that there’s no standardized reporting of evictions across jurisdictions. Most evictions are reported to county-level governments, however what “reporting” means differs among and even within each county. 

In Texas, evictions go through the Justice of the Peace Courts. In Virginia they’re processed by General District Courts. Judges in Milwaukee are sealing more eviction case documents that come through their courtroom. In Austin, Pittsburgh and Richmond, eviction addresses aren’t available online but ZIP codes are. In Denver you have to pay about $7 to access a single eviction filing. In Alabama*, it’s $10 per eviction filing. 

Once the filings are acquired, the next barrier is normalizing them. While some jurisdictions share reporting systems, many have different fields and formats. Some are digital, but many are images of text or handwritten documents that require optical character recognition programs and natural language processors in order to translate them into data. That, or the filings would have to be processed by hand. 

“There's not enough interns in the world to do that work,” says Hepburn.

Aggregating data from all of these sources and normalizing them requires knowledge of the nuances in each jurisdiction. “It would be nice if, for every region, we were looking for the exact same things,” says Reichman. “Instead, depending on the vendor that they use, and depending on how the data is made available, it's a puzzle for each one.”

In December of 2019, US Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Rob Portman of Ohio introduced a bill that would set up state and local grants aimed at reducing low-income evictions. Included in the bill is a measure to enhance data collection. Hepburn is hopeful that the bill could one day mean an easier job for those trying to analyse eviction data.

That said, Hepburn and Reichman caution against the public release of granular eviction data. 

“In a lot of cases, what this gets used for is for tenant screening services,” says Hepburn. “There are companies that go and collect these data and make them available to landlords to try to check and see if their potential tenants have been previously evicted, or even just filed against for eviction, without any sort of judgement.”

According to research by Eviction Lab principal Matthew Desmond and Tracey Shollenberger, who is now vice president of science at Harvard’s Center for Policing Equity, residents who have been evicted or even just filed against for eviction often have a much harder time finding equal-quality housing in the future. That coupled with evidence that evictions affect minority populations at disproportionate rates can lead to widening racial and economic gaps in neighborhoods.

While opening up raw data on evictions to the public would not be the best option, making timely, granular data available to researchers and government officials can improve the system’s ability to respond to potential eviction crises.

Data on current and historical evictions can help city officials spot trends in who is getting evicted and who is doing the evicting. It can help inform new housing policy and reform old housing policies that may put more vulnerable citizens at undue risk.

Hepburn says that the Eviction Lab is currently working, in part with the ACLU, on research that shows the extent to which Black renters are disproportionately affected by the eviction crisis.

More broadly, says Hepburn, better data can help provide some oversight for a system which is largely unregulated.

“It's the Wild West, right? There's no right to representation. Defendants have no right to counsel. They're on their own here,” says Hepburn. “I mean, this is people losing their homes, and they're being processed in bulk very quickly by the system that has very little oversight, and that we know very little about.”

A 2018 report by the Philadelphia Mayor’s Taskforce on Eviction Prevention and Response found that of Philadelphia’s 22,500 eviction cases in 2016, tenants had legal representation in only 9% of them.

Included in Hepburn’s eviction data wishlist is an additional ask, something that is rarely included in any of the filings that the Eviction Lab and January Advisors have been poring over for years. He wants to know the relationship between money owed and monthly rent.

“At the individual level, if you were found to owe $1,500, was that on an apartment that's $1,500 a month? Or was it an apartment that's $500 a month? Because that makes a big difference in the story you're telling about the nature of the crisis, right? If you're letting somebody get three months behind that's different than evicting them immediately once they fall behind,” Hepburn says.

Now that the Eviction Tracking System has been out for a week, Hepburn says one of the next steps is to start reaching out to state and local governments to see if they can garner interest in the project. While he’s not ready to name any names just yet, he says that they’re already involved in talks with some interested parties.

*Correction: This story initially misidentified a jurisdiction that charges $10 to access an eviction filing. It is the state of Alabama, not the city of Atlanta. Also, at the time of publication, Peter Hepburn was an assistant professor at Rutgers, not an associate professor.

Alexandra Kanik is a data reporter at CityMetric.