New York has a new emoji index for its subway system, so we made you an emoji tube map

Much more readable, right? Image: CityMetric.

According to one Professor Vyv Evans of Bangor University, "Emoji" is the fastest-growing language in the UK.

Yes, Emoji. Those pictures on your phones. The ones on that extra keyboard that you couldn't figure out how to activate for months. Yeah, those.

Perhaps realising that we soon won't be able to communicate through anything but tiny faces and shrimps, New York's public radio station (WNYC) has launched a "subway agony index" using emoji to indicate line statuses.  At a glance, you can see whether a line is running smoothly, or is likely to aggravate you to angry tears through delays and overcrowding. 

WNYC's website explains that the station's data team are "trying to estimate agony on the NYC subway" through the index. The team monitors the time it takes for trains to get to each station, and adds "unhappy points" for stations typically crowded at rush hour. 

Here are the lines as this morning's rush hour in NYC:

The system only covers lines 1 through 6X, but it also gives an emoji rating for individual stations along each line. Here are the stations along line 5's uptown section earlier today: 

London's underground system currently has no such index. Instead, it's reliant on boring old words to describe whatever transport horrors await: 

 

So in order to make sure our compadres across the pond don't trump us in the subway stakes, we decided to make our own tube map, with an emoji for each station in Zone 1. Some reflect speed of service and business (Oxford Circus, we're looking at you); others are a little more, er, abstract. 

When it comes to the status of the lines themselves, the answer for all lines over the next day or so is pretty simple:


Think we got it wrong? Fancy extending our efforts to the outer zones? Drop us a line on Twitter, Facebook or contact us directly

 
 
 
 

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.