Here are six more cool maps of London’s transport network

Look, a bus! Image: RhysGeoffrey/Wikimedia commons.

Maps. Maps are great, aren’t they? We love maps.

Maps.

Sorry, lost my train of thought for a moment there. (Mmmm. Trains.) Anyway. Last week I published a faintly gratuitous piece rounding up 11 of the best rail maps from the mayor of London’s Transport Strategy. They were good maps.

But there’s more to that strategy than just the rail network. So here, because maps are great, are some more great maps.

1. The travel times map

First up, this map shows how long it takes to travel from every part of Greater London to the “central activities zone” (CAZ: the City, West End, South Bank and so forth). Basically, it’s a map of how well-connected different bits of the city are to the public transport network: the darker the shade of red, the quicker it is to get to somewhere that feels like central London.

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A couple of things leap out at me here. One is that being near to the right station can massively cut your travel times. Look at that red patch at the very eastern end of the map: that’s the area around Upminster station, right on the edge of London, but with enough fast trains to Fenchurch Street to be better connected than many places much closer to the CAZ. Wherever there’s an island darker than the land around it, that suggests the presence of a decent station.

The other thing that jumps out at me is that the tube is really much better than the alternatives. In north west London, which is heavily served by tube lines, the dark pink of a sub-45 minute travel time extends almost to the edge of the city. In the south east, which is almost tube free, the lighter pink which means journeys of up to an hour extends deep into inner London.

2. The access to jobs map

This is a variation on a theme, really, showing how many jobs you can get to within 45 minutes. In practice, the geography it reveals is not that dissimilar from the travel times map – which shows quite how many jobs lie within the Central Activities Zone.

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The only big difference I can see is that there are fewer of those ‘islands’ around stations. This, I suspect, is because the bar is effectively higher on this map. There will be many outer London stations from which you can get reach some part of central London within 45 minutes – but being able to reach a single point in central London is not the same as being able to reach the millions of jobs the entire CAZ contains.

3. The future access to jobs map

Our next map is similar, but more speculative. The transport strategy as a whole is making the case for a bunch of investment in London’s transport network. This map shows how many more jobs Londoners will be able to reach if the authorities actually get their way:

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And suddenly, that dark green area – which roughly translates as, “Wow, look at all those jobs!” – has massively expanded, to take in most of inner London. Build all these extra transport links, the map seems to say, and let the good times roll.

But not for everywhere. I said the dark green area now took in most of inner London, and that’s true, north of the river or west of Brixton. But south east London, once again, is a different world. Sorry, lads.

4. The bus map

This one tells us both about the existing bus network, and how it might develop in future.

The red lines show the busiest bus corridors. As one might expect, they’re largely in central and inner London, and there’s a bias towards the north east, where the tube network is a patchy. But there are very busy routes around many of London’s suburban town centres, too.

 

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The map also shows the four major suburban transport hubs that TfL is developing in zones 2 and 3; and, in yellow, the low emissions bus zons.

Perhaps the most interesting thing here, though, are the “express and limited stop corridors”. There are already a few routes serving such corridors, such as the X68, which runs from Croydon to Bloomsbury (shown here as a solid purple line). But the profusion of broken and dotted lines in violet suggest a major future expansion of that part of London’s transport network. These would be particularly useful as orbital connections – something that the outer London rail network rarely provides.

5. The Silvertown Tunnel bus map

Something that might help improve orbital connections, and better link south east London to the rest of the city, would be more Thames Crossings out east, where there are currently so few of them.

The most likely of these to go ahead is the Silvertown Tunnel, which would link the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks and relieve the Blackwall Tunnel in the process. This, the strategy suggests, would enable more buses from Eltham, Charlton and Greenwich on one side of the river, to Canary Wharf, Stratford and London City Airport on the other.

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This is one hell of an “if”, of course. There’s a fairly noisy campaign in South East London against the tunnel, on the grounds it will mainly serve to bring pollution and traffic. We shall see.

Still, you know what’s better than buses? Bikes.

6. The strategic cycle network map

This is the capital’s “strategic cycle network”. The thick red lines are the existing routes – the Cycling Superhighways and Quietways, that have been spreading across the capital over the last few years. The thin red lines are those that are currently planned, and the green dotted lines are possible later connections.

If all this is delivered, the strategy says, 70 per cent of Londoners would live within 400m of a cycle route – a distance you can cycle in a couple of minutes.

Click to expand.

I remain at least slightly sceptical. For one thing, the implementation of such routes is dependent on the enthusiastic cooperation of the boroughs, which control the capital’s local roads. Note the way those thick red lines just stop as you pass from Westminster to Kensington & Chelsea, a borough not known for its enthusiasm for cyclists.


The other source of my scepticism is that TfL has always been quite cagey about what the different grades of cycle route mean. Some of the cycling superhighways are proper segregated routes – but others, like CS1, share backstreets with motor vehicles. It’s not clear how that really differs from a Quietway – or, indeed, how Quietways differ from the long-standing but largely forgotten London Cycle Network.

So, yes, a proper city-wide cycling network of this sort would be lovely. But I am not entirely convinced we are going to get one – even by 2041.

Still, though – maps, eh? Cor.

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

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Barcelona’s car-free “superblocks” could extend lives. So will they catch on elsewhere?

Barcelona. Image: Getty.

The world’s biggest cities have larger populations and higher economic outputs than some countries. But as they grow in size and complexity, cities are also facing thorny challenges that threaten the health and happiness of residents. Congestion, pollution and a lack of community spaces have become major drags on people’s aspirations and experiences of urban living.

In response, cities must manage their resources and priorities to create sustainable places for visitors and residents, and foster innovation and growth. Enter Barcelona – the capital of Catalonia, in Spain – where a bold stroke of urban planning first introduced “superblocks” in 2016.

Image: ISGlobal/FAL.

Superblocks are neighbourhoods of nine blocks, where traffic is restricted to major roads around the outside, opening up entire groups of streets to pedestrians and cyclists. The aim is to reduce pollution from vehicles, and give residents much-needed relief from noise pollution. They are designed to create more open space for citizens to meet, talk and do activities.


Health and well-being boost

There are currently only six superblocks in operation, including the first, most prominent one in Eixample. Reports suggest that – despite some early push back – the change has been broadly welcomed by residents, and the long-term benefits could be considerable.

A recent study carried out by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health estimates that if, as planned, 503 potential superblocks are realised across the city, journeys by private vehicle would fall by 230,000 a week, as people switch to public transport, walking or cycling.

The research suggests this would significantly improve air quality and noise levels on the car-free streets: ambient levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) would be reduced by a quarter, bringing levels in line with recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The plan is also expected to generate significant health benefits for residents. The study estimates that as many as 667 premature deaths from air pollution, noise and heat could be prevented each year. More green spaces will encourage people to get outdoors and lead a more active lifestyle.

This, in turn, helps to reduce obesity and diabetes and ease pressure on health services. The researchers claim that residents of Barcelona could expect to live an extra 200 days thanks to the cumulative health benefits, if the idea is rolled out across the city.

Space to play. Imag: Mosa Moseneke/Unsplash.

There are expected to be benefits to mental health, as well as physical health. Having access to such spaces can stave off loneliness and isolation – especially among elderly residents – as communities form stronger bonds and become more resilient.

Stumbling blocks

It was Salvador Rueda, director of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona, who first championed the introduction of superblocks – and he argues that the idea could be used in any city. Even so, authorities looking to expand the concept in Barcelona or beyond will need to be mindful of some concerns.

Changes like these require capital investment. Even as the car-free streets are transformed with urban furniture and greenery, the remaining major roads will likely have to accommodate heavier traffic.

Nothing comes for free. Image: Zvileve/Flickr/creative commons.

Further investments in local infrastructure – such as improving surrounding roads to deal with more traffic, or installing smart traffic management system – could be required to prevent serious congestion. Then the question remains, how to finance such investments – a higher tax rate is unlikely to be popular.


What’s more, whenever a location becomes more desirable, it leads to an increase in property demand. Higher prices and rent could create pockets of unaffordable neighbourhoods. This may lead to use of properties for investment purposes and possibly, displacement of local residents.

It’s also worth noting that Barcelona is an old and relatively well-planned European city. Different challenges exist in emerging global cities across Asia, Africa and Latin America – and in younger cities in the US and Australia. There is a great deal of variation in scale, population density, urban shape and form, development patterns and institutional frameworks across the cities. Several large cities in the developing world are heavily congested with uncontrolled, unregulated developments and weak regulatory frameworks.

Replicating what’s been done in Barcelona may prove difficult in such places, and will require much greater transformations. But it’s true that the basic principles of superblocks – that value pedestrians, cyclists and high quality public spaces over motor vehicles – can be applied in any city, with some adjustments.

Leading the way

Over the history of human civilisation, great cities have been at the forefront of innovation and social progress. But cities need a robust structure of governance, which is transparent and accountable, to ensure a fair and efficient use of resources. Imposing innovation from the top down, without consultations and buy-in, can go squarely against the idea of free market capitalism, which has been a predominant force for modern economies and can lead push-back from citizens and local businesses.

Citizens must also be willing to change their perspectives and behaviour, to make such initiatives work. This means that “solutions” to urban living like superblocks need to have buy-in from citizens, through continuous engagement with local government officials.

A man speaks at a public consultation on the Eixample superblock in Barcelona. Image: Ajuntament Barcelona/Flickr/creative commons.

Successful urban planning also needs strong leadership with a clear and consistent vision of the future, and a roadmap of how that vision can be delivered. The vision should be co-developed with the citizens and all other stakeholders such as local businesses, private and public organisations. This can ensure that everybody shares ownership and takes responsibility for the success of local initiatives.

There is little doubt that the principles and objectives of superblocks are sound. The idea has the potential to catch on around the world – though it will likely take a unique and specific form in every city.

The Conversation

Anupam Nanda, Professor of Urban Economics and Real Estate, University of Reading.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.