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.

Click to expand.

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:

Click to expand.

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.

Click to expand.

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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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”.