Mapping distance by time not, uh, distance

I live about 200 km from the city of Winnipeg. But nobody says that. Everyone always says “two hours,” because that’s how long it takes to get there.

Time is how people think of travel. Distance is useful mainly as an approximation of time. So that’s why a map that throws out that slavish devotion to geography, and instead concentrates on travel times, would be so useful!

Which is exactly what TimeMaps does (sorry, it’s in Dutch). By mapping out the Netherlands and correlating it with train schedules, recent design grad Vincent Meertens has made a web-app that visualizes how the “distance” (travel time) grows and shrinks over the course of a day. That is, when the trains run less often, like at night, it takes a lot longer to get where you’re going. And the map gets bigger, to represent that.

Meertens tells Fast Company that he’s hoping to add cars, bikes and other forms of transportation. His next project will be New York City.

It’s up for an award — you can vote for it here.

2 thoughts on “Mapping distance by time not, uh, distance”

  1. Great stuff. I’d love to see a similar map for distances by cost, or even by carbon cost. Tough to do, obviously, but if time mapping is possible, almost anything is.

    1. It’s well beyond my coding capability, but if this map can be more than a one-off, if it can be something that’s relatively easily ported, using open-data map standards, then I could envision a map that even lets you weigh all the variable to come up with a custom map for you. For example, if I’m twice as interested in cheap travel as I am in fast travel, and I’m mildly conscious about my environmental impact, I’d like to be able to play with sliders to change the map per me.

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