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New data visualisation shows the beating heart of London

In a commission from HERE, UCL researcher Oliver O’Brien has taken data published by Transport for London to visualise the heartbeat of the city’s tube system. The lines grow and pulse according to the volume of passengers that they are carrying, showing very clearly the morning and evening rush hours.



Gif created by HERE. See the full visualisation here.

People have compared large cities to the human body since their foundations. Their roads and rail lines are their metaphorical blood vessels, bearing people and fresh resources to its major organs and transporting them away at the end of the day.


Perhaps nowhere is this more true than London. Back in 1725, author Daniel Defoe said, “London circulates all, exports all, and at last pays for all.” Nineteenth-century radical William Cobbett called it a “monster” and a weeping cyst. Poet John Davidson, writing in the late 1800s wrote about the, “heart of London beating warm.”


The visualisation is based upon an extensive data-set published by TfL which includes the volumes of people at each station at 15-minute intervals, their origins and destinations. This goes right down to the platform level, the number of entrances and exits, and even the number of people aboard each tube train.


You can zoom into individual stations to see the extra oddities of London’s circulation, generated by the peculiarities of the network and its geography.

Leicester Square station, for example, has its end-of-day peak after 10pm, as people start their journeys home from the cinemas and theatres in the area. South Kensington peaks earlier in the afternoon than other stations, as the museums in the area close their doors. Suburban stations sometimes have double peaks – reflecting school journeys as well as workers’ commutes.


You can also compare between the current data and the data released in 2012. The changing character of areas that have developed rapidly in recent years – like Stratford in East London – is clearly shown. Now, nearly as many people arrive at the station as leave it during the morning rush-hour.


Oliver used the HERE JavaScript API and the HERE Map Tile API to plot the data and thus visualise the movement of the city. He describes the tools as “quick to pick up, thanks to good examples and documentation” and enjoyed the ability to overlay direction arrows on the flow of traffic, as well as the choice of tile styles available. He says that its ‘killer feature’ is that it’s super-fast on both desktop and mobile. Interested developers can take advantage of a free 90-day trial of the full suite of HERE APIs and development tools to see how they suits their needs.


View the full interactive visualisation at www.tubeheartbeat.com and let us know whether you notice anything that surprises you.


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