Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Live Amtrak Train Map

The Amtrak/VIA Live Map shows the live position of Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada trains. It uses live data from Amtrak's Track-A-Train service and VIA's status service to estimate the real-time location of U.S. and Canadian trains and their current running status.

The location of individual trains is shown on the map with colored numbers. The colors indicate the on-time performance of the train at the last station. In other words a train's color on the map provides a guide to how late a train is running. If you click on a train on the map then you can view how many minutes (if any) it is running late and its current estimated speed.

The map sidebar will shows a selected train's complete schedule, including all the stations on its route. This schedule shows how many minutes late (if any) the train departed each and every station already visited and how many minutes late it is expected to arrive at all remaining stations on its route.

Number of UK Pubs Increases

For the first time in ten years the number of pubs and bars in the UK has grown. Since 2007 the number of pubs and bars fell every single year until last year. Between 2018 and 2019 the number of pubs and bars in the UK increased by 315, a 0.8% increase and the first increase for a decade.

The slight increase in pubs and bars last year isn't enough to reverse the years of decline in the sector. From 2001 to 2019 nearly every area of the UK saw an overall decrease in the number of pubs and bars. You can see the plus or minus percentage change in the number of pubs and bars in your local area on the Office for National Statistics interactive map Change in Pub Numbers 2001-2019.

The Office for National Statistics has released a report on the changes in the UK pubs and bars sector last year. Economies of Ale not only explores the increase in pubs and bars last year but also looks at the number of people employed in the sector. While the number of pubs and bars has been declining since 2011 the number of people employed in the sector has been increasing. Since 2016 the number of people employed to serve food has been higher than the number of people employed behind the bar. This reflects the fact that people in the UK are increasingly spending more on eating out and less on drinking out.

Friday, January 17, 2020

A Drive Back in Time

The Library of Congress has a huge archive of photographs from across the United States. The collection is a fantastic record of recent American history. The collection also provides a fantastic resource for exploring the United States through its photography.

Library of Places is an interactive map which allows you to explore the Library of Congress' photography collection using the analog of a road trip. Click on any two locations on the map and Library of Places will plot a route between your two chosen locations. Library of Places then finds photographs from the Library of Congress which were taken along that route and displays them beneath the map.

You can click on any of the displayed photographs to view its entry on the Library of Congress website. This entry will include details on the photographer, the year the photograph was taken and the locations assigned to the picture by the Library of Congress.

If you are a fan of vintage photography then you might also appreciate these other interactive maps of historical photographs:

Historypin - a huge collection of mapped vintage photos from across the world
The Collections of the Albert Khan Museum - a map of vintage photos from around the globe
OldSF - vintage photos of San Francisco (has Google Maps licencing issues but photos still work)
OldNYC - old photographs of New York
Old Toronto - historic photos of Toronto from the City of Toronto Archives
Wymer's DC - view images of D.C. from the John P. Wymer Photograph Collection
The Yangon Time Machine - a map of vintage photographs of Yangon, Myanmar
Smapshot - historical images of Switzerland
OldAms - thousands of vintage photographs of Amsterdam
Tids Maskinen - explore photos of Norway by location & date
Helsinki Ennen - historical maps and photographs of the Finnish capital
Our Town Stories - Edinburgh - vintage photos & maps of the Scottish capital
Vintage Greece - geo-located vintage photographs and historical maps of Greece
Ajapaik - vintage photos of Estonia

Pollution from the Notre Dame Fire

The fire of the Notre-Dame de Paris was one of the most shocking events of 2019. The fire burned for around 15 hours and the cathedral suffered serious damage. Most of the lead-covered wooden roof was destroyed by the fire. 460 tonnes of lead were burnt, which resulted in toxic dust being blown over Paris. Where this dust settled has raised surface lead levels in certain areas.

The local health authority in Paris (ARS) has released an interactive map which shows the results of sampling the lead dust surface levels following the Notre Dame fire. Sante Graphie's Notre-Dame de Paris interactive map uses colored markers to show the sampled surface lead levels. The average surface lead levels in Paris streets are normally around five times the indoor legal limit (1000 μg/m2). On the map green markers show readings that are below 5000 μg/m2. The other colored markers show readings which are above the average street surface lead levels for Paris.

The smoke plumb caused by the fire stretched as far as Mantes-la-Jolie in the Yvelines. However, as you can see from the map, the surface lead readings have been strongest in areas closest to the fire. As a result of the map it is now believed that most contamination was caused by falling debris rather than distributed by the smoke from the fire. Several cleaning operations have taken place around the Notre Dame and the reconstruction site is being continually monitored for lead levels. This monitoring includes blood tests for lead levels in the people working on the cathedral's reconstruction.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Slap it on a Map!

There are lots of interactive map tools which allow you to compare the relative sizes of different countries around the world. For example the The True Size of ... and OverlayMaps both allow you to overlay the outline of one or more countries on top of another country on an interactive map. This results in a clear and dramatic illustration of the relative sizes of the selected countries in comparison to one another.

But why stop at comparing the size of different geographic entities? Slap it on a Map! is an interactive map which allows you to visualize the relative size of lots of different objects by overlaying them on a location of your choice. Using Slap it on a Map! is very easy. Just choose an object from the thousands of objects listed in the objects menu. Then slap that object on the map anywhere in the world.

There are over 1,600 objects to choose from in Slap it on a Map! These objects are organised into different folders, such as vehicles, celestial bodies and even countries. The screenshot at the top of the page shows the USS Enterprise next to the United States Capitol Building. The lower screenshot shows the planet Mercury overlaid on top of Europe and the tip of Northern Africa (Mercury is distorted to reflect the distortions of the Web Mercator map projection).

The Predicted Global Electricity Grid

Gridfinder is a new interactive map which visualizes the predicted global electricity grid network based on night-light satellite imagery. The map predicts the existence of electricity network lines using evidence from night-time views of the Earth from space.

10% of the world's population does not have access to a reliable electricity supply. It is hoped that Gridfinder can be used to identify populations with poor access to electricity networks in order to help improve essential infrastructure and provide affordable and reliable energy.

The Gridfinder map shows the locations of known electricity lines using data from OpenStreetMap. The map also shows predicted electricity supply lines based on where lights can be seen at night from  orbiting satellites. To predict the existence of these previously unmapped electricity supply lines the level of night-time light in satellite imagery is used to see where locations are most likely to be producing light from electricity. Where there is enough light to have been produced by an electricity network the map connects this to known electricity networks using an algorithm which follows roads and already known distribution lines.

You can read more about how night-time satellite imagery has been used to predict the world's electricity network on the research paper Predictive mapping of the global power system using open data.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Uber's New Bike Trip City Maps

Today Uber released "a new bike trip data tool that shows where and when cyclists are most active in our cities". Currently there are three interactive maps available showing bike trip data for:

San Francisco
Washington D.C.

All three maps purport to show where and when cyclists are most active using a heat map layer. The bluest lines on the map show the streets with the most cycle traffic. The maps include filter tools which allows you to view traffic density data for weekdays and weekends and for different times of the day.

Uber hasn't yet said where their mapped bike trip data comes from. However, judging by the reference to 'Jump' in each map's URL address and the fact that Uber's Jump operates in all three mapped cities, I'm guessing that the data is from journeys taken on Jump's dockless scooter and electric bicycles. In which case the maps don't show "where and when cyclists are most active in our cities", as Uber claims. These maps only show where Jump customers cycle. It is worth bearing in mind that this data could be completely different from data generated by private cyclists, journeying to and from work, to stores or for general leisure.

Although Uber's bike trip maps are only available today for San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Paris the company promises that more cities will be mapped in the future.

America's Abandoned Railways

According to Wikipedia there are 149,910 kilometers of rail track in the United States (although many other sources say it is much larger at 226,000 kilometers or 140,000 miles). At its peak the rail network in America was much larger than it is today and consisted of 409,000 kilometers of track. This means that there are a lot of abandoned railways in the USA.

Abandoned and Out of Service Railroad Lines is a website and blog dedicated to mapping all of those abandoned railroad lines in the USA. It also allows users to map abandoned railway lines in other countries around the world. Rail lines are colored on the map to show whether they are heritage railways, abandoned lines or lines which were never completed. If you click on a section of track on the map you can view information on its use, its ownership, when it was abandoned and its length.

You can also explore America's abandoned railways on Abandoned Rails. Abandoned Rails maintains separate interactive maps for every state in the USA. If you select a railway line on these state maps you can also view an individual map of the chosen line.

These individual maps include a history of the line, historical vintage photographs and user comments about the line. The user comments are often of particular interest as they can contain personal memories from people who once traveled on or even worked on the selected abandoned line.

How to Avoid Roads in London

London's roads are mostly responsible for the often dangerous levels of air pollution which can be found in the capital. If you want to escape that pollution then your best bet is to get as far away from road traffic as you can. A new interactive map, called Retreat From Streets - London, can help you find the locations in London which are the furthest from roads and from all that polluting road traffic.

Unfortunately the furthest distance that you can escape from roads in Greater London is slap bang in the middle of the Rainham Landfill Site. It is not the most attractive of destinations. However the neighbouring Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve could be a reasonable alternative place to visit. If you are in central London then the furthest that you can escape from roads is in one of the city's many parks. Visit Hyde Park and you can get 518 meters from the nearest London road traffic. The centre of Regent's Park is 395 meters from the nearest car.

The London edition of Retreat from Streets is the third map in the series. Retreats from Streets - Brussels and Retreats Away From Berlin's Streets can help you find locations in Brussels and Berlin which are not near any roads. All three maps use circular markers to show the point in every neighborhood which is furthest from a road. The larger the circle on the map then the furthest its centre is from the nearest road. You can learn more about how these furthest points from roads are calculated and how to make your own car free map on the Retreat from Streets GitHub page.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Toronto's Geography of Wealth

In Mapping Our Divisions The Local looks at how Toronto's income inequalities can be observed in the city's streets and polarized neighborhoods. Using an interactive map The Local reveals the income disparities between the rich neighborhoods along the Yonge Street corridor and the low-income suburbs of the city. It also explores the shrinking number of middle-income neighborhoods sandwiched in between the rich and poor areas of Toronto.

The map colors Toronto based on the individual household incomes compared to the city average. As you progress through the map The Local explains how the income inequalities between the rich and poor neighborhoods of the city are reflected in other areas. For example diabetes rates reflect this sharp income inequality with high rates in the poorest areas and the lowest rates in the wealthy, central neighborhoods.

While the poorest neighborhoods often have the highest levels of disease, such as diabetes, they are also often health care deserts, with poor access to health care services. On the other hand those living in the wealthiest neighborhoods often have the best access to health care services. Unsurprisingly the poorer, less healthy neighborhoods have greater levels of premature deaths than the wealthier neighborhoods.