Monday, November 27, 2023

The Live Amtrak Train Map is a live interactive map which shows the real-time locations of passenger trains in the U.S. and Canada. 

The map uses colored markers to show the near real-time positions of trains from a number of different train companies in North America. The arrow on the markers show a train's direction of travel and the colors indicate the transit operators of individual trains. If you click on a marker on the map you can discover the selected train's name, which stations it is traveling to & from, and its current speed.

The map includes Amtrak trains in the U.S., VIA Rail Trains in Canada and the locations of trains from a number of other transit providers. Unfortunately the map is missing a number of regional train operators. Reading the comments on this Hacker News thread it appears that the map's creator is actively working on adding the live train location feeds for a number of these missing transit operators.


The Amtrak/VIA Live Map also 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 on this map 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 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.

You can also track trains in real-time on the official Amtrak Track Your Train Map. Enter a train number, or name into Amtrak's map and you can view its progress in real-time. Click on a train's marker on the map and you can view its current speed, its estimated time of arrival at its next station and how minutes early or late it is running.

If you enjoy live real-time transit maps then you might also enjoy:

If you are a fan of live real-time maps of train networks then you might also like:

geOps - animated maps of over 700 transit systems around the world
Train Map - a live map of the Belgium rail network
Swiss Railways Network - the original real-time map of Swiss trains
Mini Tokyo 3D - a live real-time map of Tokyo's public transit system (in 3D)
Zugverfolgung - real-time train tracking in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands
Signalbox - a live train map of the UK

You will also find many more live transit maps by checking out the real-time tag on Maps Mania.

The World as 1000 People

If the world's population was proportionally represented as 1,000 people then 591 of those people would live in Asia, 185 would live in Africa, 91 in Europe, 75 would live in North America, 55 in South America and the remaining 5 people would live in Oceania. 

The Visual Capitalist has mapped The World's Population as 1,000 People. On the map each marker (shaped as a human figure) represents just over 8 million people. For example the USA's population of 339,996,563 is represented as 42 markers. The most populated country in the world is India with 1,428,627,663 people (represented as 178 on the map). Neighboring China is the second most populated country with 1,425,671,352 people (represented as 177).

The map uses population estimates from the United Nations Population Division.
You can also explore where people live around the world on the Pudding's Human Terrain interactive map. This map shows population density across the globe using 3D population pyramids. The taller a pyramid block on The Pudding map then the more people live there. 

The data for the Human Terrain map comes from the Global Human Settlement Layer. This data from the European Commission looks at the population living within 1 km² areas, 'regardless of administrative boundaries'. 

The use of population pyramids is a well used and visually dramatic way to show population density. For example The Pudding's map is very similar to a WebGL powered map created by Topi Tjukanov to show the density of Europe's population.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

The World's Largest Snow Dome

This morning I discovered MapTheClouds, which features a whole host of impressive interactive map visuals. I'm sure a lot of the maps featured on MapTheClouds are very useful but as ever I'm drawn to the fun, experimental maps, to the maps that apparently serve no other purpose than they were fun to create and are even more fun to play with.

Here are a few links to my personal favorites, but check out MapTheClouds yourself, as this is only a small selection of a far larger collection of interactive maps:

Snow Globe

Click on any location in the world on this map and you can encase it in a gigantic snow dome. 

Why? Who cares ... do you really need a reason to entrap the whole of Manhattan in the world's biggest snow dome?

Maybe you don't want to live entrapped inside a gigantic dome. But I bet you'd love to be surrounded by thousands of hot air balloons floating upwards into the heavens. Click on your home town on this map and you can discover what it looks like to be surrounded by the world's largest number of aeronauts.

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if you could compare a globe of present day Earth side-by-side with a globe of Pangaea? Me neither but I'm very glad that I can.

This interactive map shows two rotating interactive globes. One should look familiar to you, as it is the Earth as it looks today from space. The other globe however shows you what the world looked like around 300-200 million years ago, when North America, Africa, South America, and Europe all existed as a single continent called Pangaea.

When the world seems to be largely a grey, monotone and dull place you need to open up this map, which allows you to peer through a magical portal to catch a glimpse of the wonderful and colorful world inhabited by the Finns and Danes.

If you like these maps then do visit MapTheClouds which has many, many more excellent examples of fun map projects.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Global Sentiment Towards Israel & Palestine

The interactive map Israel-Palestine Media Bias visualizes the results of a sentiment analysis of mostly English language media and social media websites to determine whether they have a predominately Israeli or Palestinian bias.

Using the map you can explore the Israel/Palestine sentiment bias expressed by the media in individual countries, on different platforms and by the percentage of a country's population being Muslim.

On the map individual countries are colored to reflect the extent the analysis detected pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli sentiments in that country's media and social media. Blue countries are those with a pro-Israeli sentiment and red indicates a pro-Palestinian sentiment score.

I think the map is a really interesting attempt to explore global sentiments to Israel and Palestine in media and social media. However it is important to be aware that it was created with the help of the Israeli Civilian Intelligence Center, which is made up of Israel's Aman (military intelligence), Mossad (overseas intelligence) and Shabak (internal security). Agencies which themselves presumably have very pro-Israeli sentiments.

The creator of the map acknowledged in a Reddit comment that the visualization should be titled 'Media Sentiment' rather than 'Media Bias'. The use of a negative '-' to indicate a pro-Palestine sentiment score and positive scores to indicate pro-Israel sentiment is also I think particularly ill considered.

Also See

Gaza Damage Proxy Map - assessing the damage to buildings in Gaza

Mapping the Massacres - a comprehensive map of all the atrocities committed by Hamas on the 7th October.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

America is a Jigsaw

If you want a little Thanksgiving fun today then you should play TripGeo's State Locator game. State Locator is an interactive map of the United States. A map which you have to assemble yourself based on the shapes of the individual states and a few image clues.

At the beginning of the game you are presented with a random state. Your job is to place this state onto a blank map of the United States. When you start the game the only clues you have as to where to place a state are markers showing the largest towns and cities in the U.S., the shape of the state and the background images shown on the state.

The game presents you with a number of choices (in the form of question marks) where you can place each state. You just need to select the correct location on the map for each 50 states in turn. You are rewarded one point for each state that you correctly place on the map. Complete the map and you will receive 50 points. However the game also keeps tabs on how many mistakes you make. The aim of the game is to get 50 points with the fewest number of errors.

My best score so far is 75 errors (my excuse is that I'm not American).

You might also enjoy my own US States Quiz. In my game you are required to name all of the 50 states before you are allowed to eat your Thanksgiving dinner. Enter the name of a U.S. state and the state will be colored green on the map. 

Don't worry if you can't name all 50 states in one sitting. The game will remember your score and which states you have already named, so you can close the game and return to complete the game at a later time. Just press the 'start over' button if you wish to clear the map and start afresh.

One objective of the US States Quiz is to beat the characters of Friends. In the episode 'The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs' four of the characters try to name all of the US states. Monica manages to name 36 states ("nobody cares about the Dakotas"). Rachel gets 48. Joey somehow manages to name 56. Chandler then challenges Ross to name all 50 states before he can eat his Thanksgiving dinner. Initially Ross names 46 states. Many hungry hours of struggle later he manages to name all 50 states and then starts eating his dinner. Only for Chandler to point out that he has actually named Delaware twice!

If you enjoy naming US States then you should also enjoy Find the State. In this game you are asked to locate on a map each of the 50 US states in turn. As well as having to identify all 50 states part of the objective in this game is to build winning streaks. Identify a wrong state and your streak returns to zero.

If you need some help locating a state then it is worth reading the state's description in the map sidebar, which usually provides some clues as to the state's geographical location within America.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Where Your Food Comes From

When you begin to prepare your Thanksgiving dinner you may wonder about where all that food comes from. Well a new interactive map from CU Boulder and The Plotline, can help show you where. The Food Twin shows you where food is grown and consumed in America and how crops travel from producers to consumers.

Click on your county on the map and you will see colored dots flowing into your county from other counties around the United States. The colors of the dots represent different food groups (grain, nuts, vegetables, fruits and tubers). Each dot represents a set number of calories from that food group. If you switch to the 'producer' view on the map you can see in which other counties food produced in your county is consumed.

It is important to note that the Food Twin is a simulated model of food production and consumption. The model is based on satellite data and survey statistics "to generate an estimate of the types of crops that are grown in different regions across the United States". The consumption of different food groups is estimated based on consumer surveys. The routes between producers and consumers of food is modeled using 'possible shipment routes between all counties". 

You can read more about the production, consumption and transportation models used by the map in this blog post. The map is however a model and your Thanksgiving green beans and candied yams may not actually have been grown in the counties indicated by the Food Twin.

If you want to know more about the geography of your Thanksgiving meal then you should explore Esri's Mapping the Thanksgiving Harvest. This interactive map shows where your turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, potatoes, green beans, brussels sprouts, pumpkins and pecans were reared or grown.

Around 46 million turkeys are eaten every Thanksgiving. A large proportion of those turkeys come from Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Indiana. There is a very big chance that your sweet potatoes come from North Carolina, which grows more than half of all America's sweet potato crop.

What you actually eat for your traditional Thanksgiving meal will also be influenced by geography. For example if you live in the north or west then you will probably have cranberry sauce with your turkey; while those who live in the southern states will mostly be enjoying sweet potato casserole. Nearly everyone will be eating turkey - but how you prepare your turkey can also be shaped by where you live. If your turkey is smoked, roasted or fried probably depends on whether you live in the mid-west, the east coast or California.

If you want to know more about how where you live shapes your Thanksgiving menu then you should refer to the LA Times. The newspaper has used data from Google to determine the Thanksgiving foods searched for in different regions of the United States. You can read the results of their analysis in What will be on your Thanksgiving plate? It depends on where you’ll be. The article even includes a little tool which can show you the Thanksgiving foods that are most searched for in every state.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

America's Changing Plant Hardiness Zones

Around half of Americans have been moved into a new plant hardiness zone. If you check out the USDA's new Plant Hardiness Zone Map you have a very good chance of discovering that your home is now in a new hardiness zone.

In recent years, like many gardeners, I've discovered that I can successfully sow plants a few weeks before their recommended earliest dates and that I can continue harvesting some vegetables much later than I have been able to in previous decades. Global heating has also meant that I have begun to experiment with plants which aren't usually recommended for my hardiness zone.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture I am not alone in experiencing a change in my growing seasons. Last week the USDA updated its Plant Hardiness Zone Map for the first time in more than a decade. On the new map average temperatures are around 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than on the 2012 map. This means that many gardeners are now in a new plant hardiness zone.

Plant hardiness zones are used to guide gardeners and horticulturists on the appropriate flowers and vegetables to grow where they live. The zones help gardeners understand which plants will flourish in their specific climatic conditions. They also help to guide gardeners about when they should sow and harvest different plants.

The USDA says that because the new Plant Hardiness Zone Map is based on recent changes in weather data it can't be used as evidence of global heating, which is usually measured over a longer period of time. However I don't think many people doubt that because of climate change gardeners in the United States can expect to see plant hardiness zones moving even further northwards in the coming decades.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Alternatives to Google Maps Street View

Panoramax is an open-source photo-mapping platform that allows users to share and exploit street level photography. It is a free alternative to proprietary services, such as Google Maps Street View, providing a freely available resource for sharing and mapping field photos. The Panoramax platform allows anyone to capture street level photographs and contribute them to the Panoramax database and interactive map. This imagery is then freely accessible and reusable by all.

Panoramax claims that "All photos (are) easily accessible and reusable without an account: via the website or a standard API (STAC format)". If you click on the 'share' button on the map you can also embed a Panoramax map and street level imagery on a website as an iframe.

Mapillary is another crowd-sourced platform for sharing and exploring street-level imagery. The platform allows users to upload and share images of streets, roads, and other public spaces from around the world. These images are then stitched together to create a continuous street-level view of the world. Mapillary is similar to Google Street View, but it used crowd-sourced images and anyone can contribute to it.

Mapillary was acquired by Meta in 2020 but was founded in 2013. Due to its ten year head start on Panoramax, Mapillary currently has far more imagery available on its platform. I'm guessing, however, that Mapillary's ownership by Facebook may be a disincentive to some users, who may be disinclined to share their street level imagery with Meta. To those users Panoramax may prove to be a welcome new addition to the world of crowd-sourced Street View.

KartaView (previously known as OpenStreetCam) is another platform which can be used for collecting, viewing and sharing street level imagery around the world. Thousands of people around the world currently use KartaView to map street level photographs using the KartaView apps for Android and iOS.

You can explore all the uploaded street level imagery on the KartaView interactive map. Where imagery is available roads are colored blue on the map. You just need to click on a blue road to view the available imagery for that location. KartaView's street level imagery is free to use under an open-source license.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Introducing the Sunderland Collection

The Sunderland Collection of antique maps has been digitized in full and can now be explored in detail on the new virtual platform Oculi Mundi (Eyes of the World).

The Sunderland Collection was started by Dr Neil Sunderland in the 1990s. The collection now consists of around 130 vintage globes, maps and atlases which date back to as early as the 13th century. The new Oculi Mundi platform takes a very visual (some might even say annoying) approach to presenting and exploring the Sunderland Collection. In 'explore' mode you are forced to scroll through a 3d scrolling virtual gallery choosing maps to explore in closer detail from their floating screenshots. Personally I prefer the 'research' mode which allows you to explore the Sunderland map collection in chronological order. 

If you select a map in either the explore or research modes you can then explore the selected digitized map in close detail, exploring the map by panning and zooming in and out. Each map also includes 'gallery notes' which provides information on the selected map with details about when it was drawn and the name of the cartographer.

The chronological 'research' mode of the Sunderland Collection actually presents a neat visual view of the history of cartography, encompassing examples of early T & O maps, Ptolemaic maps, and medieval Mappa Mundi. At the moment the Oculi Mundi is seriously missing a 'search' option, which would allow users to more easily search the collection by individual cartographer or map. However the stories section of Oculi Mundi does provide some great guided tours of some of the vintage maps in the collection and a neat introduction to the historical development of map projections over time.

The David Rumsey Documentary

If you are a fan of antique vintage maps then you won't want to miss A Stranger Quest. Directed by Italian filmmaker Andrea Gatopoulos A Stranger Quest explores the passions of David Rumsey and his famous map collection. The file will premier at the Torino Film Festival on November 30 and will be released in 2024. The David Rumsey Map Collection has one of the largest online collections of digitized vintage maps.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Mapping Damage in Gaza

A researcher at UCL's CASA has released a new interactive mapping tool which can help researchers and news agencies "estimate the number of damaged buildings and the pre-war population in a given area within the Gaza Strip". The Gaza Damage Proxy Map is based on an earlier tool which was developed to estimate damage caused by Russia in Ukraine.

The Gaza Damage Proxy Map colors individual buildings in the Gaza Strip to indicate the probability that the building has suffered damage since October 10, 2023. If you use the map's drawing tool you can highlight an area of the Gaza Strip on the map. The Gaza Damage tool will then automatically estimate the number of damaged buildings in the highlighted area and the estimated affected population. The percentage of the buildings damaged in the area is also calculated for you. If you select individual buildings on the map you can view information on the date of the damage and view a link to the source media for the damage report.

The Gaza Damage Proxy map uses Synthetic Aperture Radar imagery captured by satellites to detect damaged buildings. By measuring the change in the intensity of these radar waves since before the Israeli attacks on Gaza it is possible to estimate the probability that individual buildings have been damaged. Damage points from the UN Satellite Office (UNOSAT) have also been used to validate the accuracy of the damage detection algorithm used by the map. The map itself also includes an optional layer which adds geo-located footage of strikes and destruction in Gaza as triangular map markers.

You can learn more about the methodology used to estimate building damage in Gaza in the Bellingcat article, A New Tool Allows Researchers to Track Damage in Gaza. The Ukraine Damage Assessment Map allows you to carry out similar analysis of the estimated building damage caused by Russia in Ukraine.

Also See

Mapping the Massacres - a comprehensive map of all the atrocities committed by Hamas on the 7th October.