diamond geezer

 Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sometimes TfL's maps get better. It seems only fair to point this out when it occurs.

I refer to the Flash map on the TfL Live Travel News webpage, the map which shows which London Underground lines are currently disrupted (if any). It's got better. It now displays information more usefully than used to be the case. And this is a very good thing.

The Flash map still has a list of Underground lines down the left hand side, along with their current status. It might be 'Good service' if all is well. It might be 'Minor delays' or 'Severe delays', depending on how bad things are. Or it might be 'Part suspended' or 'Line suspended' if trains aren't running between some or all stations. And then this information is visualised, as appropriate, by colouring in the line on the map to show travellers where they might face travel problems.

The change on the map relates to 'Minor delays'. Previously, if a line had minor delays it was coloured in. If there were, for example, minor delays on the District line due to a signal failure at Embankment, the entire District line would be coloured green. No matter that the delays might only add a few extra minutes to your journey, in certain places, in one direction - the map would still have shown the entire line as disrupted. If part of the line were suspended while the rest of the line had minor delays, it was impossible to deduce which was which from the shading. All kinds of delays were shaded the same, be they minor, severe or suspended. The map used to show disruption, not possibility, and this often made it less than helpful.

There are no major disruptions currently reported on the tubeThe change TfL have made is that 'Minor delays' no longer appear on the map. Severe delays appear, and suspensions appear, but minor delays don't. And that's great. Now, if any part of a line is coloured in, it's worth avoiding. Previously, you wouldn't have known for sure without clicking on the map. So this is a really practical change. There's also a new message on the map when services are running fairly well, which reads "There are no major disruptions currently reported on the tube". This too is a welcome step forward, reducing unnecessary complexity on the map. Hurrah.

But there is still one problem, and that's the checkbox label above the map. It still reads "Show undisrupted lines and stations in grey", exactly the same as it did previously. Alas this is now less true than before. Only lines with severe delays and above now appear in colour on the map. Just because a line's grey doesn't mean it's undisrupted, it might have minor delays. This may only be a wording problem, but the wording is unhelpful and untrue.

There's also the same old problem with DLR and Overground lines. They always appear in grey, even if they're delayed or suspended, because they're not tube lines. Their disruptions aren't allowed to appear on the 'Underground' map, but appear instead (in text form) on their own separate tab. This is not in any way helpful. It might therefore make sense to remove the DLR and Overground from this Flash tube map, because they're not tube lines, but nobody dares. Or it might make sense to amalgamate the DLR and Overground information with the tube map and show all the disruptions in one place, because that would be more useful. Alas TfL apartheid means we haven't quite reached that level of joined up thinking yet.

But a TfL map has improved, and this is something to smile about. I shall cheer again if it ever improves further.

[If you thought today's post was really dull, you might prefer instead to look at a pretty photograph I took yesterday of some ducks Canada Geese in Brockwell Park. PLEASE DO NOT STEAL IT. Thankyou.]

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