diamond geezer

 Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A couple of months ago TfL launched a new online service called WebCAT aimed at those who plan for London's future. They've set up an interactive map that shows PTALs (Public Transport Access Levels) for any point in the capital. You simply click to centre, and the software colours the locality from not very accessible (PTAL 1a, 1b & 2, blue) to very accessible (PTAL 6a & 6b, red). Where I live in Bow is a 6, whereas the suburbs beyond Romford are mostly 1. It's all relative, so the centre of Hyde Park gets a big fat zero because there are no buses or trains, whereas those who live in rural East Anglia would kill to have transport connectivity that good. But PTALs are interesting stuff if you're trying to work out where to focus building investment for greatest impact, or if you're just an inquisitive member of the public.

PTALs have been around for a while, but what's new is TIM. This stands for Time Mapping, and can be found on a separate tab of the online map. Here when you click you get coloured zones that measure how far you can travel by public transport in a given time. Purple stands for less than 15 minutes, red up to half an hour, orange up to 45 minutes and yellow up to an hour. Green is then 60-75 minutes, with blue for everything further away than that - essentially all the parts of the capital that it'd take you ages to reach. You may have to zoom out to see the full picture, so try not to click on the map while doing so in case it re-centres. And yes, there have been a number of online sites offering this kind of travel time service before, but this is the first time that TfL have shared one of their own with the public.

And obviously it's quite fun to play with. The map tells me that from where I live I can get to the City, North Greenwich or Barking in under 30 minutes, and Neasden, Croydon and Ponders End in under an hour. The software's quite pessimistic, I think, because I can generally get further than it says in the time. But it does correctly identify places I can't get to very quickly, with the suburbs north of Walthamstow a particular hole because connections from Bow are unexpectedly poor.

Anyway, you don't want to hear about me, you'll want to play with this for yourself. So long as you're inside the Greater London boundary you can click and discover the data for where you live, and even download a personalised map (at various scales). I think a particularly good use is to click on your place of work and look at the resulting map of commuting times, to see whether you're living in an optimal location (and whether, for example, somewhere further out might actually be quicker). You can also play with other TIM options, like showing projected data for the years 2021 and 2031 once new transport projects have come on board. Or change the time of day to see if off-peak is quicker, or demand the map uses step-free services only to see how that reins you in.

London is essentially a world of possibilities, and this very clever online service can help you to make the most of living here. Or it's just a bit of fun to pass some time the next time you're a bit bored. And perhaps don't live in Harefield unless you've got a car.

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