diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Something long-anticipated has appeared on the TfL website. An official map of walking times between stations.

In reality it's nothing more than the normal tube map cut down to cover zones 1 and 2, with the "approximate time in minutes based on a moderate walking speed" written in the appropriate gap between stations. But it is the official walking tube map all the same. Admit it, you're already itching to click through and see the whole thing.

There have been numerous unofficial attempts at doing this before. A group of St Martin's postgrads came up with the Shortwalk map in 2007, while a health insurance company devised a 'number of steps' map in 2009. But these have usually been wilfully inaccurate, it being quite difficult to determine all of the necessary intervals with accuracy. One reason you can be sure this latest version is official is that they haven't accidentally missed a number out, every adjacent pair of stations has its own data. But be aware that this is not the holy grail map of 'journeys where it would be quicker to walk'. Only adjacent stations on the same line are included, so (for example) Queensway to Bayswater does not appear.

TfL have yet to promote their new map in any way. It's hidden on a page of the TfL website you're unlikely to use regularly - the Walking homepage - where those stumbling across it are invited to "view a map of station-to-station walking times in central London". Google suggests that the map went live last Monday, 2nd November, and that Twitter user @brucemcvean spotted it the following day. A new form of tube map is like catnip to Time Out, and they were the first to circulate the map's existence more widely with a blog post yesterday celebrating the discovery. But their assertion that "the folks at TfL have released a shiny new version of the official walking tube map" misses the important point that there's never been an official walking tube map before.

A little further digging reveals that this wasn't originally TfL's map, it was put together by creative duo Ary Arasen and Joe Watson as part of a suite of ideas to help Londoners get around during a tube strike. They proposed placing signs outside stations showing the walking time to the next, but it was their tube map that went viral, appearing in several national newspapers and spreading to more than 100 countries around the world. This was in July last year, you must remember, and only now have TfL caught up. And the reason I'm utterly convinced that their official map is based on Ary and Joe's amateur production is that it contains exactly the same gross inaccuracy between Aldgate East and Whitechapel.

Other than the odd gremlin, the walking map is of course inordinately fascinating. You'll turn first to your regular journeys to confirm the data, then open out to scan the network more widely. Locations that seem close are revealed not to be, and the total irregularity of the diagram becomes clear. Times in the outer reaches are much higher than those in the centre, despite network proximity suggesting otherwise. The map strips away Harry Beck's basic premise that distance doesn't matter and reveals the reality beneath. Rather than focusing on stations we are instead encouraged to concentrate on the gaps inbetween, each line reduced to little more than a string of digits.

What's possibly even more interesting is whether the map is actually correct. Almost every number Ary and Joe provided has either been copied across to the official map or tweaked by no more than one minute higher or lower, suggesting a high degree of faith in the original data. But there are also a handful of locations where TfL technicians have seen fit to adjust the original number by a greater amount because of an initial error. Temple to Blackfriars was never 4 minutes - the new map has it at 10 - and Camden Town to Euston can be done in 19 minutes, not a pessimistic 27. Meanwhile no way did Finchley Road to Baker Street take 1 hour 4 minutes, hence the updated figure of 44, and Aldgate East to Whitechapel should clearly be 12 minutes rather than that ridiculous 2.

Ignoring that latter anomaly, here's an 'official' list of The closest tube stations in Zones 1 and 2.

3 minutes: Charing Cross → Embankment (such a short walk, never tube it)
4 minutes: Leicester Square → Covent Garden (the shortest underground, but not quite on the surface); Mansion House → Cannon Street
5 minutes: Cannon Street → Monument (Cannon Street's unnecessarily close to both its neighbouring stations)
6 minutes: Leicester Square → Piccadilly Circus; Marylebone → Baker Street; Moorgate → Liverpool Street; Shepherds Bush Market → Goldhawk Road; Embankment → Waterloo (not sure I believe that); Monument → London Bridge (not sure I believe that either)
7 minutes: Barons Court → West Kensington; Hyde Park Corner → Knightsbridge; Edgware Road → Marylebone; Finchley Road → Swiss Cottage; Marble Arch → Bond Street; Bond Street → Oxford Circus; Leicester Square → Charing Cross; Tottenham Court Road → Goodge Street; Goodge Street → Warren Street; Stockwell → Clapham North; Mile End → Bow Road

On the same theme, the tube line with the most stations less than 10 minutes walk apart is the Northern line, with 14. From Euston down to Waterloo not a single stop exceeds a ten minute walk, and the same is true from Old Street down to Borough. The DLR also has 14 stations on the map that are less than 10 minutes walk apart, indeed the line from Bow Church down to Lewisham is riddled with them. They're the two most densely packed lines, whereas the Waterloo and City and Victoria lines are the most spaced out (because they were deliberately planned as express routes).

Possibly of more interest, here are The Top 10 longest walking times between tube stations in Zones 1 and 2.

1) 76 minutes - Canary Wharf → North Greenwich (the loser by miles, because there's a whopping great river in the way and no direct means to cross on foot)
2) 44 minutes - Finchley Road → Baker Street (because the Metropolitan line misses out the two intermediate stations)
3) 39 minutes - Canada Water → Canary Wharf (it's that river again, although I'd have thought the time should be a lot more)
4) 33 minutes - Bank → Waterloo (the Waterloo & City line is a true timesaver)
4) 33 minutes - Liverpool Street → Bethnal Green
6) 31 minutes - King's Cross St Pancras → Highbury & Islington
7) 30 minutes - Turnham Green → Hammersmith (assuming the Piccadilly line is stopping at Turnham Green)
8) 29 minutes - Highbury & Islington → Finsbury Park (H&I's second appearance in this list)
9) 28 minutes - London Bridge → Bermondsey
10) 27 minutes - King's Cross St Pancras → Caledonian Road

These long treks are very much the exceptions. The vast majority of adjacent stations in Zones 1 and 2 are between 10 and 20 minutes walk apart, equivalent to half a mile to 1 mile. Eminently walkable at ground level, should you so choose, which is of course the entire point of the map. But the story would be very different had stations in zones 3 to 6 been included, with distances increasing inexorably, and the far-flung reaches of the Metropolitan line would require a considerable hike.

Enough of the tube, what of The Top 10 longest walking times between Overground and DLR stations in Zones 1 and 2?

1) 53 minutes - Euston → South Hampstead (they should never have demolished Primrose Hill station inbetween)
2) 45 minutes - Clapham High Street → Denmark Hill (they should never have demolished East Brixton station inbetween)
3) 44 minutes - Wapping → Rotherhithe (seemingly, cough, an ill-advised walk through the Rotherhithe Tunnel)
4) 38 minutes - Surrey Quays → Queens Road Peckham (which is why they're building Surrey Canal Road station inbetween)
5) 36 minutes - Imperial Wharf → Clapham Junction (which is why a privately-funded footbridge is planned inbetween)
6) 31 minutes - Surrey Quays → New Cross
6) 31 minutes - Surrey Quays → New Cross Gate
8) 30 minutes - Clapham Junction → Wandsworth Road
9) 29 minutes - Bank → Shadwell (the only seriously lengthy journey on the DLR)
10) 28 minutes - Gospel Oak → Upper Holloway

I'll be intrigued to see whether or not the map is extended in January when Stratford is pulled into zone 2 - there'd certainly be some interesting walking times out there. I also look forward to seeing that rogue digit at Aldgate East replaced by something more realistic. And perhaps someone can tell me why step-free blobs have been included, and get in the way, when the whole point of the walking map is that it's for able bodied travellers capable of moderate pace. But it's great to see a walking tube map finally given legitimacy through its appearance on the TfL website. It's slightly baffling they haven't publicised it yet, but why delay, why not get out one stop early and do yourself some good?

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