Traffic visualizations, mostly in the form of geographic maps, have been popular lately. Governments and organizations have been releasing lots of GPS data, and as a result, we get to see some impressive animations and explore some slick interactives.
We don’t often get to see how cars, trains, subways, airplanes, etc move in physical space, because, well, we’re usually in them, so it’s always interesting to see the big picture. The activity feels very organic as traffic peaks during rush hours and slows down during the night, taxis provide service to and from the airport, and air traffic continues into the late hours. The maps pulsate with energy.
Let’s take a look at some of these great traffic visualizations, some new and some old.
Traffic in Lisbon
Pedro Cruz’s maps showing traffic in Lisbon (above) are the most recent on the list. They’re another take on the ghostly trails aesthetic. Areas turn bright when there’s more activity. Watch the animations play out over time.
NYC MTA Ridership
Sha Hwang, now a part of Stamen Design, spun off of the fruminator’s subway sparklines with a Modest Maps rendition of NYC MTA Ridership. Tracks get thicker with amount of estimated riders. Obviously, there’s some interpolation going on.
Trains in Melbourne
Flink Labs took a look at the ebb and flow of trains in Melbourne, Australia. It starts slow in the morning and peaks during rush hours.
Tracking Taxi Flow
We saw this one by The New York Times fairly recently, made possible by a collaboration between Sense Networks and New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission.
UK Traffic Flow
With the launch of data.gov.uk came a bunch of visualizations and applications. Ito World put together several maps that show car, bus, bicycle, and motorcycle traffic.
San Francisco Buses and Trains
Taco Lab had some fun with public transit data. The animation looks a lot like ants scurrying around in the dark.
Cascade on Wheels
Cascade on Wheels by Steph Thirion and team was an effort during the Visualizar workshop to show traffic in Madrid’s city center. In a bit of a different approach that we’ve seen, traffic was represented with rising “walls.”
AirTraffic Worldwide by Zhaw shows just that. Each yellow dot represents an airplane, and air traffic dies down as the cloud of darkness called night passes over the region.
Britain from Above
Britain from Above by 422 South was created for a special segment on BBC. The series of videos revealed the ebb and flow of land and air traffic using GPS data.
Of course we can’t talk about traffic visualization and maps without mentioning Stamen Design’s Cabspotting. Launched way back in 2006, previous cab trails are drawn in the background, with current cabs driving around the city.
Finally, we can’t forget Aaron Koblin’s Flight Patterns, which (obviously) shows a day of flights in the United States according to an FAA dataset. It won a first place prize in the 2006 NSF visualization challenge.
See, I told you there was a lot of great stuff. Did I miss anything obvious? Leave a link in the comments below.
it’d be great to know if there are any open gps datasets out there to play with… other than the openstreetmap data.
You might find some good stuff on the government sites in the geographic categories. For example… the NYC data mine has some geographic data available:
Or the geodata catalog on data.gov:
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Great list, Amsterdam realtime is probably the oldest I’ve come across (2002), a study over two months of bicycle trails in Amsterdam.
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Mario Freese put together this “Airlines” which is available for purchase. I’ve got one up in my home office; pretty cool. It’s like Aaron Koblin’s, but has the whole globe. Not sure if it’s as precise.
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@Gonzalo and @Joe – thanks! both of those are new to me. made in 2002. impressive.
Using turnstile data from MBTA, a heatmap of systems usage over a 24 hour period, starting at midnight.
There was a poster on traffic in Milan at infovis last year
That’s great sit for spotting aircrafts:
Today, you could well see the effects of vulcano eruption on Iceland for air traffic.
I guess there isn’t any traffic “flow” for LA because based on my commute tonight no one was going anywhere.
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I really like these visualizations. I work as a regional planning analyst. While I don’t work very much with traffic flow data, my coworkers do. We do not have this type of data for automobiles. Instead, we hire a consultant and they do traffic counts.
Our model uses a couple thousand zones to model traffic flow. It takes years to produce this model.
I think visualizations like this and data from the private sector (like what google uses to map traffic using cell signals) is going to push travel modeling to new heights.
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After finishing a visualization one hour of Chicago traffic from summer 2009 in 3D for a graduate school semester project and thinking I’d done something so cool, I log into FlowingData and see that someone else has already done my idea for rising walls of traffic! At least it means I had a pretty good project idea.
@KT – you can still do it though :). that was only for madrid’s city center.
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amazing how the UK traffic one just looks completely full