Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Streetcars of San Francisco


I've always been a big fan of Vasile Coțovanu real-time transit maps. Using Vasile's Transit Map library it is possible to create a simulated real-time map for any transit system in the world.

A good example of the library in action is the Transit Map of San Francisco MTA.This Google Map shows the real-time position of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency buses and trams based on the published MTA timetable. The vehicles, moving in real-time on the map, are represented by markers displaying the route number.

The map works by plugging the city's GTFS dataset into Vasile's Transit Map library. Vasile has released the code for the GTFS plug-in as well. The code converts a set of GTFS files into a SQLite database and the GeoJSON's needed by the Transit Map library.

If you want to create your own simulated animated map of a city's transit network all you need to do is to grab the city's GTFS dataset, use GTFS-viz to create the database and GeoJSON's and then plug the data into the Transit Map library.

You will then have your very own animated simulated transit map.

Six of the Best Mapbox Map Styles

Mapbox's Tilemill and Mapbox Studio applications are incredible tools for map developers to control the design and style of nearly every aspect of their maps. Using Tilemill or Mapbox Studio it is possible to create some truly gorgeous looking maps.

To see what is possible with these tools you should have a close look at some of these beautiful maps:

The Woodcut Map

This woodcut style map makes great use of textures to create a beautiful looking map. There is a lot to love about this map. I really like the wooden shielded country labels and the level of detail which emerges at different zoom levels.

The map's creator, Eleanor Lutz, has also taken the time to explain some of the design choices and technical details behind the design of the map on the Mapbox blog.

Space Station Earth

Space Station Earth is a lovely science fiction themed map. The map changes city names to space colonies, uses custom textures for road and building borders and uses over-sized markers for stores, parks, and other points of interest to simulate city lights.

The accompanying post on the Mapbox blog includes an interesting account of some of the design choices made in creating the map.

The Hand Drawn Map

The Hand Drawn Map of Toulouse, created with Tilemill, customizes the look of OpenStreetMap data to create a beautiful hand-drawn styled map. It is the lovingly created detail on this map that help make it so special. From the post-it note themed labels to the hand-sketched textures it is easy to actually mistake this for a real hand-drawn map.

The map's creator Karl Azémar has also published an interesting post about how he created the hand-drawn style (in French).

The Pencil Map

Similar in style to the hand-drawn map above, the Pencil Map has the look of a lovingly illustrated map, The map makes use of textures for water and building features. I think the map looks best when zoomed in on urban areas (as in the screenshot above), where the buildings really do look like they have been sketched by hand.

The Pirate Map

A J Ashton's Pirate Map is another map that make great use of textures to create a vintage map style. The Pirate Map also makes great use of the map label fonts to create a unified theme for the map's overall design.

There is an even better version of the Pirate Map which comes included with Mapbox Studio. So, if you download Mapbox Studio, you can play with the design of this map yourself.

The Van Gogh Map

The Van Gogh Map uses a few images actually taken from Van Gogh paintings as textures for the map feature types. The result is a map style which you probably wouldn't want to use very often but the map does serve as a neat demo of how developers can create interesting and unique map styles.

This might not be the map that Van Gogh would have made himself, if he were a cartographer, but it does include details from some of his paintings. Feature types on this map, such as water and different types of land cover, are made up of map tiles created with textures taken from a few of Van Gogh's paintings.

The Incredible Dancing Map


If you love music and maps then you will love the dancing maps of Rack City. Just share your location with Rack City and you can listen to you favorite tracks from SoundCloud while watching the map of your location dance along to the track.

The application uses data from OpenStreetMap to show a basic map of your location, including roads and buildings. The buildings on the maps are actually dynamic animated audio visualizers that pulse to the beats of your chosen song.

If you don't like the map of your chosen location you can select the location (in the bottom right-hand corner) and switch to another city location (currently New York, Tokyo, London or Chicago).

Tracking the Bike Thieves


Earlier this year Seismograph released an interesting map showing Where Your Bicycle is Most Likely to Get Stolen in San Francisco. The map plots the location of every bicycle theft reported to the San Francisco police in 2013.

The map uses an interesting system of concentric circles to show locations where more than one bike was stolen. You can mouse-over the individual circles to reveal the time and date of each bike theft. Seismograph also provide a useful bar chart that shows you at what time of day your bike is most likely to get stolen.

Judging by the map it might be a good idea not to park your bike on Market Street, at the Ferry Building or outside Mission BART.


Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche has taken a different approach to mapping bike thefts. The newspaper hid GPS tracking devices in three bikes. They then left the bikes in three Swiss cities Bern, Geneva and Zurich and waited for them to be stolen.

Over 40,000 bikes a year are stolen in Switzerland every year and the Le Matin Dimanche were interested to see what happens to these bikes once they are stolen. By tracking the stolen bikes the newspaper was interested to find out what kind of people steal bikes and what they do with their stolen bicycles.

Using the GPS data from the stolen bikes they were able to create a StoryMap for each city, plotting the movement of each bike in the days after its theft.

In Geneva the first time the bike was stolen it was taken to a Cash Converters shop and sold for 200 Francs. The manager of the shop revealed that the thief was a regular seller of bikes. Le Matin Dimanche then placed the bike outside a police station to see if that would deter the bike thieves. It was soon stolen again.

The first theft of the bike left in Bern ended up in a woman's garage. The newspaper retrieved the bike from the garage's owner. She claimed that the bike had been abandoned there and she was planning to report the stolen bike to the police. In Bern the bike was also stolen by a 15 year old schoolboy who claimed that he thought the bike had already been stolen and he did not intend to keep the bike.

In Zurich the bike was stolen by a man described by locals as a 'drug addict' and sold to a cabaret dancer for 50 Francs.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Burning Man from Space


Skybox has released a series of satellite images showing  Black Rock City, NV before, during and after this year's Burning Man festival.

The Transformation of Burning Man uses satellite imagery captured with SkySat-1 and SkySat-2 between August 12 and September 3. The images show how Black Rock City is built up and dismantled in just a matter of days.

In the screenshot above you can see the area of the round Center Camp, before, during and after the festival. Skybox has overlaid all the satellite imagery on top of a Google Map. Each image has its own transparency control, enabling you to compare and contrast the imagery of the whole festival site over nearly a month of time.

International Animal Resue


For 50 years World Animal Protection has been working to support and promote animal welfare around the world. Since 1964 the charity has directly treated over 3.5 million animals in 350 disasters.

To mark their 50th anniversary World Animal Protection has launched an interactive map highlighting some of the disaster work carried out by the organization around the globe. The World Animal Protection Map showcases some of the disaster responses undertaken by the charity in every year of its existence.

You can select a year from the map timeline and then choose an individual disaster response from the selected year. The map will then zoom to the chosen location and display photos, videos and information about the disaster and the World Animation Protection's response.

Dublin Mapped


The DublinDashboard is a new initiative from Maynooth University and Dublin City Council to provide access to a wide range of city data. The site provides thousands of data visualizations, many of them interactive maps, about all aspects of life, work and travel in Dublin.

The DublinDashboard includes both visualizations which have been developed by the initiative and links to data visualizations created by third parties. The interactive maps include real-time maps of traffic, parking and sound and air pollution in the city. Other maps includes visualizations of census data and visualizations of housing, crime, planning and access to city amenities.

All the data-sets used in DublinDashboard's own data visualizations and maps is freely available to developers who want to build their own applications and visualizations.

Mappa di Papa


The Vatican Insider has used the StoryMap JS library to map the international travels of Pope Francis, since his election to the papacy in March 2013.

Pope Francis' International Visits provides a chronological mapped journey of Pope Francis' international visits over the last 17 months. You can use the forward and back buttons to follow Pope Francis' international journey. As you progress through the story map the left-hand map updates to show the locations visited while the right-hand information panel provides date, photos, video and text providing background on the Pope's international visits.

The map is available in Italian, English and Spanish.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Maps of the Week


It is a disgrace that nine years after the release of Google Maps, Google still haven't managed to properly map one of America's most loved towns. Luckily where ever Google fails Esri comes to the rescue.

Look up Springfield on Playgis and you will find a gloriously detailed map of this most famous of American towns. From the world's first ever Kwik-E-Mart to Springfield Elementary School, this Spingfield map has it all. You can even use the map to look up the address of individual families, for example the Simpsons family at 742 Evergreen Terrace.


Although Google Maps doesn't yet cover Springfield it does have Street View. Thanks to Amplifon we also now have a neat library to add sound to Street View panoramas.

Last month Amplifon created Sounds of Street View, a new platform which allows you to add sound to Google Maps Street View. If you visit Sounds of Street View Create Your Own you can download the Sounds of Street View framework and read a detailed guide explaining how to create your own Street View with sound experience.

Zombie Sound Experienz uses the Business Photos Street View tour from the Zombie Manor in Drayton with the Amplifon library to create a creepy virtual tour, with full 3d sound. The custom Street View tour was created for Drayton Manor by 360 Agency, who also created the Street View tour of Diagon Alley for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

As you progress through this zombie filled virtual Street View tour you can now actually hear the zombies pursuing you.


As you visit the different rooms in the Zombie Manor you will hear a variety of creepy sounds. Different zombies and rooms have different sounds attached to them, which get louder or quieter as you approach or travel away from them.


As well as a Simpsons' map and a creepy Zombie Street View tour we also saw some great serious maps this week. I  particularly liked the Urban Institute's map showing where minorities in the USA are being priced out of the housing market.

A New View of the Housing Boom and Bust plots 100 million mortgages from 2000 to 2012 across the United States. The map shows each owner-occupied mortgage origination for twelve years, in which the borrower’s race and ethnicity were fully recorded.  Zoom in on just about any city on this map and you can see a clear pattern of African American and Hispanic households being disproportionately affected by constrained mortgage lending.


Another map which caught my eye this week was Infoamazonia's  Visaguas, which examines the availability of clean drinking water & sewage in Amazon municipalities and the incident rates of a number of diseases caused by poor water & sewage infrastructure. 

If you use the tabs, above the map, you can select to view Water Supply, Diseases or Access to Sewage on the map. When you select either of the three main categories you can then select from a number of subcategories. For example, if you select diseases you can view the incident rates, per municipality, for a number of different diseases, including Cholera, Dengue Fever and Typhoid.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mapping US Household Income


Income Craters - 2012 uses data from the 2012 US Census Bureau to visualize household income across the United States.

The choropleth map view provides a quick overview of household income across the US. You can also zoom in on individual cities to view median income levels at neighborhood level. Mouse-over an area on the map and you can view the median household income in the yop right-hand corner of the map.


The Washington Post has mapped the zip-code areas in the USA that rank highest for income and college education. The map displays the nation’s 650 Super Zips, those are the zip-code areas where people rank highest on a combination of income and education.

The Washington: A World Apart map shows a long corridor of affluence running from New York to Washington DC. The accompanying article from the Post looks in particular at the third of zip-code areas in D.C. which rank in the top 5 percent for income and education.

Users of the map can search by zip-code to find out the ranking for their area. If you click on a zip-code area on the map you can view the median household income and the percentage of college graduates in the area. It is also possible to view a breakdown of the percentages in each household group and the percentages in each educational attainment group.