A Mapnificent View of Toronto

An interesting tool for viewing transit travel times in many cities is available at Mapnificent.  Using schedule data published by many transit agencies, you can view the area to which someone can travel within a given time, on a specific type of day and day of the week.  Playing around with the parameters gives different views depending on available transit services, walking time to stations/stops, and of course, your location.

A few things I have noticed using this site for Toronto:

  • The route/schedule information appears to be a bit out of date because late night Sundays still show transit access via routes that no longer operate.
  • There doesn’t appear to be a provision for the effect of waiting time at stops.  If a bus runs half-hourly, and you want the “15 minute” travel boundary, then most of your average trip will involve wait time.  According to the comment thread on a post linked below, no wait penalty is assigned for the route at the start of a trip, only for transfers along the way.

All the same, it’s an interesting way of looking at transit travel and comparing the reach transit provides in different parts of Toronto and the GTA.  Something like this would be ideal for visualizing proposed transit networks if one replaced the transit system as it is today with “tomorrow’s” version.

Have fun playing with the site.  Note that this is a beta version, and some things may not work quite as advertised.  Also, note that this is a very cpu-intensive application, and changing the display parameters may take a while for the update to complete.

See also these articles on Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit blog:

mapnificent breaking through?

beyond transit scores

11 thoughts on “A Mapnificent View of Toronto

  1. Interesting site. I have to say, as much as I love transit, and I use it everyday. This map really shows how much time we waste when taking transit over driving.

    Granted the map is not perfect as I get to many places in a shorter amount of time than is listed on that map.


  2. Personally, I don’t think the initial wait time should be included… if the first bus of my trip runs half-hourly, I’ll consult a timetable and arrive at the stop shortly before it’s due. (That said, if a bus is running every 10 mins or better, I’ll just turn up randomly – so maybe the initial wait time should be half the frequency or five minutes, whichever is less.)


  3. Perhaps more to the point, this type of tool would be excellent for comparing the travel time effects of a larger, lower-cost, moderate-speed network expansion against the effects of a small, budget-busting, higher-speed expansion. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

    You may be familiar with a similar map that was prepared in the 1940s, showing estimated travel time contours to Yonge and Queen before and after construction of the then-proposed rapid transit network (including the Queen subway).

    Steve: Those maps from the 40s are exactly what I have in mind. Being able to compare the effects of various changes (including such things as late night service cuts) on mobility would make visual a huge collection of data that are hard to absorb even by people like me who look at this sort of thing all of the time. One additional wrinkle would require a third dimension — weighting the effect based on the actual or projected travel demand. It’s little value being able to get somewhere in 15 minutes if it’s a trip few want to make, although changes in access will probably induce changes in development and travel patterns. By contrast, we would likely see that it takes a lot of development to make a substantial change in travel demand because on a regional scale, one high rise is really small potatoes.

    The important point is that the technology is evolving to a level where we can look at the benefit (or not) of many proposals, and claims that it is too expensive or too complicated to examine many alternatives just do not hold up any more.


  4. People calculate travel time in different ways. I always end up in a debate with my friend, because I don’t include the time it takes me to walk to my bus stop from my house (two minute walk). I count from the time I leave my bus stop on the bus.

    At the same time I don’t usually count the short walk from say the subway station to my destination. I mainly do this because I don’t count walking from the parking lot if I drive to my destination.

    If the walk is really long like a 10 or 15 minute walk then I would have to include that into the travel time as that would be a substantial increase. But if it’s a short walk, I don’t usually include it.

    Steve: This is an important consideration — access time. Short walks are not much of a burden because there is a sense of almost being there, and even in bad weather, the walk won’t be a huge problem. A 10 minute walk is quite another matter, especially in a hostile environment. This is an important difference between surface and subway operations. If the walk to or from a station is longer, and to this must be added the vertical access time to the platform, the access can become a substantial chunk of the trip time. Speed between stops is most valuable to people who are going long distances because access is a comparatively less important part of the trip.


  5. A really cool tool; though it’s unfortunate that although York, Hamilton, and GO data are there, unlike Google Maps, they don’t have others such as Mississauga or VIA Rail.


  6. “This map really shows how much time we waste when taking transit over driving.”

    When you are taking transit your time need not be wasted, you can read or do any number of things with your smartphone. When you are driving you have to drive.


  7. The map is a bunch of bunk in a way. The “walking time” suggested is unrealistic even for the world champion runner, and after playing with some settings, it tried to tell me you could bicycle from north etobicoke to downtown in 30 mins. It works fine, though, when you set the walking time to 1 minute; it also loads quicker.

    Steve: Well, it is a beta version. Things like this can always be improved.


  8. The map is a nice idea. I am having trouble with some of the features. The map also underestimates travel times on transit. I find it takes longer to get to certain locations than the map suggests.

    Steve: Travel times are based on info supplied by the transit agencies from their schedules, not from actual typical experience.


  9. From downtown Toronto during the rush hour, you can get almost anywhere in Old Toronto in about 30 minutes. Almost anywhere in the current city limits in about 60 minutes. Most anywhere in the Toronto urban area within 120 minutes. Interesting observation of our commute time.


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