This live London Underground train map shows the power of open data
The London Underground is fascinating. It’s a beating hub that sees nearly five million people use it every day. To think how many people are underground in London at any given moment is a baffling, yet wonderfully enticing statistic.
To help visualise just how busy the London Underground is, one data expert has put together a live London Underground map that charts the journey of every tube train across the city.
The map, put together by Birmingham-based programmer Matthew Somerville, uses data from TFL’s open API to track trains in real time as they move across the London Underground network. Somerville then mapped that movement to the iconic London Underground map designed by Harry Beck in 1931 – although you can view it on a geographic map instead if you like.
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Interestingly, Somerville wasn’t just simply able to use a train’s location to create his map. As London Underground operators Transport for London (TfL) have removed public access to live train locations, Somerville had to tap into the departure and arrival information for each tube station to estimate a train’s location. It’s the same information that apps like Google Maps and Citymapper make use of to offer up live departure times for planning journeys.
The map, which Somerville calls “vaguely live” isn’t designed to be a source of train arrival times, but more of a project to show what can be done with the power of open data. It’s a mesmerising look at the flow of people across London and is just as likely to turn up projected onto the wall of an edgy coffee shop somewhere in East London.
This isn’t Somerville’s first open data project relating to transport either. He’s also put together a map of National Rail trains from some of the UK’s biggest rail hubs, and a map of every bus route in London – although you’ll need to amend the “#73” in the URL to the bus route of your choice to see them.
Let’s hope that once the new tube map rolls out with the Elizabeth line on we’ll see an updated map from Somerville too.