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A Single Day on the London Tube, Condensed Into 2 Minutes

It’s a living, breathing transit map.

Have you ever spent your commute on public transit feeling not unlike a ping pong ball, bouncing from line to line between bodies, backpacks and unending escalators? A new data visualization from a coder named Will Gallia shows commuters working their way through a day in the life of London’s Tube as exactly that: busy little pixels of commuting energy.

Gallia created his visualization with London Underground data from a single day in 2009. He used information from a 5 percent sample of Oyster card journeys to determine where each of roughly 560,000 travelers’ trips began and ended. (The BBC reported last year that 3.5 million Brits take the Tube every day.) He then wrote a routing algorithm to estimate which lines these commuters used on their journeys. Finally, he superimposed these trips on the map of London’s Underground system, allowing the pixelated bodies of his passengers to illuminate the daily ebbs and flows of the Tube.

There are a few fun takeaways from this living, breathing transit map. Things get really, really busy, for instance, at around 8:40 in the morning, and again at around 6:10 at night. But there are also areas of consistent low activity: The Hainault Loop in the far right corner, for instance, attracts few riders even at the craziest of commute times. All transit lines are not created equal.

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