John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
This tool shows how far you can travel in 10 minutes in ghostly splotches and tendrils.
For quick info on routes and travel times, there's always Google Maps. But for a traveler wanting more of a beauteous, immersive experience, try Isoscope, a mapping tool that plots possible journeys in what looks like glowing-blue ectoplasm.
Isoscope is not a service one would use to get from point A to B. It's more of a way to explore mobility in areas where travel conditions change hour by hour. First, set the map to zoom in on any place in the world and click it to site your imaginary traveler. A ghostly, translucent presence will then form, all splotches and tendrils. This cerulean shape is actually 24 different layers representing all the hours of the day. Track the mouse over the hours at the map's bottom, and the shape's outline will expand and contract to show how far you can get in a preselected two-to-ten minute car trip.
For instance, here's how far you could drive in 10 minutes, if you were leaving from Brooklyn Heights at 5 a.m. (the distance calculations are coming from HERE):
That distance shrinks like a jellyfish under a blow dryer at 4 p.m. You can still get into Manhattan, but just barely, and Park Slope and Redhook are off limits:
There's another feature that allows you to set the day of the week. The above maps were for a Monday, but as one would expect you'd be able to travel more extensively on a Sunday. And as a bonus, the map also calculates perimeters for pedestrians. Here are the outer reaches of where you could stroll to in 10 minutes in the Heights:
Isoscope was built by students at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences under the guidance of Till Nagel, a maker of visualizations who's also done a year of biking and trains on the sprawling Shanghai Metro. Regarding this project, they write:
We drive to the closest supermarket, take the bike to the gym or walk to the cafe next door for a nice chat among friends. Getting around — thus mobility — is an essential part of our being. We were especially intrigued by those situations when our mobility is compromised such as in traffic jams or during tough driving conditions. How do those restrictions impact our journeys through the city and who is affected most? Obviously, a car can hardly bypass a traffic jam, whereas a bike is more flexible to continue its journey. Let alone the pedestrian who can stroll wherever he wants to. Isoscope tries to answer the questions above by comparing different means of transport and their sensitivity for disturbances.
For kicks, I've mapped a few more 10-minute slogs around major American cities. This is the landscape of hypothetical mobility driving away from the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art at 1 p.m. on a Saturday:
Departing San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood during late-afternoon rush hour on Monday:
Trying to break free of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., at 4 p.m. on Friday:
Maps courtesy of the Isoscope team.