HERE/Oliver O'Brien

Cartographer Oliver O’Brien has visualized the changing volume of people coursing through the city’s Underground.

During the morning rush hour, London commuters pour out of the Oxford Circus station like oil, and dissipate down cobbled lanes to their offices. In the evenings, they surge back into the Underground, on their way to homes and families.

Each day, two million commuters take the city’s subway back and forth to work, a rhythmic pulse of riders that has now been visualized in a neat interactive map created by Oliver O’Brien, a researcher at University College London, and commissioned by mapping company HERE.

O’Brien’s map tracks the volume of passengers from one station to the next, for every 15-minute interval between 5 in the morning and 2 a.m. the same night. The result is hypnotic: London’s 11 train lines throb with life, especially during the morning and evening rush hours:

Alongside the bulging train lines, fluctuating numbers show the total passengers entering and exiting each of the 168 stations, along with those transferring between train lines for every 15 minute period. Here’s what 8:15-8:30 a.m. looks like on O’Brien’s map:

HERE/Oliver O'Brien

And this is what 6:15-6:30 in the evening looks like:  

HERE/Oliver O'Brien

O’Brien also lets users dive deep into details for each station, as well as each line. Here’s a graph showing how busy Leicester Square is in the evenings, when theater-enthusiasts are heading home from a show:

HERE/Oliver O'Brien

There a number of similarly interesting patterns in ridership across the different station. O’Brien lists some broad ones in the introduction to the map:

  • Peak time at Leicester Square is after 10pm - the tube is a popular way to get back to homes and hotels after a night at the theatre.
  • Closing museums cause an early peak in South Kensington, while shoppers on Oxford Street can also be seen in the stats.
  • School kids cause spikes in usage across certain quieter stations, particularly in outer London.
  • West Ham's morning peak entry is an hour before everyone else! Other stations have two morning peaks.
  • Some places are changing character. Stratford now has almost as many people arriving as leaving in the morning peak.

One thing is clear from this map: The lines of the Underground are certainly the veins and arteries of the city. Via HERE’s blog post about the map:

People have compared large cities to the human body since their foundations. Their roads and rail lines are their metaphorical blood vessels, bearing people and fresh resources to its major organs and transporting them away at the end of the day.

Perhaps nowhere is this more true than London.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo-illustration of several big-box retail stores.
    Equity

    After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown

    Big-box retailers nationwide are slashing their property taxes through a legal loophole known as "dark store theory." For the towns that rely on that revenue, this could be a disaster.

  2. A photo of British Prime Minister Theresa May announcing her government's Brexit deal outside No. 10 Downing Street
    Equity

    Britain Finally Has a Brexit Deal. Everyone Hates It.

    Amid resignations, it's clear the U.K. government massively misjudged how leaving the European Union would play out.

  3. Life

    Inside the Movement to Derail Amazon HQ2 Incentives

    New York and Virginia politicians and activists could still make changes to Amazon HQ2 packages—or at least stop the next bidding war from mirroring this one.

  4. A photo of a small small house in San Francisco's Noe Valley that sold for $1.8 million in 2014.
    Equity

    Why Cities Must Tackle Single-Family Zoning

    As cities wake up to their housing crises, the problems with single-family-home residential zoning will become too egregious to ignore.

  5. A man holding a toddler walks past open-house signs in front of condominiums for sale.
    Life

    Millennials Are More Likely to Buy Their First Homes in Cities

    New research finds that Millennials are 21 percent more likely to buy their first homes near city centers than Generation X.