A commuter-rail map based on travel time

Commuter rail trips by time on a map

Peter Dunn, who last year gave us a subway map based on estimated travel times, has done it again with a time-based commuter-rail map.

Since commuters probably already know their schedules, the diagram is potentially more useful to new riders. Car commuters can see where they might save time by taking the train. Newcomers looking for a place to move in the region can quickly compare how much of their day they'd spend commuting from various stations. (If you choose the home another six minutes away, that's an extra hour a week you'll spend getting to and from work.)



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Seriously fantastic

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This is the single most useful representation of the MBCR I've ever seen. Seriously fantastic--clean, elegant, conveys everything you need to know about schedules with a quick glance. Why the MBTA hasn't commissioned this guy to do their maps is a mystery to me.

If he were feeling really interactive, the MBCR makes its service reliability report card available on the web. He'd have to do some HTML scraping, but the lines could be colored as a reliability heat map!

Agree that it's fantastic

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My one quibble is that someone who doesn't know the system that well might think that North and South Stations are connected somehow.

I'm more interested in

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I'm more interested in frequencies than trip times. It doesn't matter if a train takes 15 versus 30 minutes if you have to wait 90 minutes just for it to show up.

The map sort of shows frequencies with the thickness of the line. But I'd prefer a map where that's the primary thing it shows.

And just so's ya know, the new Talbot Avenue station on the Fairmount line has been open since November 12th. It's been a struggle even getting the T to add it to their online maps.

Yep, trip frequencies matter most

I like the trip time concept, but it's not hard to add frequencies to the same map. Instead of using thickness to indicate number of trains (which matters only as a ratio to the distance they travel), the thickness should indicate frequencies. However, as I type this up, I realize that such an idea only works with rapid transit and buses, that are scheduled by headways rather than set time tables. With commuter rail, we might have a line with 20 minute headways during commute hours, but hourly or less frequency at other times. That's not something that is easily demonstrated by a simple graphic.

Instead of forcing the

Instead of forcing the information on to a map, how about just looking at schedules? Kind of what schedules are for, no? No one wants to know all the schedules at the same time. They either want one schedule, or they want to compare two. Easily done without trying to cram the information graphically on a map.

Actually the concept is flawed

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It works well for rapid transit which is show-and-go. But most people plan CR trips in advance, so frequency is less relevant. I would still prefer higher-frequency, but that would require a whole new philosophy on the part of the T, and that's probably not going to happen for another lifetime.

Check out, as an alternative, the map that someone did for the NYTimes with the three major commuter rail providers out of NYC. Instead of averaging out travel times it shows travel times for an example evening rush.

useful map but reality more complicated

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Frequency is the big issue on commuter rail. I live within sight of Roslindale Village commuter rail, but NEVER take it because it is faster to hop a bus to Forest Hills and ride the Orange Line than to make my schedule fit the commuter rail (and pay a lot more). When I lived in Needham and Westwood, again, you have these situations where a 30-minute train ride is really more like an hour or more because you risk missing the one train that works for you.

This map is great though as a way to really compare what is possible...to realize that if you can get the schedule to work, living in Wakefield might be the same commute as Westwood. Or that driving past Islington and parking at 128 is almost always a better idea if you are willing to pay extra and ride in the vestibules on crowded trains.

Depends on circumstance

The commuter rail from Rozzi Village is quite useful if the schedule fits into your routine. It matches up pretty well with my work schedule, and while the bus/subway option is somewhat time competitive in the morning, the evening traffic crush on Washington St. is so bad that the bus from Forest Hills just isn't viable to me. I agree, though, that when it comes to "hey, I think I'll head downtown," it's far easier to go with the Orange Line. It's a shame the Orange Line doesn't go that last mile (or even a bit further, to West Roxbury). The Needham ROW would work very well as rapid transit.