GIS Thoughts

Spatial analysis hits the mainstream..

mySociety Travel maps

mySociety have put the analysis of geographical information into the mainstream press, with the London evening newspaper, The Standard running a report today on the Travel Maps they have created working with the Dept. for Transport in the UK.

This is great to see, and again compliments to Tom and Chris for the work they are doing, but don’t you think it is strange that the usefulness of this type of spatial analysis has been popularised in the eyes of the media by the guys at mySociety and not the traditional users of GI who have had access to this data and the tools to produce isochrones for many years.

BTW I live right between the two red vectors to the west of London indicating faster travel times.. ah well 🙂

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

7 replies on “Spatial analysis hits the mainstream..”

From the bottom of the page you’re linking to:

This work was funded by the Department for Transport, who also made it possible for us to use Ordnance Survey maps and data through their licence; without this assistance we would have had to pay expensive fees to use the underlying mapping data or to produce maps with no landmarks, which would be almost incomprehensible. DfT also gave us access to their National Public Transport Access Node database, which records the locations of train and tube stations and bus stops; without this it would have been difficult to produce any maps at all.

Although the journey planning services and software we used were publicly accessibly, almost none of the other data is available unless you pay for it, or your work falls under an existing licencing agreement. So while we set out to demonstrate how easily we could make travel-time maps from public data, very little of this work could be cheaply reproduced or extended without assistance from a government department.

That’s unfortunate, because it means that innovative work by outsiders in this area can only go ahead if it’s explicitly sponsored by government. If all the data we’ve used had been available for free, somebody else might well have done what we’ve done years ago, with no cost to the taxpayer. We’d love it if others extend the work that we’ve done, but realistically there aren’t very many people in a position to do this cheaply.

They did it because they had the vision, but also because they had a huge financial leg-up (in effect). Nobody else has done it because the OS’s licensing rules make it far too expensive.

“If all the data we’ve used had been available for free…” Now isn’t that an interesting idea?

Hello Charles,

You miss my point for many years people WITH access to both the data and the tools available to them and not had the impact mySociety has had. This is not so much about access to information in my mind, rather how the results of analysis are communicated to the general public.


True, but I did tackle that: I said – they had the vision.

Others who had the access and the ability likely didn’t have the vision – and maybe were too busy working to make money rather than produce something enriching in a different sense.

We made some inquiries with the Ordnance Survey sales people to discover how much it would have to to produce a single one of the maps if we hadn’t been covered by the government’s licence.

The answer is £1032.71 to produce a single 40*40km 1:25,000 map for internal business use by one person, for one year.

Given that for the report we produced a slew of different maps at different scales and in different locations, and then served them about 30,000 times, I dread to think what this would have meant…

Hi Ed,
I work in the Transportation industry. Producing accessibility measures is part of our business as a consultant you need to be paid for the work you do. Unfortunately to the clients the extra cost of mapping the results (rather than just ranking areas by a score) is often not seen as essential.
This is bizarre but predictable as it is an easy way to save a bit of taxpayers money. The added value given by a map is enormous compared to the cost, but hey if they don’t want (to pay for) it – why should we do it for free?

I think the reason why it takes people who does it for free to make it to the news – is the fact that people are doing it for free – and not the fact it’s a ‘new’ idea – which it is not.

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