Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Where Would You Live in London?

Would it depend on the price? Or the distance to work? Or both? You would probably find these travel-time maps very useful. They were developed by Chris Lightfoot at MySociety.Org after the UK Department of Transport approached MySociety about experimenting with novel ways of re-using public sector data. One particular set of intearctive maps allows users to set both the maximum time they’re willing to commute, and the median house price they’re willing or able to pay. Slide the sliders on the last link to see constrained minimisation at work --- with the BBC Television Centre and Olympic Stadium as the focal points.

On the main page, the same can be done with the Department of Transport close to the centre of London. Try setting a maximum travel time here of one hour, and a maximum price of £500,000. You'll see that Chelsea/Kensington is blacked out, as is Hampstead Heath. (House prices are based on house sales recorded in the Land Registry for a large random sample of London postcodes, inflation adjusted to be the price as at December 2006. Journey times to work are for a week day in 2007. They were generated by screen scraping the Transport for London and Transport Direct journey planner websites.)

MySociety makes open source software, so you can get the source code for the scripts that made these maps, and MySociety will provide copies of the OpenStreetMap base mapping. (Other data requires permission from the owners). MySociety is a non-profit with a community of volunteers and (paid) open source coders. It runs most of the best-known democracy and transparency websites in the UK. One of its initiatives that blog readers may find interesting is PledgeBank. This allows people to set up a campaign or a committed behaviour where they say "I’ll do something, but only IF other people will too."

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