Real-time bus data has proved useful for commuters who’d rather not waste time waiting around a bus stop. But for cartographers, it’s a treasure trove of information begging to be analyzed and visualized.
For example, consider the maps of live bus speeds for Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority buses created by the cartography blog Bostonography. Inputting real-time bus schedule data collected over a period of 24 hours, the mappers are able to create a unique snapshot of what bus speeds look like around the city each day. Areas where the buses were moving quickly (faster than 25 miles per hour) are green. Slow spots (under 10 miles per hour) are red, and a mix of oranges and yellows denote the in-between. Unsurprisingly, it’s the denser downtown areas that show up the reddest.
In addition to a daily portrait, the site is maintaining a live map of bus speeds. The project is a follow up to a similar one from 2011 that rendered the data just for a single business day. "I’ve learned better ways to automate this mapping since making that first map, so with a bit of code we can sit back and let the maps draw themselves as time goes on," writes the creator Andy Woodruff, who adds that the maps are "partly meant to convey overall patterns of MBTA bus service and allow comparison over time, and partly meant to be pretty pictures."