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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tube Map In Circles

Regular readers to my blog will know that London Underground map expert,
Max Roberts, has long suggested that the Tube Map is getting too cluttered.  His curvy Tube map has been a popular way of re-visiting the map and now with the orbital London Overground he's designed another way of re-mapping the map.  Max kindly explains his approach in this guest post.

Circular Tube Map by Max Roberts
Detail of Max Roberts In Circles Tube Map

"With the new orbital loop surrounding Central London, some people are suggesting a mapping approach based on circles to emphasise this feature. There is nothing new here, and Berlin, Paris, Moscow and Madrid have all received this treatment in the past. Grounding a map in familiar shapes such as circles can make it easy to comprehend. However, it is also possible to push a design priority too far. As the old saying goes, be careful of what you might desire, in case you get it.


"Let's start from first principles. Mixing straight lines and concentric circles on the same map is fine if there are pure orbital lines, and pure radial lines. This works well for Moscow, but in London the lines tend to be a bit of a mixture, never quite deciding whether they are heading for the centre or avoiding it. Circles are not particularly bothered about whether straight lines are at 45 degrees, vertical, or horizontal, with the consequence that the straight line and circular elements can integrate poorly, impacting on the harmony and coherence of the design. How can circles and straight lines be made to communicate better? Answer, by using straight lines that are directly related to circles: tangents and spokes (and, in emergency, lines that are parallel to other tangents and spokes). If a map is to be based upon concentric circles, then it might be an idea to rethink all the design rules from the ground up.

"If we really are going to throw away the design rules, and switch emphasis to orbital lines, then we need at least one full circle to make the concept convincing. However, forcing the Circle Line into this shape is a bad starting point. Its actual route is nothing like circular, and the British have a preference for nice orderly horizontal lettering, which tends to force out the width of the map. Going into battle on two fronts (geography and typography) simultaneously is just going to end in disaster: a horribly unbalanced design with areas of dense hard-to-decipher stations, and gaping holes in others. The Overground loop is far more suited to this sort of design abuse, and a much more interesting shape is possible for the Circle Line itself.

Circular Tube Map by Max Roberts
Max Roberts In Circles Tube Map - Sharp Corners - click to view full size

"So, here are the results (the sharp corner version has some usability issues, but is more dramatic aesthetically). Quite attractive in a distinctly weird way. Although parts of the map suffer horribly (Thameslink to West Hampstead for example), it is surprising just how much of London is resilient enough to withstand the attack. Intriguingly, this is the only map I have ever seen where Crossrail looks convincing, especially in East London.

Circular Tube Map by Max Roberts
Max Roberts In Circles Tube Map - Smooth Corners - click to view full size

Overall though, I don't think I will be sending this one to TfL for comments. No great advances in usability here, but it was fun to make it."

What do you think of his maps? Fun? Usuable?  Max would be keen to hear your thoughts.  If you'd like to hear more from Max he'll be at the Design Museum of the evening of the 19th February giving a great talk - Underground Maps Unravelled - more details here.

You might also like

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, January 29, 2013 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Saturday, January 26, 2013

London Underground £2 coins in circulation for 150th anniversary celebrations

Look out for the special £2 coins in your change at Tube ticket machines.  To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, these new coins by The Royal Mint are firstly going  into circulation at selected Tube stations in machines, then you might find them amongst your coins from change at ticket offices and finally in general circulation later this year.

There's two different designs. The roundel £2 coin,  was created by designer Edwina Ellis and the edge inscription simply says 'Mind the gap'.

London Underground £2 Tube Train Coin 

The other features a 1967 Victoria line Tube train.  The coin was designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby who designed the world-famous London 2012 Olympic Torch.  This coin shows the front of the train coming out of a tunnel, but also has a linear reprsentation of the Tube map running around the edge.

2013 UK £2 Two Coin Set of London Underground Coins 
If you don't fancy your chances of getting one in your change, The Royal Mint are selling sets of London Underground coins on their website from £20 - see photo above - you can get both coins in some nice packaging.  Inside the CD sized pack there's a double-sided poster, which  features a close-up of Tower Hill station on the London Underground map.  Apparently The Royal Mint was housed there from 1279 until the 1960s.

There's also a whole host of the fun facts or most famous figures about each Tube line on the poster.  For instance you may now that the Bakerloo Line has the station that uses the most platforms.  But did you also know that during the war after an air raid a whole wedding party had to move to Edgware Road station.  The stationmaster even provided the newlyweds with an improvised honeymoon suite, by ushering them into a lift and stopping it halfway up the shaft.

Mike Brown, the Managing Director of London Underground, said: "London Underground has always played a vital role in the economic growth of the capital and the UK and these attractive coins are a wonderful celebration of its success over the last 150 years."

The Royal Mint said "It's very rare for two circulating coins to have the same theme, adding to the appeal of these stunning coins for collectors, Londoners and transport enthusiasts alike."

For those who want to splash out on more than £20, the Royal Mint has gold & silver proof coins at the more professional collector's price range starting at £50 and rising to a couple of thousand!

You might also like
Steam Train on the London Underground for 150th Tube Anniversary Celebrations
London Underground Stamps for 150th Anniversary Celebrations
Google Doodle London Underground 150th Birthday 

; Posted by annie mole Saturday, January 26, 2013 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Steam Train on the London Underground for 150th Tube Anniversary Celebrations

This is the view of the train that I was supposed to be on! I'd very kindly been given a press ticket to be on the evening steam train that was running from Kensington Olympia to Moorgate as part of the 150th birthday celebrations for the London Underground.

Steam Train at Earl's Court

Ironically even though I got to Earl's Court in reasonable time to go one stop to Olympia - due to the steam train itself, the train that I needed to get was pulled with no announcement to this effect. It was quite galling to be waiting on the platform and for over half an hour to be hearing the birthday announcements about a train that you were supposed to be on. Particularly when I thought I'd still just about be able to make it in time.

When it became clear that the train bound for Olympia wasn't coming (or certainly wasn't coming in enough time for me to catch the restored train - I was still kind of hoping it would turn up and I'd make it in the nick of time), I decided to cut my losses and join the other people who were now crowding to see the train coming in.

Poster for Steam Train

The staff at Earl's Court were really helpful (I'd particularly like to thank the guy who even tried to see if the train would be stopping at Earl's Court, so I could get on - sweet of him to try). Bearing in mind a normal Sunday service was running today and people were getting on ordinary Tube trains while the restored steam train was in operation. So Earl's Court had that feeling of "business as normal", yet "let's celebrate as something unique is about to happen".

Waiting for Steam Train at Earl's Court

Up until the moment the restored train pulled in, staff were keeping the stairs to the platform clear. There was a general orderliness in the crowd.  However, those who turned up on the off chance of getting a good view, and started to push in front of those who'd been there earlier were politely asked to stand back.

Although when the train pulled, it was like royalty had arrived and the orderliness turned into a mini scrum with people trying to get a good shot.

My shots were fairly rubbish - firstly as I was still galled as I wasn't on the train, waving regally from the interior and secondly as it actually came through the station much faster than I was expecting.

Steam Train at Earl's Court 3

You can just about see the steam train from this picture above. Bear in mind, I myself couldn't see it at this point and just had my hands in the air, wildly pressing the shutter release on my camera and hoping I was steady enough.

Steam Train at Earls Court 3

There's more of a sense of what the train complete with the steam looked like in this photo, plus you can see the level of interest from the amount of people that had turned up on a very cold Sunday evening.

TfL Photo of the Stream Train's morning run

You'll see lots of much better pictures of the steam train pulling through stations on the Metropolitan, District and Circle Lines today.  IanVisits made it onto the train I was supposed to be on and I'm sure he'll have some great shots.

Let me know if you managed to get some pictures on the journey today or if you were on one of the trains. Even though I missed my train, it was great to see steam and electricity running side by side today and a wonderful tribute to 150 years of the London Underground.

You might also like
Google Doodle London Underground 150th Birthday
LU150: London Underground Past, Present & Future
London Underground Stamps for 150th Anniversary Celebrations
Steam Train on the London Underground - Video - Test Run for 150th Birthday Celebrations  

; Posted by annie mole Sunday, January 13, 2013 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, January 11, 2013

No Trousers on the Tube Day 2013

Snow predicted this weekend, so get timing for the fourth, annual
No Trousers on the Tube Ride which will take place on Sunday 13th January 2013. As part of the Global No Pants Subway Ride, last year over 150 brave travellers made their way around the London Underground sans trousers. This year over 450 people are already signed up to take part.

No Trousers on the Underground 2011 by Idil Sukan
No Trousers on the Underground 2011 by Idil Sukan

The requirements are simple:

1) Willingness to take trousers off on the Tube
2) Ablility to keep a straight face about it

Full details are on the Facebook page but in a nutshell the plan is to turn up at an allocated spot in China town at 3pm where you will be divided into groups. The aim is to then travel from Leicester Square Tube and go around another seven zone one stops as nonchalantly & casually as possible with no trousers on.

As Rammi one of the organisers says "You can wear fun underwear if you like, but nothing that screams out, “I wore this because I’m doing a silly stunt.” Wear two pairs of underwear if it makes you feel more comfortable. Don’t wear a thong or anything else that might offend people. Our aim is to make people laugh, not piss them off

We want this event to be fun and safe for everyone, so anybody found to be removing more than their trousers will be kicked off the train and reported to the British Transport Police and station authorities.

No Trousers on the Underground 2011 by Idil Sukan
No Trousers on the Underground 2011 by Idil Sukan
Even if you're not brave  enough to take part, the organisers are welcoming people who want to take pictures or blog about the event.  If that's you, contact Rammi or any of the organisers listed at TheStiffUpperLipSociety

; Posted by annie mole Friday, January 11, 2013 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Google Doodle London Underground 150th Birthday

If you're searching from Google in the UK today, take a look in the top left hand corner and you'll see that Google are celebrating the Tube's 150th birthday. Today marks the 150th anniversary of the first journey on the underground railway (although it opened to the public on 10th January 1863).

25 million Google searches in the UK will today be met with a Tube Map inspired Google logo that clicks through to a TfL Tube page! The early pioneers of the London Underground and map designer, Harry Beck would certainly be proud and I think this is one Tube Map mash up, the TfL powers-that-be will be very happy about too.

You might also like
TimeOut Tube Infographic
LU150: London Underground Past, Present & Future
London Underground Stamps for 150th Anniversary Celebrations
Steam Train on the London Underground - Video - Test Run for 150th Birthday Celebrations  

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, January 09, 2013 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

TimeOut Tube Infographic

I've already started seeing some interesting archive photographs & posters to celebrate the 150th birthday of the London Underground this week.  However, I really liked
TimeOut's Mind the Gap infographic with lots of "vital" stats to help you out with any "Did you know xxxx about the Tube?" questions that may come your way

One page with the fastest lines, number of days the average commuter spends on it each year - surprisingly only 11.5, length of the system measured in Oyster cards, number of mice estimated living in the tunnels, number of miles travelled by each Tube train in a year and lots of well presented stats.

Now if only they'd list the Tube stations at you can pick up your free copy TimeOut at and we'd be sorted!  It's probably just me, but since it went free, I find I actually find it quite hard to get hold of now and only get one on off chance if someone's left it behind on the Tube.

You might also like
LU150: London Underground Past, Present & Future
London Underground Stamps for 150th Anniversary Celebrations
Steam Train on the London Underground - Video - Test Run for 150th Birthday Celebrations 

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, January 08, 2013 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, January 04, 2013

LU150: London Underground Past, Present & Future

On 10 January 2013, London underground railway system celebrates its 150th birthday. Throughout this year there will be a number of celebratory events as part of LU150 (the name London Transport Museum have coined to mark the occasion), however only one on the actual anniversary. To mark the occasion, Londonist is teaming up with
London Historians to put on a very special event.

Limited Edition Oyster card for 150th London Underground Anniversary
Photo by L J Rich
From 6.30pm at London Transport Museum an expert panel (and the not so expert me) will discuss the past, present and future of the Tube.

Joining me will be:
  • Christian Wolmar – leading transport commentator, with plans to run in the 2016 London Mayoral elections 
  • Mark Mason – author of Walk the Lines 
  • Gareth Edwards – historian and Editor of transport site London Reconnections 
  • The panel will be chaired by Matt Brown, editor of Londonist 
As well as revealing some of our favourite stories from the Tube’s history, we'll also be tested with a short Have I Got News For You-style quiz about the underground, and asked to speculate about the future of the Tube.

There'll be lots of time for Q&A too. Tickets are likely to sell out fast, so get in quick.

London Underground: Past, Present and Future is at London Transport Museum on 10 January, 6.30-8.30pm. Tickets are £10 or £8 for London Historians members - call 0207 565 7298 to get your ticket.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, January 04, 2013 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Stop Leaning Alarm Subway App

We've all seen people falling asleep on the London Underground and leaning on the shoulders of fellow commuters.  There's even a clip of a woman who took this one step further and started snuggling up to her neighbouring traveller.  If you don't want that person to be you, Japanese energy drink provider Guronsan have come up with a solution and created the world's first "Stop Leaning Alarm Application"!

Apparently 75 percent of Japan's salaried men are so exhausted from work that they end up dozing on the trains and leaning on neighbouring passengers. For them, the train serves as their "Second Bed"

With the Stop Leaning app, all you need to do is turn on the app, slide your mobile into your breast pocket, and it'll use your smartphone gyroscope to alert you right before you tilt over onto your neighbour's shoulder. Just when exhaustion is at its peak, the app kicks in and wakes you.

The app has already had over 200,000 downloads and has other useful tools such as a handy train schedule to alert you before you reach your destination (eliminating the need for those "Wake me up at XXX station" stickers). It also has a "slipping out function" that you can use if you nod off in boring meetings.  The alert would go off once you start dropping off and you can excuse yourself for a reason - saying you have an important crisis to attend to.

The free app's available on iTunes and on Android and you can find out more about it, including a super cheesy promo video for it here.

You might also like
Tube Alarm Clock Android App - Wakes you up earlier when Tube Delayed
Wake me up at.... Subway Sleep Masks
"Wake me up at" branches out 

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, January 02, 2013 Permalink COMMENT HERE