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A Travel Map based on Time

A time travel map with cities relative to Brussels

I’ve always had this nagging feeling that certain places, even though they are physically quite close, always seemed to be so far away. Further even than distant places, simply because they are more time consuming to reach thanks to a lack of direct highways or too many traffic lights along the way.

So while the shortest route between two points may be a straight line, the quickest route on the other hand is determined by the fastest mode of transportation at your disposal. To illustrate this, I created a time travel map that positions cities relative to Brussels based on how long it takes to reach them using only public transportation.

The first striking thing is the effect of high speed train travel. Distant places such as London, Paris, and, in a few days from now, Amsterdam, are now a lot closer to Brussels than ever before. With Thalys and the Euro-Star, Paris is actually seems easier to reach than many places within Belgium. It’s actually quicker to reach Amsterdam with the Thalys, even though it is more than 200km’s away from Brussels, than it is to get to Riemst at only half that distance from the capital.

The time distortions between near by areas can be quite great too. Take for example Hasselt where I live. It’s just under an hour away from Brussels thanks to a direct train line. Zonhoven, which neighbors Hasselt and is only slightly further away from Brussels, but doesn’t have its own train station. So travelers to this town need to switch to a bus on their last leg of their journey. The result of this is that it actually takes them longer to get home than for a Parisian to get back to Paris.

And if you live in Peer, but work in Brussels, you better make sure you have a car. Otherwise you might as well move to Amsterdam if you have to rely on public transportation. I’m also glad I don’t live in Chimay, though this map might explain why they had to brew their own beer. It simply took them too long to get their alcoholic nourishments elsewhere.

A time map for Brussels to Amsterdam

While this is not a travel map, but a travel graph, the distance between Brussels and Amsterdam is relative to the transportation mode used.

Of course, this is a static time map. A true time map would naturally have to be dynamic. It would have to be linked to GPS, so if I were in Hasselt, all cities would be positioned relative to my new position. It would also need to be time sensitive. During rush hours, Brussels for example would then grow further away from me as traffic jams would increase the time to get there. For a public transportation based map, a city would grow closer by the second until the next scheduled bus or train arrived. If however you missed it, and there is for example only one bus, your destination would all of a sudden jump an extra hour away from you.

If this data was made public and easy to access, It would make for a nice up to date interactive map you can always carry with you on a smart phone.


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love your post!! thinking about it. nowadays i need to travel a lot to brussels for work. may be i can make detour to hasselt during one of the trips and pay you a visit? and may be you take to Bilzen?

great to be closer!! :-)

Raymond  ¤ December 11, 2009 at 06:57

Haha, you know you’re always welcome :)

Patrik Fagard  ¤ December 11, 2009 at 10:46

MySociety did this for the whole of the UK a few years ago: [ ]. They also added another dimension: housing prices: [ ].

Jan Fabry  ¤ December 23, 2009 at 12:14

Thx! They look great. The idea of travel maps isn’t new at all. The following one is from a 1920’s atlas on how long it took to reach the rest of the world from London:

Color coding is one way to depict travel time; space distortion is another like in this map:

Patrik Fagard  ¤ December 23, 2009 at 13:45

quite a novel idea. aspects of “graph theory” can be helpful.

Sam  ¤ January 1, 2010 at 20:52

I bought this for a gift. I liked it so much I’m going to order one for myself.

Baker  ¤ September 19, 2011 at 07:41
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