Animated map of public transit isochrones

This is my submission for the Information is Beautiful Awards 2023

Transit isochrone maps are incredibly pretty and tell us lots of things about the cities we live in. Isochrone maps typically show the area that is reachable within X minutes from an origin. They are useful to determine housing and work locations, as commute time matters more than actual distance.

New York City - reachable area within 45 minutes at 5:40PM

For example, this map shows which areas of New York City are reachable from Lower Manhattan. The lighter an area is, the faster that area is reachable. Maps like these reveal the underlying infrastructure of the city. They show how certain neighbourhoods are temporally closer to the city even though they are further away.

A helpful person suggested that I compile these maps at different times of the day into an animation. For New York City (starting at Penn Station), it looks something like this:

This video shows the "heartbeat" of NYC. It shows how the commute from Penn Station to Newark changes with each departing train. The more frequent service is, the faster the "heartbeat" is. Conversely, subways within Manhattan are very frequent resulting in a quick "pulsing" along roads like 4th avenue. Trains with slower frequency, like the 7 train to Flushing, pulse less frequently.

It also shows how little transit exists that connects Manhattan and New Jersey efficiently. Going to NJ always requires transferring to a different agency so while parts of Manhattan are reachable in under 6 minutes, crossing the river to NJ requires more than 20 minutes. It's also cool how almost all traffic to NJ flows through the Lincoln tunnel or the Holland tunnel, making some parts of NJ much more accessible than others.

For Toronto, where I'm from, the animated isochrones look like this:

In the mornings, subways along Line 1 (the main North-South connector) don't run until about 5:30AM. Instead, shuttle night buses operate that route which results in slower travel and lower frequency. However, soon, subway service begins and slowly increases in frequency to serve commuter traffic. The increasing "pulsing" along the main North-South corridor represents this.

You might also notice the 15 minute pulsing at Weston (to the right of the airport). Airport express trains (UP express) run this route every 15 minutes and serve Weston Station along the way. It's funny how you can reach a suburb of Toronto in less time than some parts of downtown. It's also a very convincing argument of why Toronto needs to invest in more rail infrastructure. Weston has a better commuting story than most other neighbourhoods that are considered more "central."

You can try creating isochrone maps for yourself at my website Try adjusting the time (see night buses versus commuter service) and filtering agencies (turn off subways and see how travel time changes). Currently, the website has Paris, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, and some others.