Kill your maps. They’re useless. What you need, says Vincent Meertens, a recent graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, are time maps. "Everybody thinks in time rather than distance," he tells Co.Design in an email. "That is what TimeMaps is about: putting time in a map and letting go of the distance."
It might sound counterintuitive at first—a map that’s unconcerned with actual geography?—but think about the last time you had to get somewhere quickly in a foreign country or even your own city. Here in New York, my apartment is 20 miles away from JFK airport. Which must mean it takes about 20 minutes to get there, right? Wrong. On the subway during the day without delays, it might take an hour. At night with delays, it might take as long as 2 1/2 hours. That’s the only information I need and care about.And that’s what TimeMaps would reveal. A web app, it plots a region—in this case, the Netherlands—according to train travel times. Load TimeMaps from anywhere in the country, and it automatically checks your location, shows the nearest train station, and charts trip times around the country in rings, with each colored ring representing another 30 minutes.
Most importantly, the map is live. It grows and shrinks throughout the day, as travel times themselves grow and shrink; the bigger the map, the longer it’ll take you to get around. Note in the video above that the map expands at night, when trains run infrequently or not at all, then contracts during the day, when trains run on their regular, zippy schedule. Track delays? The map grows again.
At the moment, TimeMaps only details train trips. In the future, Meertens hopes to incorporate cars, bikes, and other forms of transportation. He also plans to develop an iOS and Android version of the app (currently, it’s only available online). "This version will have all the functions of current trip planners like HopStop," he says.
Which prompts the question: What does TimeMaps offer that HopStop does not? The short answer is, pictures. "When I see HopStop I get a little scared off," Meertens says. "I have to fill in my starting and destination address, a time, a date, one way, round trip, etc., etc. This is too much to fill in and not user-friendly at all." TimeMaps, on the other hand, checks you in automatically and gives you an instant visual of all possible destinations on a map. (You can plug in a specific destination, too.) If there’s a delay along one route, you’ll be able to see it. You’ll also be able to see, and then plan, an alternative route. "It’s all in the map, visible at once," Meertens says. "A visual trip planner so to say."
And it might make its way to the states soon. "I am currently looking for a job in NYC and trying to get a visa," he says. "As soon as I am in NYC I am going to work on a TimeMaps for NYC."
TimeMaps was nominated for the Brains Eindhoven award, which recognizes innovative student work, and is up for the public prize. Vote for it here.
[Images courtesy of Vincent Meertens]