Gorgeous Travel Planner Shows Times, Rather Than Distances

TimeMaps, by recent d-school grad Vincent Meertens, is an interactive map that reveals the only information commuters actually care about: how long it takes to get around.

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]

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12 Comments

  • Carol S.

    Per Kevin's comment:  how do you know TimeMap assumes no barriers to travel? I am sure there are parks and narrow bridges in Amsterdam that form obstacles, slowing down the regularly scheduled routes. TimeMap probably does take these features into consideration.

  • Kevin Liske

    This type of map assumes no barriers to travel, ie., a flat, featureless surface to travel upon.  A more realistic map would take take into account the paths of travel such as roads and the speed limits and barriers such as a huge park, mountain, or airport that must be traveled around to arrive at destination.  A good example can be seen at
    http://craphound.com/images/lo...

  • Gee

    @Function over form!: It's for those of us that don't drive cars. One day when the oil dries up you might just understand.

  • Esin

    I have seen the project at the Dutch Design Week a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely loved it! It always makes me hopeful to see young people (like me) re-defining humanity old concepts into 'how WE see them'. :) And through good design.. even better! 

    Very inspiring. 

  • Function over form!

    Yes I agree looks beautiful, but fail to see the benefit over a GPS Devices other than aesthetics!  
    How many times do people choose a location based on time?
    Most people with need to go to a place regardless of time because they like it or they need to go there. Time of travel is a useful fact but not a necessarily a reason to go somewhere. A GPS would also tell you the route and many other useful bits of info along the way like traffic and petrol stops etc...It is a nice experiment, but has no real useful application that I can see over existing software solutions.

  • Gadget4Apple

    A real good idea. Again it shows how we can see our world and thus our lives with different perspectives. Thanks for reminding us again :-)

  • Rgordonsmith

    The visual interface of TimeMaps if beautiful. Really excited to see what they do with an app format.