T-Time: Boston Subway Time-Scale Map
MBTA subway lines, with stations spaced according to scheduled travel time.
(click to enlarge)
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When I learned that Boston is called “The Hub,” I just assumed the name described its four subway lines stemming like spokes from four central interchange stations. Just like all roads lead to Rome, all lines lead to Boston’s hub: Downtown Crossing, State St., Government Center, and Park St. Well, it turns out that’s not actually where the name comes from. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true! The Hub presents a great opportunity to design a hub-and-spoke subway diagram, which is particularly useful for a time-scale map.
To a greater or lesser degree, most modern subway diagrams ignore the true geographic locations of lines and stations. Riders need to know which line serves which station, and where to transfer to get there, but actual mileage or accurate compass directions aren’t necessary to navigate the system. A time-scale map agrees, but adds a bit of information that the rider does care about: travel time. Stations are spaced according to travel time between them. (You don't need to tell me these times are, let's say, optimistic. They're based on scheduled travel time from MBTA's trip planner. Your results will vary.)
My time-scale map of Washington’s Metro mimics the shape of the official map. But for Boston, I re-shape the system as a hub with spokes. Now, you can easily compare travel time to central Boston across stations on entirely different lines.
Of course, this doesn’t make a useful replacement for the official diagram. Not only does it omit helpful information about connections to trains, buses, and ferries, but it suffers many of the same problems that geographically accurate transit maps do: some areas are too crowded and some are too sparse.
Still, it could help you decide if it’s worth it to take that apartment on the B line.
For example, seeing all schedules in a single map shows that not all Green Line branches are created equal. It takes just as long to get from downtown to Boston College on the B line as it does to get to Riverside on the D line, despite being about half the distance. And even though they’re just a few blocks apart, Chestnut Hill Ave (B line), Cleveland Circle (C line) and Reservoir (D line) are 27, 20, and 14 minutes from Kenmore, respectively.
Don't forget to add time for delayed trains, broken trains, missing trains, and full trains. Have you considered getting a bike?
As seen on TreeHugger, Metro, Universal Hub, BostInno, North End Patch (and other Boston Patches), Nashua Telegraph, Greater Greater Washington, and Transit Maps.