EVENT REVIEW Mapping and Measuring London – RTPI London Seminar Thursday 30th April 2015 – Transport for London

In 2015 RTPI London is hosting a series of events focused on planning themes in London. The “Thinking Strategically” series is one which we will consider the long term views for London and its hinterland. Organised in partnership with the RTPI Transport Planning Network (TPN), this second event was chaired by Andrew Dorrian from the Consents Team at TfL Planning.

Three presentations were given by speakers from UCL, TfL and Arup to illustrate the latest developments in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and geospatial systems and show how new city-wide tools can provide insight into the operations of the capital and the impact of transport infrastructure on spatial planning: Presentations will be available at http://www.rtpi.org.uk/the-rtpi-near-you/rtpi-london/events/previous-events/

  1. Professor Michael Batty, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), UCL: London a Smart City – Tools for planners to understand our city and think strategically

The `smart city` concept is not new – Professor Batty noted Coventry University first attempted this in the 1950s.

  • It involves using computer techniques to understand and improve cities via geospatial analysis with the latest tools and techniques that are available to planners.
  • Computers embedded into road and public transport infrastructure now all help compile `big data` – e.g. that generated from the use of Londoners’ Oyster cards – to facilitate real time planning.
  • Amongst other thing this makes it possible to act far more quickly to counter road / public transport peak period demand or disruption by using streamed real time data – even including social media information from sources such as Twitter.
  • Importantly, flows and networks can be monitored & measured by information technology to show the interaction between different centres and areas.
  • Professor Batty was able to show some examples of how data was now being modelled in 2D across London, e.g. to show:
    • The potential implications of future climate change and sea-level rises for flood defences across London.
    • The relationship of existing areas of high population density and employment nodes.
    • The potential impact of the opening of Crossrail 1 or of the expansion of one or more of London’s airports.
  • 3D modelling was also being carried out at CASA – e.g. in co-operation with King’s they had modelled NO2 concentrations in central London, showing high levels along key transport routes such as the Embankment or Marylebone Road.
  • Professor Batty also showed how it was possible to model Tube and bus network movements through the day based on Oyster use, highlighting key peak flows on different parts of the network.
  • One point of interest so far has been how small the proportion is (7%) of people who use the network now simply for the classic commuter pattern of AM journeys to work and PM return journeys home.

The analysis of social media data could be potentially useful in future for mapping such factors as the draw of West End theatres and cinemas or concentrations of particular ethnic minority groups.

 Yaron Hollander,Policy Appraisal & Sub-Regional Modelling Manager, TfL: WebCAT – A new tool to understand connectivity and make decisions

  • Yaron gave an overview of how TfL have recently developed WebCAT (“web-based connectivity assessment toolkit”) and on its application.
  • WebCAT can be viewed, via:https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/urban-planning-and-construction/planning-with-webcat
  • WEBCAT represents an updating and upgrading of the current PTAL tool.
  • It was developed for a range of reasons – including the mapping revolution (e.g. Google Maps ), interest in such factors as step-free public transport access, connectivity by bicycle (which will be added to WebCAT in 2016) and  requests to have access to other connectivity data except PTAL.
  • To date PTAL has been an acronym for Public Transport Accessibility Level. To avoid confusion with the other meaning of ‘accessibility’ re step-free access, in the future TfL will define PTAL  as Public Transport Access Level, and use the term “connectivity” for the broader definition of “accessibility”.
  • PTAL combines information about how close public transport services are to a site and how frequent these services are. The highest level of connectivity has a PTAL of 6b and the lowest has a PTAL of 0. It is most known for its relevance to housing density and car parking policies in the London Plan- sites with better connectivity provide opportunities for development at higher densities and for sustainable development that reduces the need to travel by car.
  • WebCAT can check PTAL values for a specific area and also includes new features such as PTAL values estimated for future scenarios based on suggested improvements to the transport network – e.g. Crossrail 1.
  • The Time Mapping (TIM) feature of WebCAT also allows users to create maps that show how long it takes to travel to or from a selected location.
  • In WebCAT, PTAL is shown using a grid of squares that are 100m on each side, presented on top of a Google map of London – nearly 160,000 squares cover the whole of London. The PTAL value for each square is calculated at the centre of the square.
  • A new guidebook (that was handed out in the meeting and is available on the TfL website) explains the advantages of the slight change in the way PTAL is now presented.
  • Support in using WebCAT is available by contacting webcat@tfl.gov.uk.
  1. Damien McCloud, Associate Director, Arup:

GIS in practice – thinking strategically

  • Damien, gave a presentation on the Arup GIS  and its work, reviewing the application of tools and techniques available to planners for making robust decisions.
  • He emphasised the importance of the provenance, consistency and completeness of data as being important considerations when compiling spatial mapping information.
  • GIS now allows the bringing together of various types of data in visual form to understand different patterns – e.g. flood risk and new development proposals; or employment locations, travel times network capacity and population concentrations.
  • Whilst the data collected may well be complex, simplicity in putting across information visually is vital for good communication of the implications – he gave the example of mapping job densities in 3D to help planners and the public understand their implications.
  • Damien also highlighted Arup’s involvement in Croydon’s “Programme Delivery Dashboard”. This involved the mapping of various city centre regeneration project sites with a mass of embedded background information (details of ownership, potential uses by size and type, etc.) which could be called up on screen and illustrated simply on a map for a funding bid by the Borough being made to central Government.
  • Despite the mass of information required, notably there was no data cost to the authority as that used was primarily Open Source.

Panel discussion.

  • Two points raised in a brief discussion at the end of the seminar were:
    • Over the next 5-10 years it is likely 90% of GIS information use will be via mobile platforms – with obvious operational implications for the built environment professions.
    • Open data has compromise issues – e.g. not all Twitter data is reliable, and journey flow monitoring via Oyster does not fully take into account use by the (growing) over-60s population.

Overall the field of GIS and its importance in planning continues to evolve, with a balance of open and collected data informing actions.

View from 55 Broadway

View from 55


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One Response to EVENT REVIEW Mapping and Measuring London – RTPI London Seminar Thursday 30th April 2015 – Transport for London

  1. David Yarwood says:

    Thanks for an interesting seminar in a fine location. The above notes are also very useful. Could Professor Batty’s presentation be added to the two already made available, please? Thank you.

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