DATASET2050 goodbye



After the hundreds of days (36 months!) working hard in the project + corresponding proposal…

After the 3 successful events specifically organised by the project (London, Madrid, Belgrade)…

After the more than 30 DATASET2050 posts tackling mobility-related topics…

After the tens of scientific papers, deliverables and even a book chapter written around door-to-door and mobility topics…

After 3 always supportive European Commission project officers (Ivan, Mindaugas, Andreas)…

After the massive efforts dealing with the endless lists of mobility datasets reviewed, used and implemented in our model… (

After hundreds of millions of passengers being modelled/measure in our door-to-door model (

After interesting results about what is European door-to-door “reachability” in a certain amount of time (

After interesting results in the “reachability” metric looking at the door-to-door price (

our beloved CSA DATASET2050 have reached to its end!

But this is not the end! For future reference: our website with the public deliverables, presentations/videos during events, visualizations

and somehow a DATASET2050 continuation: H2020 CAMERA CSA kicked-off last month with a very similar consortium

PS: All the research done would not be feasible without the incredible team. In alphabetical order: Andrew, Annika, Dave, David, Gerald, Graham, Inés, Luis, Pete, Patricia, Paula, Samuel, Seddik, Ulrike and myself (Hector). Apologies for those missing in the pictures below!



How long?


With the imminent publication of the DATASET2050 project results, this seems an ideal moment to compare a recent trip with one of the key project outcomes, the average door-to-door travel time.

DATASET2050 modelling of passenger journeys within Europe has found the average door-to-door time to be 6 hours, some way off the Flightpath 2050 target of 90% of travellers being able to complete their journey within 4 hours. Of this 6 hour average, the time passengers spend at the departure airport is almost as long as the flight itself.

Out of interest, I timed each phase of a recent work trip between south London and central Madrid – from the front door of my home to the final destination. The journey took place on a weekday without undue disruption affecting any part of it.

Time taken for each phase journey:

  • Door-to-kerb: 64 minutes from my front door to the airport, travelling by bus and train, including walking and waiting time.
  • Kerb-to-gate: 78 minutes spent within the departure terminal, including check-in and security processes, plus walking, refreshments and waiting time.
  • Gate-to-gate: 175 minutes taken from aircraft boarding at Gatwick to alighting at Barajas. Of this, 109 minutes was in the air, the remaining 66 minutes on the ground (i.e. boarding, taxiing-out, taxiing-in and alighting).
  • Gate-to-kerb: 43 minutes taken from the arrival gate, through immigration and customs processes, plus walking time (note carry-on baggage only, so no waiting around to reclaim luggage).
  • Kerb-to-Door: 40 minutes from the airport to the hotel by metro, including walking and waiting time.

The overall door-to-door time comes out at 6 hours 40 minutes – worse than average! 27% of this time was spent in the air, with a further 34% spent at the departure airport (i.e. kerb-to-gate plus the ground portion of gate-to-gate at Gatwick). Admittedly some of the time spent in the departure terminal was unused door-to-kerb ‘buffer’ time (to allow for problems travelling to the airport), however a good proportion of the kerb-to-gate time was there ‘just in case’.


Jet-bridges: The gateway to time-wasting?

Author: Pete Hullah

So you walked for what seems like miles to get to your gate. You've just queued for an age to have your boarding-card scanned and your passport checked. "Bon voyage" says the attendant. Welcome to the jet bridge, or Passenger Boarding Bridge (PBB) in the jargon. A claustrophobic metal box, often not air-conditioned, where you can now stand in another queue, at the front of which a business-class passenger is slowly trying to place too much luggage into the overhead bin while simultaneously talking into a telephone, apparently oblivious to the world behind. When you land, you'll have another interminable walk from your gate to passport-control/luggage-reclaim/exit.

And ever was it so, and ever will it be so.

But why is it like that? This walking and queuing is a constraint on mobility and on the EU goal of having 90% of intra-EU32 air passengers undertaking their journey in less than four hour, door-to-door. There must be something we can do to reduce this.

Why do we walk so far in airports?

In the early days of civil aviation, passengers were led on foot from the terminal to the plane and climbed a mobile staircase to board it; the reverse process applied upon landing. This is still the case in some smaller airports. As the number of flights increased, it became difficult to park planes close to the terminal, thus the walk (sometimes in the rain!) lengthened and more staff were needed to marshal the passengers. From the early 1960s, airports started installing piers and PBBs that made marshalling easy and kept passengers dry. With the development of the hub, PBBs helped passengers transfer between flights within a short time.

But PBBs meant that the gates at an airport have to be spaced far-enough apart to allow aircraft to park at them safely; at least an aircraft wingspan between them therefore. (Some airports reduce the distance a bit by curving the piers of having circular satellites - Paris CDG Terminal 2F and CDG Terminal 1 are examples of this).

Aircraft wingspans can range from some 25m for regional jets like the E170 and CRJ and around 35m for B737s and A320s, to more than 65m for B777s and B747s and even nearly 80m for A380s. The spacing, or combination of spacings, used at a given airport depends on that airport's traffic but it is fair to consider an average 40m walk or travellator from one gate to the next. With a gate either side of the pier we have an average of 20m walk per gate - plus any additional walk (usually a shopping mall) from security/border-control/etc. to the first gate.

Why so much queuing?

160 passengers or so have to wait at the gate while an A320 is prepared to accommodate them and they can board, generally through just one PBB attached to the front door. In order to improve the time it take to actually seat passengers on the plane, airlines often request people to pass through the gate as a function of the "zone", or group of rows, of the aircraft they're seated in - generally starting from the rows at the back. However, it is impossible to impose such a sequence and additionally, business class passengers (seated at the front) are generally advised that they can "board at [their] convenience" thereby blocking other passengers while they stow their cabin luggage. If passengers boarded in the correct sequence boarding time could be massively reduced.

So why not scrap the jet bridge?

Scrapping the jet bridge could be a solution to both these problems and enable a real reduction in time wasted. Isn't it time we re-thought about buses?

Buses are already a feature of airports.

  • Because airlines are charged more for parking at the gate and for using PBBs than for parking further away and using buses some, particularly low-fare airlines, tend to prefer this solution. This is especially the case if the plane has overnighted.
  • A plane could have docked at the wrong section of the airport - an incoming international flight parked at the international terminal will be a domestic outbound whose gate is at the domestic terminal; the domestic passengers are bussed to the airside of the international gate.
  • At Washington Dulles, "mobile lounges" that rise to the aircraft door take international passengers directly to immigration thereby saving time and heightening security by avoiding "losing" passengers on the air-side of the controls.

Now if you ask anyone about buses or mobile lounges at an airport they will cringe! But given that they are uncomfortable - most passengers have to stand in them - that there's no distinction between business and economy classes, and that airport policy seems to be to cram as many passengers as possible into one of them before it moves off, that dislike is understandable. The reason for this overcrowding is mostly economic - why employ 3 drivers when you can squeeze all of the passengers into 2 buses. With the advent of automated transport, this argument is removed.

If aircraft parked at stands by runways, less taxiing would be needed than for getting back to a terminal (especially from the new runways at Frankfurt or Schiphol, for example) and there would be no need for taxiing aircraft to cross runways, which brings a risk of runway incursion accident. Buses use much less fuel to carry the same number of passengers (and they could be electric) and they can use simple tunnels to cross runways.

Airport buses v2

If bus loading concourses were designed like a train station under the pier with several buses per flight lined up perpendicular to the pier, the entire width of bus-train, pavement and escalator would be some 5-6 metres per A320. 30 gates would therefore require 180m as opposed to the 600m required today.

Using multiple buses allows embarkation and disembarkation from both the front and rear doors. This can therefore speed up these processes, provided the departing passengers have been assigned to buses according to their seat zone on the plane (rarely the case today). Access to each bus of a bus-train could be controlled by automatic gates opened by scanning a boarding card, thus ensuring correct zoning of the passengers; the business-class bus could be more comfortable than the economy-class ones. Additionally, the buses could be available well before the plane was ready for boarding, taking the place of waiting areas - no pier seating required - and enable the gate process to be executed smoothly at the passenger's convenience and finished on time. Additional seating could be placed on an upper floor in the shopping area.

Once the bus-train has arrived at the aircraft, doors can be opened in sequence to allow passengers to board smoothly. As with the mobile lounges at Dulles, buses can take passengers directly to where they need to be - the central immigration/transfer/luggage-reclaim area - rather than their having to walk down long piers.

A well-designed bus transfer system could reduce walking, boarding and taxiing time at an airport and considerably help reach Europe's 4-hour door-to-door target.

Mobility metrics and indicators rethought


Performance is about comparing some output of a system with some level of expectations. The issue of setting the right level of expectations is certainly a major issue by itself, but choosing the right metrics to measure is probably even more difficult.

This difficulty comes from the fact that Key Performance Areas (KPAs) live in a different world than Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPAs live in a qualitative world, where general ideas are thought to be important for human beings. For instance, ‘safety’. KPIs on the other hand belong to a quantitative world of ‘cold values’ — floats, integers — observed on the real world. Matching these two worlds is like getting into Mordor: first you think that it will be obvious, then you think that it will be impossible, and you finally pick a way because it is pretty much the only one available.

Indeed, the potential KPIs that one could imagine are fortunately severely restrained by reality and what we can observe in the system. For instance, in DATASET2050 we were trying to define an indicator for the ‘seamlessness’ of a trip, something which is important for all travelers without a doubt. Important, ok, but what is it exactly?

Seamlessness is about the perception of travellers. As a consequence, it is highly subjective, which by definition cannot be part of an indicator, because an indicator is meant to be objective. So instead of a top-down approach where we use the question ‘What would be the best metrics to measure in order to represent seamlessness?’, we are left with a bottom-up approach consisting in ‘Among the ones I can measure, what are the metrics which would be related somehow to seamlessness?’.

So, what can we measure? For many years now, sociologists and psychologists use the ‘cognitive load’ to have a measure of the effort needed by a brain to accomplish a given task. Seamlessness is about being able to forget the trip itself and not actively be forced to take decisions or looking for information for the continuation of the journey. We thus defined a first indicator, which is the total cognitive load of a given trip for the passenger as a measure of seamlessness. Ok, but how do you measure cognitive load in reality?

Well, you don’t, as least not on a large scale. And here comes the second step of the search for a good indicator: can we find something easily measurable which is an approximation for what would be a perfect indicator?

In the case of seamlessness, we have to go back to how the travel unfolds. For instance, what is the difference between:

1) depart from home, take a taxi, take a train, take a taxi, arrive at destination.vs:

2) depart from home, take a taxi, take a train, take another train, take a taxi, arrive at destination.

Easy: there is one train more. Ok, but what makes you choose the first option over the second if both have the same travel time, price, etc.? Well, the first is easier, right? You do not have to think about getting off the train, find the next one, wait, get in train, possibly struggling to find a spot to seat, etc. So the idea that the first one is easier than the second one comes ultimately from the ‘continuation’ property of the actions you are taking, which is associated with a low cognitive load dedicated to the journey. In other words, taking different actions during a trip is more annoying that taking only one action.

Following this idea, DATASET2050 defined the journey as a series of ‘phases’ and ‘transitions’. ‘Phases’ are typically long with a low cognitive load dedicated to the journey, whereas ‘transitions’ are short and require the active participation of the passenger in order to continue the journey. A simple indicator can then be defined as the number of transitions taken in a single journey, which is trivial to compute for nearly any journey, with very little data input.

A slightly more advanced indicator is to consider the time spent within the transitions — for instance, queuing times — compared to the total travel time. For instance, a small 45 minutes trip where one has to take three buses is quite tiring compared to a single-bus journey. This indicator requires more data, as the specific times in each of the segments are required. However, it is largely feasible to compute it with modern methods of data collection (e.g. GPS tracking). Giving a good balance between the measuralibity and its concetpual proximity with the initial KPA, this indicator is the one which has been selected as key performance indicator for seamlessness in DATASET2050.

In DATASET2050, we have gone through the exercise of finding the right indicator for all of the KPAs defined by ICAO, including safety, flexilibity, efficiency, etc. These concepts are sometimes too vast and need to be broken down into sub-KPAs, called “Mobility Focus Areas”. For all of them, several indicators have been defined, but we selected only one final KPI in the end per KPA. For instance, the KPA “flexibility” has been subdivided into “diversity of destinations”, “multimodality”, and “resilience”. Only on key indicator has been selected in the end, weighting the travel options by the distance between the potential destinations. All this work can be found in the public deliverable 5.1 of DATASET2050, soon available here

To conclude, the choice of a good indicator is thus dictated by the balance between the measurability of the metrics and its relationship with the overall concept. This is an important issue, as the indicators are then used by the policy makers to drive the system is a certain direction. And the quality of the indicator decides whether it is the right one or not.

Author: Gérald Gurtner (University of Westminster) as part of DATASET2050 post series

Moving the people to the terminal? Why not move the terminal to the people?


The question of ground access to airports is the object of many studies. How do we get people to the airport quickly, efficiently and sustainably? A previous blog post touched on the many different means people use to accomplish this part of their journey.

One of the major options that is often pursued is the creation of a train line joining the airport to its host city. However, while this city is often the most frequent origin/destination of travellers using the airport, it by no means accounts for the majority of surface access/egress journeys.

For example, fewer than 54% of access/egress journeys to/from London Heathrow (LHR) come from the whole of Greater London, much less from the central part London that is served by the Underground and the Heathrow Express train. In fact, the Express trains between them only account for 13% of terminating passengers which, while certainly not negligible, leaves seven out of every eight passengers to take a different mode of transport. 61% of passengers to LHR use private transport. After all: who want’s to join all of the congestion travelling into the centre of a big city from the suburbs (or beyond) where they live, just to get the train out to the airport?

So what’s the solution? Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) is pursuing a plan as part of its “Heathrow 2.0” initiative to ensure that the 100 largest cities in the UK are linked to LHR by train with no more than one connection. More rail access will be available when the “Crossrail” line that will run between Brentwood and Reading through London has been completed.

We can also make it easier to park, reducing time to do so and the walking time needed to catch the shuttle to the airport. Stanley Robotics, a French startup, is proposing a robotic valet that will pick your car up at the entrance to the car park and park it for you, fetching it for you when you return.

Enter the toast-rack.

Airports like LHR are moving to the “toast-rack” layout. With the creation of Terminal 5 (T5), satellite terminals (5B and 5C) are placed between, and perpendicular to the runways, fed from the main terminal (5A) at the end. An air-side underground train takes passengers from the check-in and security in 5A to the satellites.

 Annotated LHR

The new “Queen’s Terminal” will eventually have the same design.

But when T5 was built both the Underground Piccadilly line and the Heathrow Express were extended – parallel to the air-side underground train serving the satellites – to bring passengers land-side to 5A. Move them west to move them back east – not very efficient!

Why not move the terminal, instead of the people?

Isn’t it time we started re-thinking how we design our airports? Is there any reason why the terminal needs to be where the runways are? Previously, it has been possible to check your bags in at a railway terminal before boarding your train/bus to the airport (at London Victoria for Gatwick, for example) but this is not really moving the terminal to the people.


With Crossrail, a new underground branch line is being built from the London-Reading line (access from London only) to LHR, bringing more land-side passengers (but only some of them – many will still come by car) – but inconveniently not serving T5. Now if Terminal 5 check-in, baggage claim, security, etc. had been constructed on the London-Reading line, the same investment could have paid for an air-side line that would link in with the T5 air-side line and carry every passenger to 5A, 5B, 5C and beyond.

Imagine a terminal only a few kilometres from the runways, where the train line and the motorway access already exists. For LHR, this could have been at Iver, in an area served directly by the existing train line (and the same two motorways as LHR is) but with enough room for all of the airport’s needs with space for a complete airport business, hotel and shopping city without anything being bounded by runways, taxiways, gates, service areas etc. The car parks could have been right next to the terminal instead of, as is the case with T5, being so far away that the airport has had to spend £30m to provide personal transport “Pods” to transfer people to and from the terminal.
Annotated Iver

This air-side line could even be extended to a second or third terminal, closer to other access points to the city. In the case of a multi-airport city like London, one could even envisage an air-side railway linking all of the air-sides (Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted), and their displaced terminals, enabling passengers to use the terminal nearest to them and to fly from the runway of their airline’s choice.

Complete separation

Having only air-side activities where the runways are and leaving the land-side activities where the people are is a much cleaner solution that reduces airport access time, and provides more space for land-side activities. And once the concept of separating the land-side from the air-side is accepted, the air-side/runways can be located somewhere where fewer people will be annoyed by the noise. If staff and passengers have to use a land-side terminal access miles from the air-side, the pressure to live near the airport for easy access would move away from the runways, causing less encroachment into noise-impacted areas.

For Heathrow, it’s too late to think of implementing such a system now; the investment in Heathrow Express, the Crossrail link, T5, the Queen’s Terminal, the Pods, etc. has already been made.

But when the next new airport is built, perhaps it would be worthwhile to think that, instead of annoying both travellers and residents by building terminals and runways together, it would be much better to put the terminals close to the people and the runways far away from them.

Author: Pete Hullah (EUROCONTROL) as part of DATASET2050 project

European door-to-door mobility workshop! 20th Sept, Madrid

European door-to-door mobility workshop, took place 20th September 2017, 10:30-16:00

The event, hosted at Madrid Campus (Google Space) mixed active debate and participation from all the workshop attendees with presentations from top entities in the field. See presentations below, some pictures will be available in the following days: agenda :

Videos here soon!



Note: The DATASET2050 workshop was organized planned in tandem with the  the ACARE WG1 meeting (restricted to ACARE members - 19th afternoon), and the CATER open event (19th morning), both  in ISDEFE premises (Madrid)


-Further logistics info (hotels, transport) available here: Download our complete guide.


Towards user-centric transport in Europe – Challenges, solutions and collaborations


The EU projects Mobility4EU ( and MIND-SETS ( jointly organized the event “Towards user-centric transport in Europe – Challenges, solutions and collaborations” in Brussels in May. The aim was to bring together stakeholders from different areas to discuss innovations in transport and mobility addressing future challenges for the European transport system ( One part of this event were several interactive sessions in which the participants discussed various issues relating to the improvement of current transport practices. The partners of DATASET2050 acted as facilitator of the session “Enhancing multi-modal collaboration between service providers”, in close collaboration with the EU project PASSME.

Applying the “World Café” approach, this session focused on the better integration of different service providers in order to facilitate a seamless journey for the passenger (see the figure below for examples of existing and future intermodal concepts, these will be addressed in more detail in upcoming deliverables of DATASET2050). Within different groups, simulating a round table in a relaxed atmosphere, participants of the workshop discussed a variety of approaches that reduce friction along the journey. One aspect which had been discussed extensively is the establishment of a legal framework accompanying the closer collaboration of service providers. Legal issues concern the liabilities in terms of delays, lost luggage or reimbursements. Furthermore, data sharing both between providers as well as between providers and passengers had been highlighted as being a main contributor to a seamless journey. Passengers receiving real-time information as well as alternative travel options along the journey have to be enabled by a shared data pool all providers have access to. This, however, requires a clearly defined set of rules and responsibilities regarding data handling and passenger privacy issues in order for all parties to participate. In terms of passengers’ data privacy concerns, studies have shown that passengers agree to share their personal data with service providers if both data security can be guaranteed and their journey and travel experience is improved.

In terms of collaboration, the “last mile”, which covers the distance between the final destination and the last stop of e.g. public transport, often constitutes a bottleneck within the seamless journey. Therefore, ideas within the workshop circled around passengers pooling their demand and sharing a taxi in order to get to the airport or the train station. Or autonomous cars providing an option to cover the last segment of the passenger journey by efficiently assigning resources to the time and location they are needed. Overall, participants argued that there is no single solution which fits all passenger needs but that customization and differentiation across distinct groups have to take place.


inter-modal conecepts


9292 /
Airbus /
Airportbus Munich /
Air-Rail /
Air-Train /
Ally /
Allygator /
Amtrak /
Bike Train Bike /
Blacklane /
Boring Company /
Bus and Fly /
Cabify /
Cambio /
Car2Go /
Chu Kong Shipping Enterprises /
Citybike /
Citymapper /
Clipper /
Cotai Waterjet /
Deutsche Bahn /
DriveNow /
Drivy /
Ehang /
Emmy /
Ferrara Bus & Fly /
Flinkster /
Flightcar /
Fraport /
Free2Move /
Gett /
GoEuro /
Hannovermobil /
Hyperloop One /
Iberia /
Kobe – Kansai Bay Shuttle /
Lyft /
Memobility /
MobilityMixx /
Moovel /
Mozio /
Mycicero /
Mydriver /
Network Rail /
Octopuscard /
Oystercard /
Rallybus /
Rome2Rio /
Stadtmobil /
Swiss Helicopter /
Tamyca /
Taiwan High Speed Rail /
Thalys /
Touch & Travel /
Turo /
Tuup /
Uber /
Union Station Denver /
Urbanpulse /
Velib /
Voom /
VW (Sedric) /
Wideroe /
Wmata /
Yugo /
Zee Aero /

Augmented reality and data visualization (in aviation)


Present-day technology is so powerful that the perception of reality can be easily and realistically modified with IT tools, providing users withan experience beyond “simple” reality. This is achievable by mixing real-world environment elements supplemented and/or augmented by computer-generated inputs. The current post unpacks this topic, focusing specifically on the data visualization aspects. In brief, augmented reality can take two approaches:

  • First, inventing totally new scenarios, in which the user becomes part of a “parallel universe”. Supplementing the real-world environment with an unreal one; either a virtual place (video game) or a different location (i.e. another real location). This is the case of futuristic 90’s and early 2000’s alike head-mounted displays with users’ eyes looking at full screens recreating other places. The ergonomics aspects are usually modest for most of the applications due to the head-mounted displays weight and size.


  • The second, and closer to “data visualization” area is the so called “mediated reality”. The real-world environment enhanced by virtual elements displayed in glasses, windscreens etc. In them, additional information/data is provided. The real challenges is to decide what, how and when to display the information, without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints, while providing extra value. The integration and user experience is much more natural and enjoyable than the fully immersive systems.
Research project Augmented Reality - contact-analogue Head-Up Display (10/2011)

Research project Augmented Reality – contact-analogue Head-Up Display (10/2011)

In this context, one of the very early examples of head-up displays can be found precisely in aviation, almost 80 years ago. In 1937, the German ReviC12/A fighter aircraft included a basic reflector sight indicating some basic aircraft magnitudes such as speed and turn rate, to reduce the (visual) workload of pilots in case of extreme maneuvering
Nowadays virtually all modern fighters (F18, F16, Eurofighter) use head-up displays. The most modern versions (F35) do not have head-up displays, and instead include helmet mounted displays, ensuring the proper orientation of the user’s head, for all circumstances.
One of the trending topics of augmented reality within aviation is its usage in air traffic control (ATC), particularly in Tower environments. Below are two common approaches:

  • Visual information is enhanced to ease identification and tracking of aircraft. This includes tools similar to head-up displays and/or helmets-displays that enhance the information (providing for instance, aircraft ID, scheduled times, etc). This approach could be extremely useful in low visibility conditions by facilitating the tower ATCOs tasks. It also avoids dividing attention between the primary visual field (the window) and the auxiliary tools (surface radar, strips etc).

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 15.05.29maxresdefault

  • The extreme version is a complete virtual control tower, the so called “remote tower”. ATC would have remote control rooms with video-sensors on-site, including augmented reality enhancements. The synthetic augmentation of vision increases the situational awareness at the airport, especially during poor visibility conditions, or blocked line-of-sight areas due to airport geometry. It additionally provides benefits in terms of cost saving (no need to build and maintain control tower facilities) and a more efficient use of human resources (potentially serving multiple airports with low traffic events from a centralised location). Research in this field started in FP6 project “ART” and is now being progressed by SESAR WP6. In fact, Örnsköldsvik/Gideå airport is the first on the world deployment of remote tower, in late 2015, by the Swedish LFV. In US, Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport was the first approved and tested airport with a remote tower in 2016.

Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 15.08.47
For the air passenger and mobility context, augmented reality and the wide range of solutions providing additional real-time information to passengers is taking off as well. (No pun intended.)
These technological innovations include indoor location tracking, real-time information on boarding gates, real-time updates on flight delays, and information on airport facilities and shops. This is also being expanded to knowing the number and location of available parking spaces to facilitate the passenger experience in the (sometimes not so easy) airport processes. For example, Copenhagen airport, in collaboration with SITA, created the very first augmented reality indoor app in 2012. Now there is an endless list of both airlines and airports with similar apps.
Do you think augmented reality together with innovative data visualization can have a significant impact in future aviation?
What are its challenges and potential benefits?
We’re interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas.

On maps


How are “mobility” and trips visualized and represented? Well, the most direct, intuitive way of doing so, is using maps. Representations, converting the 3-dimensional earth (*sphere*) to a flat  2-dimensional surface. This post is about maps, map properties, map distortion and curious maps. We hope you enjoy it!

Mapping the earth, or parts of it, is a classic, well-studied problem. For hundreds / thousands of years, cartographers and mathematicians have come up with different methods to map the curved surface of the earth to a flat plane. The main problem is that you cannot do this perfectly, (Theorema Egregium). The shape, area, distances and directions of the surface cannot be represented properly at the same time on a map.


Shape: If a map preserves shape, then feature outlines (like country boundaries or the coast lines) look the same on the map as they do on the earth. A map that preserves shape is conformal. The amount of distortion, however, is regular along some lines in the map. For example, features lying on the 20th parallel are equally distorted, features on the 40th parallel are equally distorted (but differently from those on the 20th parallel), and so on. The Mercator projection is one of the most famous and well-used shape-preserving maps:


Area: If a map preserves area, then the size of a feature on a map is the same relative to its size on the earth. For example, on an equal-area world map, Spain takes up the same percentage of map space that the actual Spain takes up on the earth. In an equal-area map, the shapes of most features are distorted. No map can preserve both shape and area for the whole world, although some come close over sizeable regions. Sinusoidal projection is an area-preserving projection:


Distance: If a line from a to b on a map is the same distance (accounting for scale) that it is on the earth, then the map line has true scale. No map has true scale everywhere, but most maps have at least one or two lines of true scale. For instance, in the Casini projection, the distances perpendicular to central meridian are preserved:


Direction: Direction, or azimuth, is measured in degrees of angle from north. On the earth, this means that the direction from a to b is the angle between the meridian on which a lies and the great circle arc connecting a to b. If the azimuth value from a to b is the same on a map as on the earth, then the map preserves direction from a to b. No map has true direction everywhere.

Finding the compromise: Most of the maps used are compromise solutions, partially preserving some of the above mentioned properties. The most used one (by far) is the one you can find in Google Maps, OpenStreetMaps etc. called Web Mercator, Google Web Mercator, WGS 84 Web Mercator or WGS 84/Pseudo-Mercator. It is a variation of the Mercator projection, ignoring the ellipticity of Earth for faster computation:


The Winkel tripel projection. “Triple” stands for trying to minimize errors in three properties at the same time: area, direction, and distance. The Winkel tripel is the arithmetic mean of different projections (equi-rectangular, area and shape preserving)


There is even a whole family called Myriahedral projections. These consider the earth *sphere* to be a polyhedron with a very large number of faces, a “myriahedron”. This myriahedron is cut open into small pieces and unfolded. The resulting maps have a large number of subareas that are (almost) conformal and that (almost) conserve areas. The location of the map interruptions can be “selected” (oftenly using sea areas etc)

7 8









Some ingenious representations mix the approach from Myriahedral projections and other property-preserving projections. e.g. the Goode Homolosineprojection:


All the previous projections provoke distorsion. There is no perfect projection. In the nineteenth century, Nicolas Auguste Tissot developed a simple method for analysing map-projection distortion. An infinitely small circle on the earth’s surface will be projected as an infinitely small ellipse on any given map projection. The resulting ellipse of distortion, or “indicatrix”, shows the amount and type of distortion at the location of the ellipse. Some examples for the most-used projections are given below.


If all the previous was not enough, it just leaves the door open to other projections that represent additional variables in maps, such as socio-demographic or technical indicators.

A map with country size proportional to population:


Proportional to number of immigrants:


Proportional to the number of tourists (Spain the biggest country in the world!):


Or even proportional to the total number of flights (this is one of my favourites!):


Some references and further reading on the topic:

How do you catch a plane?


How do you catch a plane? More interestingly: what are the stages of your door-to-door journey when an airline flight is involved? They’re most likely not all the same as anyone else’s.

There are a myriad ways of getting from your starting point (home, office, hotel) to the airport – from “door” to “kerb”. It could be by private car – whether “kiss-and-fly” (driven by family or friend), a ride-share with another passenger/co-worker, a taxi/minicab or their modern app-based equivalents, or we can just drive ourselves and park in the long-term or short-term car park (or maybe an off-site car park which then took you to your terminal by shuttle bus). It could be by bicycle or motorbike. It could be by bus, coach, tram, train, metro, or a combination of these – but how did you get to the stop/station for first one; walking, taxi, driving, “kiss-and-ride”, cycling – and where did the last one drop you off: the terminal, the airport transport hub? You may have driven, and then had to return, a hire car (if this is a return leg or your trip) and then took the hire company’s shuttle. If you left from an airport hotel, you most probably took their shuttle.


Getting through the airport (from “kerb” to “gate”) also involves many options. Did you check in online or do you have to do it at the terminal? Do you have bags to check in? Do you have to go through passport control? How long is the queue at the security check? How much buffer time did you leave, that you can now spend browsing around the shops? How many miles do you have to walk to get to your gate? Is your flight delayed?

Your answers to these questions (and their equivalents for the “gate” to “kerb” and “kerb” to “door” legs once your flight has landed), as well as the process for the actual flight(s) from gate-to-gate (including any transfers), have a bearing on how long your total journey will take. To be able to determine where there is room for reduction in this journey-time, and where research must be directed to initiate this reduction, in order to meet the ACARE goal of 4 hours door-to-door for intra-EU journeys, the DATASET 2050 team have analysed the component times of the current air journey in detail. This work is presented in the project’s deliverable 4.1 – Current Supply Profile.

Data for such analysis is hard to come by. Much of it is proprietary and, if it’s available at all, is sold at a high price – too high for this project. That which is available generally concerns all passengers, rather than just those on intra-EU travel; are people really likely to ride on one of the scheduled overnight coaches from Edinburgh to Heathrow to take a short-haul flight?

Making use of tools such as those provided by Google Maps, DATASET2050 researchers have been able to see the time taken to access airports by car, bicycle and public transport for a selection of airports.

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 Berlin Tegel access-egress times by (L-R) bicycle, public transport, and car

(NB: scales are different, see them full size below)

These results and the many others included in D4.1 will help colleagues working on the next steps in the DATASET2050 project determine which parts of the different segments of your door-to-door journey can be speeded up, and where research and development is needed to further reduce our journey times.






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