Tagged: maps

The law of Boston infrastructure: build five to keep four

Staring at the MBTA map and letting my mind wander while waiting for the train, I noticed a repeated pattern of 4/5.

There were five Green line branches, but only four survive today with the obvious gap at the start of the sequence B, C, D, E.  I guess if the E line had been cut, it wouldn’t have been so obvious.  OK, the E line has been cut back, but not cut out.

More recently, there were five terminals at Logan, but Terminal D was absorbed into C and E in 2006 leaving A, B, C, E.  It was decided that renaming Terminal E to Terminal D overnight to close the gap would cause too much confusion.

Also in more recent memory, the Silver Line now has only four line but numbering for five.  It acquired a gap with the demise of the SL3 in 2008 and the appearance of SL4 and the renaming of the SL5 in 2009 making the list of Silver Lines a gappy SL1, SL2, SL4, SL5.  The fact that the Silver Line still exists as two unconnected parts (SL1/SL2 and SL4/SL5) makes it a little less odd that there’s a gap in numbering. Although there were never five Silver Line routes in operation at the same time, we still have the 4/5 gap in numbering.

You can witness the changes of the Green and Silver lines in Andrew Lynch’s estimable Animated History of the MBTA, with a hearty hat tip to Universal Hub.  If you squint real hard at the airport loop in the last two slides you might or might not see the end of Terminal D.

What’s going on here?  Do the planners have spooky Mickey Mouse hands? Does Boston overbuild then scale back? Shrinkage?  I have no idea, I’m probably just making connections because there’s no bubble wrap to keep me busy while I wait for the T.  In any case, it’s interesting to think of the transit system as organic and changing, even if that means both growth and decay.

For extra credit, check out Cameron Booth’s upgrade to the official MBTA map.

Mappy diversion: the 40th parallel, Ana Ng’s Peruvian lover, and globe-spanning sandwiches

I’m back from a trip almost halfway around the world in terms of longitude, but a pretty short hop in latitude. A weather diversion on the way over brought me to Oklahoma City airport, what would have been my second time ever setting foot on Oklahoma soil, but as you may have the misfortune to know, a “diversion” means you don’t get off the plane, at least not until the passenger bill of rights two hour limit expires.

That’s the long way around to say, I thought perhaps I was near the 40th parallel, the subject of the estimable Bruce Myren’s photo project and kickstarter campaign, which is widgetized at right. I was off by at least five degrees of latitude, which shows my level of familiarity with the middle of this country.

Which brings us back to maps. (Bet you didn’t see that coming) Here’s another clip from the Great Circle Mapper, which I touted some time ago. They’ve made some spiffy improvements. I often think of flights to Asia from the central USA as going “over the pole” but it seems that this one didn’t even break the arctic circle. Of course, the great circles mapped are the most direct routes, not necessarily the actual flight paths.

That’s a good 15,000 miles and will likely leave me soulless for almost two weeks. Thoughts of global mapping also bring me back to a vintage limeduck post where I wondered about the places alluded to in TMBG’s Ana Ng:

Make a hole with a gun perpendicular
To the name of this town in a desktop globe
Exit wound in a foreign nation
Showing the home of the one this was written for

These places, I’ve learned, are called antipodes, and it turns out that it’s pretty unlikely that any town in the continental USA has a dry land antipode. If we assume that Ana Ng is in Vietnam, then the song’s narrator could be in Peru. Locating Ana in various other parts of Asia can put the singer in other parts of South America, but with more than 2/3 the globe covered in water, there just aren’t that many inhabitable antipodes. So you don’t have to shoot your globe. Kudos to the smarties at Free Map Tools and Antipode Map for making this sort of cutting-edge research so easy, and also to the ever-alert Strange Maps blog.

In case anybody is still reading, I’ve got to bring up one more map-related wonder, the Earth Sandwich. According to Ze Frank, the creator (discoverer?) of the Earth Sandwich, “An EARTH SANDWICH is created when two slices of bread are simultaneously placed on opposite sides of the EARTH.” An excellent bookend to TMBG’s ballistic approach to antipodes, I think. If you happen to be reading this on a boat in the Indian Ocean Southwest of Australia and have bread and cheese, I propose we create the first Earth Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

120,000 blocks to Samarkand

In places like New York City, you can easily measure distance in blocks and people generally know how far that is in miles or minutes. In New York City, everybody knows that Manhattan street blocks are about 20 to the mile, and most New Yorkers can walk about one such block per minute.  Tourists travel a fraction of that rate and really should have their own lanes.  Avenue blocks are less reliably spaced but they run about 1/4 mile each.

In less griddy places like London or Boston, a block is not always a block, so it’s less of a useful measure.

If you’re getting sick of my New York City centric pondering, you’re really going to hate this next bit.  The estimable Harold Cooper has created a marvelous map mashup that extends the Manhattan street grid to “every point on earth.” It’s called extendNY, of course, and I think it’s awesome. Of course.

Now I can always know how many blocks away something is, using my beloved standard Manhattan blocks, even when not in Manhattan.  I must say, I never thought I’d be spending so much time on the Upper East Side.  I shall henceforth refer to the MBTA 1 bus as the 3,524th street crosstown, or the M3524.

For extra cartogeeky credit, check out what happens to the grid in Uzbekistan, which I shall henceforth call the North Manhattan Pole.  That’ll teach you to slap a rectangular grid on a round thing.

Are you Rear Admiral of a landlocked navy?

I am a cartography nerd.  I like maps.  I like globes.  I like pondering questions like “what countries have land borders with just one other country?”  (There are 17 such nations, including two mutual pairs and two Italian enclaves. How many can you name without consulting a map or intertube?)

It was while pursuing just such an item of trivia that I stumbled on the turgid wikipedia entry, Navies of Landlocked Countries.  Just my kind of thing!  There are 10 countries floating such navies.  Most are small but all have the distinction of being independent branches of their nations’ armed forces.

  1. Azerbaijan
  2. Bolivia
  3. Central African Republic
  4. Kazakhstan
  5. Laos
  6. Paraguay
  7. Rwanda
  8. Serbia
  9. Turkmenistan
  10. Uganda

These are not all as totally loony as you might think. Three have coastlines on the Caspian sea (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan), three have major border lakes (Bolivia/Titicaca, Rwanda/Kivu and Uganda/Victoria), and four float their navies on big rivers (Laos/Mekong, Paraguay/Paraguay, Serbia/Danube, CAR/Ubangi). Imagine if you will, an independent landlocked Illinois having a navy on Lake Michigan or on the mighty Mississippi.  But one of these landlocked navies stands out to me for its Quixotic irredentist nature: Bolivia.

Sure, Bolivia’s navy patrols Lake Titicaca – which is about half the surface area of Lake Ontario, the smallest of the North American Great Lakes – and keeps its shores safe from drug smugglers and invading Pervian frogmen.  But the real reason for Bolivia’s navy is the hope that one day they will float free in the Pacific, an ocean whose coast Bolivia lost to Chile over 100 years ago in the War of the Pacific.  That’s right, generations of Bolivian sailors have come and gone, motoring about on Lake Titicaca (I never get tired of typing that), pining for a chance to chip off a chunk of Chilean coast and ply the Pacific.

I don’t mean to make light of a nation’s historical wounds or dreams, and I commend Bolivia for not taking any rash military action against Chile, but don’t you think that maintaining a navy is a bit much?  Does inner tubing around Lake Titicaca really prepare you for the Pacific Ocean?  Or does focusing the nation on regaining lost coastline take people’s minds off other problems?

At any rate, I’ll conclude this curious cartographic lesson with a deeper head-scratcher:  what impossible dream are you devoting resources to?  Are you to be commended for holding fast, or mocked for living in the past?

The price of Cronin Park is eternal vigilance

Just about two years ago, I wrote about Cambridge’s Cronin Park, a triangle of green near Central Square. These days, location-based stuff is all the rage, and I was pleased to note that Cronin Park is a place on Foursquare.  I quickly became the mayor.

But when I was taking screenshots for this post, I noticed that something was off. Foursquare’s Cronin Park pin, if you zoom in on it, turns out to be across the street from the actual place – in an adjacent green patch that is authoritatively labeled by Google Maps as… James Cronin Park.  Didn’t I add James Cronin Park to Google Maps two years ago?  What gives?

A search for “Cronin Park” shows two places: map point A is next to Google’s mislabeled Cronin Park; map point B is the center of the actual Cronin Park as added to the map by yours truly in 2008.  Indeed, you can see my car parked across from the park on Franklin street.

Just to make sure, I visited the site today, and “my” Cronin Park – the triangular one – is indeed, still James P. Cronin Park, still marked by a big rock with a plaque on it.  The park across Franklin Street has no name that I could find on site, but it seems to have been anointed by Google Maps.  Neither place is mentioned at the City of Cambridge’s DPW page of parks or shown on the Park Maintenance district 2 map.

What does this all mean?  Probably not much you didn’t already know.  Google Maps isn’t perfect, crowdsourcing with curation cuts both ways, the City of Cambridge website isn’t encyclopedic.  We’ll see if this post or my efforts with Google and Foursquare make any progress in getting Cronin Park properly located and noted.  In the mean time, be sure to check in if you’re passing by.