Bay Area Traffic Illustrated in Maps

Commute paths in the Bay Area.

Traffic is an issue that is naturally well-fitted to being visualized on a map. This map, created by geographer and urban planner Alasdair Rae, illustrates traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area. It aggregates data from the commutes of 3.3 million Bay Area residents commuting to 110,000 destinations. Then, it presents this data in two ways:  (i) as a heat map showing commutes between various destinations and (ii) as an animated map showing commutes from San Francisco to other cities in the Bay.

I find these maps very relatable. As a Bay Area resident, I have often suffered through this hellish traffic and can even recognize some of the bottlenecks presented in the heat map above. The animated map below is also pretty cool, since it shows the dispersed urban centers of the Bay Area (as opposed to other regions where one city acts as the center). Overall, the visualizations are successful in conveying the magnitude of the traffic problems in the Bay Area.

Commutes from San Francisco

Problem: Although these maps are interesting, they would have more utility if they pointed towards a solution for this problem. Right now, these maps simply indicate that the Bay Area has a major traffic problem.  An effective data visualization shouldn’t only explain the problem, but also present potential solutions. One way of suggesting a solution in this context would be by overlaying public transportation routes on top of the commutes heat map. That way, readers would be able to determine whether or not the excessive traffic in some areas is related to a lack of public transportation.

Creator: Alasdair Rae