Today I launched into trying to move some of my transport ideas for Sydney from my head and iPad and paper scribbles to my PC to be dressed up for.. well, display, and discussion, I suppose.
This brought about a lengthy delve into the realm of GIS, cartography, and a bunch of overwhelming options for information manipulation. Out of this search however, has come my discovery of MyMaps by Google which I think will serve my need to map out my transport solution ideas.
From this, I’m told the data can be exported out in a .kml format which I’m told is very useful. Fingers crossed. But, thinking it through, a bunch of birds eye diagrams doesn’t really lend a real on-the-ground understanding of how said solution would work. We aren’t gifted with wings and avian bones, we are land luggers, so like it or not, we experience life at ground level, and occasionally from our high rise apartments, offices, geographical bodies or planes. However, we largely live at ground level and this is how we experience streets and buildings and all the things we interact with in our daily lives. So, maps and nifty satellite views are great for drawing grand lines across the landscape, but they fall apart when it comes to how we’ll interact with these things as humans, at ground level. Which leads me to my next task: for those not intimately intimate with Sydney, my plans would largely be just a bunch of lines on a map. So the question is, how does one make this more.. engaging, easily visualised, and understood..
This area is very embryonic for me, however some quick ideas:
Export MyMaps data to Google Earth, put a slant on it, then run a tour from stop to stop. Super basic, but lends a sense to the route.
Street view photos of the area at each stop, then maybe fiddle around on Photoshop or Sketchup to show how the station/route might fit into the existing context. This is an important consideration (or should be) when it comes to transport planning.
Aside – The Chatswood to Epping Rail Link is an epic example of fraught transport planning process. The line is incredibly well engineered, the stations are gargantuan underground Dwarvan caves, but the street level ‘interface’ is laughably hopeless. It’s a ‘gold-plated’ super expensive station that falls over at the last (but arguably most important) hurdle – how the humans use it. Ignore the engineering diagrams, the awesome architecture for a moment (all the things that can be quantified on an Excel spreadsheet) – it does not integrate into its context in a way that is amenable and useful to use for humans. At that, despite all the billions and years of construction, it falls flat on its face at the last hurdle. Careless and unthinking ‘dropped from satellite view’ transport planning. So, what it is: at Macquarie Park (an area of suburban business parks) the two station portals emerge on two sides of a busy multilane road. There is no weather protection, and basically apart from a few bus stops, there is a narrow concrete footpath leading up and down the road. And that is it in terms of integration. And one wonders why they are under-utilised.
Anywho, I strayed from my point. To me, it’s important to give a sense of how the transport solution would work at the ground level, in its direct local context. So, start with this, find other methods, will be my strategy.
Fancy renderings and fly-throughs. I wish. I do not have the skills to work this out, and they take time (and often money). Will investigate cheapie quick ways to these things.
Overhead diagrams backed up by images of what it would look like at ground level. Yep, sounds like a plan.
Clearly non of the above are ground breaking ideas. I think the point of all this is that how you present information is critical to getting across your point, and also understanding an idea yourself. Drawing some lines across a map is one thing. Communicating it to an audience is another. For people to see the value of my ideas (assuming there is some value, of course) I want to be able to present my plans in a way that makes people appreciate their usefulness; that makes it relatable. And to do this, I’ll need to do more than just show images of maps on lines. You need to break them down, show people how it will change an area and how it will change the way they travel around. Show it’s usefulness and beauty, and yes this is just transport planning, but it becomes a permanent part of the city and therefore needs to be useful and attractive. And you need to show this to users, ie all of us! Well, that was a bunch of garbled messages. Don’t worry, I’ll be refining this in the future.
Anyways, with that, I am going to continue messing with MyMaps to see if it’ll work for what I need at the moment (or alternately, I’ll fit my needs to it).