Shelter: An Atlas

Guerrilla Cartography is running a Kickstarter to raise funds for its third atlas focusing on the basics of survival. Shelter: An Atlas follows Food (2013) and Water (2017), and will collect more than 60 maps exploring the idea of shelter in its various aspects—“from housing and homelessness to animal habitats and even psychological shelters we build around us.” Examples at the link. [WMS]

New York’s MTA Is Testing a New Subway Map

MTA Customer Information Pilot Maps
The MTA’s new geographically accurate (left) and diagrammatic (right) subway maps, now being tested at nine stations. (MTA)

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is experimenting with new network maps that adopt a diagrammatic design that harkens back to Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 design, or (frankly) to designs used by most other transit systems. The new maps appear in nine subway stations side-by-side with geographically accurate maps of the MTA system, and embed QR codes so riders can submit feedback. If the maps are positively received, they could replace the MTA’s current network map—but New York being New York, and New York’s map wars being what they’ve been for the past fifty years or so, it’s anyone’s guess how this will shake out. More at Gizmodo.

Elsewhere (The Age of Islands)

Elsewhere (book cover)It’s ostensibly another quirky book about islands—there are, to be sure, a lot of them out on that subject—but Alastair Bonnett’s latest book has an urgency and pertinence to it that is belied by the relatively anodyne title it bears in its U.S. edition. Elsewhere: A Journey into Our Age of Islands makes it sounds like any other light travelogue with an innocuous point of view. Far better is the title it had for its original British edition: The Age of Islands: In Search of New and Disappearing Islands. Which is what it’s about: islands that have been created, and islands that are going away—by artificial and natural means.

Though when it comes to building islands, the artificial gets the bulk of Bonnett’s attention—but then people have been building islands at a rather brisk clip lately; volcanoes can’t keep up. Bonnett visits the various kinds, from the Netherlands’ polders to Dubai’s crass luxury archipelagos—and its imitators in Panama and Hainan—to China’s various military islands built up to buttress its claims to the South China Sea, to the expansion of Hong Kong’s airport. There’s a lot of money involved in these projects, not least because people pay a premium for proximity to the sea, but Bonnett repeatedly makes the point that climate change means these islands will be short-lived. “It’s odd, then, that building small flat islands in warmer latitudes is such big business. One day the dots will join.”1

In the book’s smaller second part, Bonnett turns to a consideration of islands that are disappearing. And while volcanoes, earthquakes and even nuclear tests can be the cause of islands being removed from the map, the main point here is anthropogenetic climate change. Bonnett travels from Panama’s San Blas Islands to Tonga to the Scilly Isles southwest of England to survey the imminent and the inevitable. The contrast is stark and deliberate. The map is being remade in both ways: islands are being built while others are on the brink of disappearing, but the benefits and damages are not evenly distributed. Bonnett does not pull his punches, but he is less angry than he ought to be. “We keep building islands even as natural islands are disappearing. The new ones are not very high and they are vulnerable to storms and sea-surges. Are we crazy?”2 The question more or less answers itself.

I received an electronic review copy of this book from the University of Chicago Press.


Elsewhere (book cover)Elsewhere: A Journey into Our Age of Islands
by Alastair Bonnett
University of Chicago Press, 17 Nov 2020
Amazon (Canada) | Apple Books | Bookshop

The Age of Islands: In Search of New and Disappearing Islands
by Alastair Bonnett
Atlantic Books, 7 May 2020 (U.K. edition)
Amazon UK | Apple Books

The New York Subway Map Debate

The New York Subway Map DebateBack in 1978, Massimo Vignelli and John Tauranac debated the future of New York’s subway map. That debate—which in many ways never quite ended—is now the subject of a book coming out later this month. Edited by Gary Hustwit, The New York Subway Map Debate includes a full transcript of the debate and subsequent discussion (thanks to the discovery of a lost audio recording), plus contemporary photos and new interviews. Paperback available for $40 via the link.

Where Americans Go without a Car

Map of car-free households in New York CityGeographer Christopher Winters maps car ownership—or rather the lack thereof—in The Geography of Carfree Households in the United States. In only a few census tract do more than 75 percent of the population go without owning a car. Not surprisingly, most of them are in New York, plus other densely populated cities: “New York has many more such households than any other urban area. It’s the one large place in the United States where only a minority of households have a vehicle available.”

A Redistricting Roundup

The New York Times (screenshot)

Gerrymandering in Texas

The New York Times and Texas Monthly look at the bizarre shapes in the new congressional electoral map of Texas, which gains two new representatives. Texas Monthly’s Dan Solomon: “Across the state, there will be one more majority-Anglo district than under the prior map, and one fewer majority-Hispanic one. The two new seats Texas was awarded for its booming population will be placed in Austin and Houston—and even though non-Anglo newcomers made up 95 percent of the state’s population growth the last decade, both districts will be Anglo-majority.” Kenneth Field has some thoughts. [Maps Mania]

Making Redistricting More Fair

A Surge of Citizen Activism Amps Up the Fight Against Gerrymandering (Bloomberg): “From North Carolina to Michigan to California, voting rights groups, good government advocates, data crunchers and concerned voices are finding new ways into the fight for fair representation, via informational meetings, mapping contests, testimony workshops and new technologies.”

Can Math Make Redistricting More Fair? (CU Boulder Today): “Clelland doesn’t advocate for any political party or for any particular redistricting proposal. Instead, she and her colleagues use mathematical models to build a series of redistricting statistics. These numbers give redistricting officials a baseline that they can compare their own maps to, potentially identifying cases of gerrymandering before they’re inked into law.”

Previously: The Washington Post Examines Proposed Congressional District Maps.

A Map of Every Chinese City

Map of Every Chinese City (Alfred Twu)
Alfred Twu (CC licence)

Inspired, he says, by Itchy Feet’s maps of Every European City and Every American City, Alfred Twu has come up with a Map of Every Chinese City. (Chinese version here.) Twu is no stranger to these parts: he worked on rail maps for California and the Northeast Corridor some years back.

Previously: Itchy Feet’s Map of Every European City; Itchy Feet’s Map of Every American City.

COVID-19 in the U.S. in 60 Seconds

Another time-lapse map of the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, this one from David A. West, who posted the above to r/dataisbeautiful on Reddit. This one shows new cases per capita on a county-by-county basis.

Previously: COVID-19 Spreading Across the United States.

New Exhibition of California in Maps

You Are Here: California Stories on the Map is an exhibition showing at the Oakland Museum of California through 2022. “Showcasing a diverse range of maps from Oakland, the Bay Area, and California—from environmental surroundings and health conditions to community perspectives and creative artworks—experience how maps can be a powerful tool to share unique points of view and imagine a better future.” San Francisco Examiner coverage. Admission is $16 or free to museum members.

Niehues Moves On from Ski Resort Maps

James Niehues
James Niehues (2018)

Legendary ski resort map artist James Niehues has announced on his blog and on Twitter that he will be “stepping away from creating ski resort trail maps” after more than three decades. He plans to work on other projects, including the American Landscape Project, and will, for the first time, be selling original paintings and sketches of his ski resort trail maps later this month.

Previous posts about James Niehues.