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Here’s an imaginary Tube Map of Leeds

Leeds-thecity_WEBWhat do you do when you move to a new city that doesn’t have its own metro network? Easy: you invent one.

That, at least, is what Rich Daley did, when he moved to Leeds in 2010. “I’m a huge fan of the metro systems in cities like London, Paris and Berlin,” he told CityMetric. “They’re so entrenched in the public consciousness that you think of parts of the city in terms of their locations on the metro map,  rather than their location in reality.”

Leeds, though, has no such system to provide a mental map (the government spent £40m planning the modestly-named Leeds Supertram system before cancelling it in 2005). So Daley decided to invest his own, “to provide the same kind of mnemonic” as the London Underground map. It worked, too: “I regularly find myself thinking about where or how to get to parts of the city in terms of the Tube Map.”

You can see a detail of the map, showing Leeds city centre, above. To see the whole thing, click on the map below.

How did you decide where the routes should go?

A lot of staring at Google Satellite view to work out where the population centres were and how to link them together. Most of the stations are located in these kinds of organically occurring hubs where shops and services appear. After that I got a lot of feedback on Twitter and connected some places up that weren’t on there before. People are still very passionate about how the fictional Tube should look!

Leeds is part of a bigger conurbation, including Bradford, Huddersfield, Wakefield… Why aren’t they on the map?

I wanted to start with Leeds since that’s where I live, and maybe work outwards. The Leeds-Bradford line was the first attempt at this, connecting the airport and the Tube network with Shipley station, which functions as a kind of hub for the Bradford borough.

Since Gordon Brown’s time there’s been talk of something called (awful name) the “Leeds City Region”, which places the city in the middle of a larger megalopolis of nine boroughs, rather like Manhattan is in New York City. I like the idea but I’d call it something like the Aire & Calder Metropolis myself – else you’d never get people in Bradford, York and Wakefield on board.

What’s the city’s real transport network like?

We are basically still in the dark ages. Most routes are only accessible by buses, which are controlled almost exclusively by FirstBus’s virtual monopoly.

The local rail network is really good, but provides connections only to very specific parts of Leeds and West Yorkshire: most of the pre-Beeching lines haven’t been built on, but the stations are long gone. Leeds City Station itself is one of the busiest stations in Britain outside London, and it simply can’t cope with the number of passengers: the Manchester-Salford central zone, by contrast, has five, not including all the tram stations.

There’s a big plan for something called NGT (“New generation Transport”) in the next few years. It’s  a trolleybus with just one line, and it’s met opposition from all sides. The right says it’s a waste of money and will clog up Otley Road; the left says it’s a glorified bus. The public inquiry has been going on for months and months.

Read the full post on CityMetric

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