Tips for creating an accurate driving time radius map

by Louisa Bainbridge
on Jan 23, 2017

We have updated this blog post, view this blog to create a driving radius map

Travel time maps show us how easily we can reach different location points. It’s a more accurate way of understanding locations than miles radius, which assumes that everyone can travel in a straight line. They can adapt depending on the user’s preferred mode of transport, with driving time maps shaped differently to those for public transport. Check out our isochrone guide page for more detail.


Time knows that you can cover more ground at 3 am on a Monday than 5.30pm on a Friday night. It also knows that you have to find a bridge to cross a river – you can’t just go as the crow flies. This blog explains how you can create driving time maps. 

Note that the words 'travel time radius'  don't really make sense, infact, if it's done right there's no such thing. That's because a radius is defined as a straight line to a circumferance of a circle- make a radius map here. But we know that real people can't travel as the crow flies, which is why travel time shapes are unusual shapes. These shapes are typically called isochrones


Identify the map’s goal

Identify what the isochrone needs to reveal. From here you’ll be able to define what features are most important. To define this goal, ask yourself:
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Why would they use it?
  • What will they gain from using this map?

By answering these questions, you’ll be able to understand how fast the map needs to be drawn, how customisable it needs to be and how important it is to have a simple user interface (UX). For example, a GIS professional wishing to identify locations in central London with poor transport connections requires a different experience to someone searching for a place to visit for a short break.



Understand the map’s time sensitivity

 Time maps can significantly change shape depending on the time of day and period of time assessed. If an ambulance service is assessing which vehicle can reach the patient in the quickest time, it’s important to adapt results based on travel times at that specific time. These results may require live traffic update data.

Alternatively, job seekers may wish to view roles with a commute of under one hour. These maps need to account for rush hour, but as the commute repeats daily, using daily averages will provide enough precision. These time maps don’t need to account for temporary road works but provide a big picture of travelling in that area.

Sometimes specifying one specific time of day doesn’t give a good picture of access across the day. For example, a supermarket retailer may need to assess which location would be best for a new store. To do this they can assess accessibility during all opening hours, using an average time of day to level out peak congestion times.


Select the mode of transport

 The mode affects the data sources required to draw the travel time map. Average speeds, congestion and speed limits are essential calculations when creating drive time maps. Take a look at our drive time map how to guide
Alternatively, it’s essential to keep public transport maps up to date when new timetable information is released from providers. Walking maps should also recognise which areas are unsuitable for people on foot e.g. motorways. The TravelTime API uses various transport modes - take a look here


Decide how many data points are needed

 Some time maps only need one central data point, for example, if I need a hotel close to the airport, which one should I choose? In contract a popular restaurant chain may wish to see where the next branch should open that will maximise revenue but minimise cannibalisation. To do this, they can enter thousands of points of customer data, competitor data and current store data to identify a new location sweet spot.


Use an API

The easiest way to add travel time maps to your website is via an API. Take a look at TravelTime to see how easy it is to integrate and test it out for free. The API works on any map provider - here's a guide on using it with Leaflet

Visit the map resource centre



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