Nov 13, 2021 • Blog

How to Create Isochrone Maps in QGIS with the TravelTime QGIS Plugin

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If you're looking to create travel time isochrones in QGIS, look no further. With the TravelTime QGIS plugin, you can create isochrone maps to show where’s reachable from a starting point within a specific amount of time. You can do this for any transport mode, including public transport, cycling and driving.

By the end of this article, you'll have all you need to begin creating isochrones and improving your location analysis with this data.

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Travel time analysis in QGIS

Using the TravelTime QGIS plugin, you can significantly improve your travel time analysis. For example, a restaurant owner can use the plugin to identify delivery areas, such as where their delivery drivers can travel to within a 30-minute drive from their restaurant.

Or you can also filter points of interest within a set travel time and calculate journey times to thousands of destinations. 

Here’s just a taste of what you can do with the TravelTime plugin’s isochrone tool:

How to create public transport isochrones

Note: To use the TravelTime plugin in QGIS, you’ll first need an API key. You can get a free API key here. You can also download the latest version of the plugin here.

The first example we’ll run through is creating public transport isochrones. 

Step 1

The quickest way to create isochrones with the TravelTime QGIS plugin is to use the Quick Time Map tool. You can find this in the TravelTime platform menu:

TravelTime QGIS plugin menu

Here, you can choose your preferred transport mode – for example, public transport – as well as a maximum travel time (up to four hours). For this example, we’ve chosen a maximum travel time of 60 minutes.

Finally, you can choose whether it is a departure (leaving) or arrival (arriving) query:

TravelTime QGIS plugin

Step 2

Next, add an address in the address field, and click the geocode button:

TravelTime QGIS plugin menu

You should now see an isochrone shape added as a new layer on the map. The cross in the middle of the isochrone marks our starting address, and the isochrone shape around it represents all the locations that are reachable from this starting point within 60 minutes by public transport:

TravelTime QGIS plugin isochrone

How to create multiple isochrones

With the TravelTime QGIS plugin, you can also create isochrones for many locations at once.

In this example, we have a layer of 10 locations in London added as a layer to QGIS and we want to create isochrones for each of those locations.

Step 1

To do this, within the Processing Toolbox, open TravelTime platform > Simplified > Time Map – Simple:

TravelTime QGIS plugin Time Map Simple

Step 2

Then choose the layer of points you want to run this analysis – in this case, the 10 locations – as well as whether it is a departure or arrival search and the transportation type. For this example, we’ve chosen public transport.

Step 3

Lastly, select your desired departure time, time zone and maximum travel time:

TravelTime QGIS plugin

Step 4

Crucially, there are 3 options for visualising these results:

  1. Normal: This will create a separate isochrone around each of the locations
  2. Union: This will show the total coverage of all the points combined
  3. Intersection: This will show only the locations that are reachable from all those points

For this tutorial, we’ve chosen ‘Normal’ as our desired result. By default, this setting is configured to create a temporary layer, but you can choose to save it as a permanent layer such as a shapefile or GeoJSON file.

After clicking ‘Run’, we now have our 10 isochrones added as a new layer to the map:

TravelTime QGIS plugin isochrone

You can recreate these steps to produce drive time polygons as well as isochrones for other transport modes.

Analysing large datasets 

One of the biggest benefits of using the TravelTime plugin is that you can run analysis on large datasets very efficiently.

In the following example, we have a layer of 500 locations and want to create a 5-minute walking area catchment for all of the locations:

TravelTime QGIS plugin

Using the same tool as above, we’ll update our criteria:

TravelTime QGIS plugin

And this will create 5-minute walking isochrones around all 500 points – here’s a look at just a couple:

TravelTime QGIS plugin

To see how we created the isochrones above, check out this video.

Creating isochrones for any transport mode

You can create travel time isochrones for any modes of transport, including:

  • Public transport
  • Driving
  • Cycling
  • Walking

It’s also possible to combine transport modes, such as driving to a train station and using public transport the rest of the way or cycling to a train station and taking a train. The maximum travel time for isochrones is currently 4 hours.

TravelTime QGIS plugin Time Map Simple

How to generate a travel time matrix and routing with the TravelTime QGIS plugin

As well as creating isochrones, the TravelTime QGIS plugin allows you to perform a number of other functions, including calculating travel times between an origin and many destinations (and vice versa).

Check out our video tutorials below:

1. Calculate a travel time matrix

Use the plugin to calculate accurate travel times between thousands of origins and destinations.

2. Multimodal route planning

Calculate A-to-B routes and turn-by-turn directions for any transport mode.

3. Geocoding & reverse geocoding 

Use the TravelTime geocoder to convert addresses into lat-long coordinates and vice versa.

FAQ: How are your travel times calculated?

We’ve built our own proprietary model using various data sources to determine how far you can reach.

Our dedicated data team aggregates real-life public transport timetables for over 100 countries, with the team adding new country coverage every month.

Walking, driving and cycling speeds have been built using a combination of open data sources and their own proprietary algorithms to imitate how real people travel.

For driving, the model takes into account the need for people to walk to their vehicle, follow the speed limit and park the car.

TravelTime QGIS plugin

FAQ: Why are isochrone maps more accurate than radius maps?

When it comes to analysing reachable areas or creating catchment areas, the typical approach is to use a radius map. But radius maps, which measure distance, don’t reflect how easily accessible a location is.

This is because none of us travel ‘as the crow flies’; instead, our ability to access shops, hospitals or any other location is dependent on the transport networks around as, as well as local geography 

In contrast, an isochrone or travel time map, takes into account key factors like travel time and transport mode to determine the accessibility of a location.

See below for a full comparison of radius and isochrone maps below:

Get started with the TravelTime QGIS plugin

The TravelTime QGIS plugin is a powerful tool that allows you to create isochrone maps to analyse where you can travel within a time limit.

You can use this within your geospatial analysis to determine where to locate new facilities, for urban transport planning and much more. The plugin also offers additional tools – the ability to calculate travel times between thousands of destinations and route planning functionality.

We've created a series of QGIS tutorials showing how you can get started with the isochrone functionality of our QGIS plugin. Check out the first video of the series below:

To learn more about what you can to with the TravelTime QGIS plugin, check out our documentation or get a free API key.

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Build travel time polygons and catchment areas with the TravelTime QGIS plugin

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