24 Hours of King County Metro

24 Hours of King County Metro from James Davenport on Vimeo.

A couple weeks ago a colleague approached me, asking if I would be interested in making some kind of data visualization to help raise awareness of an important issue: funding for the local bus system.

I ride the bus almost every day in Seattle, and all my fellow graduate students depend on it. Seattle is a fairly large, dense, and hilly city, with many water and land barriers. The only practical way to get around the city is often via bus.

While our region is in the process of upgrading and building new infrastructure, we must maintain and fund the existing mass transit systems we have. How can our local economy survive if people can't get around the city?!

I mused about the challenge of finding a data visualization to capture the emotion and gravity of this issue. Rather than produce some big infographic or series of detailed graphs, I decided to make an animation. This traces every bus through every stop, for one entire weekday.  Note how our entire city, every major landmark and neighborhood, is traced by just plotting the bus stops. The buses thread the city like ants in a colony, connecting everyone and everywhere.

Here's one cool other figure: the total number of bus stops per minute for an entire day. You can clearly see the AM and PM rush "hours", and the long tail in the evening.

King County Metro has done a fantastic job of making their data for routes, timetables, stops, etc all available online. Playing with and reforming this data was a real delight, and I think you're likely to see other examples of metro data on this website in the near future
(Alex Parker, I'm serious about collaborating on something man!)

Please register to vote, and if you're passionate about transportation in our region (or just cool visualizations!) help keep the buses running!


  1. Great choice of speed and music. Especially impressive are the secondary pulse points and the way that traffic funnels onto Madison St. (My apologies if that's the wrong one; I'm not familiar with Seattle geography.) Looks like a couple of corridors have enough demand for rapid transit.

  2. that shit blew my mind! you should do one plotting the data points for regular traffic that would be insane

    1. Thanks!
      That would be awesome, though more difficult to obtain the data for...

  3. This is very timely. I just heard on NPR this morning that King County Metro reported the second highest ridership, the first was in 2008. Since opening the rapid route across 520 they have dramatically increased. Since I've moved up north I don't ride the bus anymore but found a VanPool which is also an awesome alternative.


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