Are you going my way?
Animated maps make big data easy to grasp


Whether you are looking for a carpool buddy on 511 or just wondering where all of those cars around you are coming from, maps play an important role in explaining data. Animate those maps with commuting orbs in basic colors and you end up with a hypnotizing display.  Mark Evans at I Like Big Bytes did just that with US Census American Community Survey data and it helps visualize the complexity of commuting patterns.


The dots vary in size based on the number of commuters, and are color-coded to correspond to the counties they’re commuting to or from. Select a county from the drop-down menu, then toggle between “home” and “workplace” to see what the back-and-forth looks like for those who live or work there, respectively.  Users of the mapping tool can pick any US county, base the data on either residence or workplace location and set the commute distance displayed.


When you set the commute distance longer (20+ miles), as above, you get a colorful, dizzying, travel pattern, but it only represents about 19k commuters working in Sacramento county. Setting the travel distance to a much more common sub six miles changes the animation dramatically, and looks more like an ant colony while representing 166k commuters in Sacramento county.