What is missing from this graphic?

With lots of little bits and pieces of road and rail infrastructure funding announced in the autumn budget statement, I thought it was about time to get around to assembling the transport costs comparison infographic that has been on my todo list for months. I keep hearing all these millions and billions getting spent, but I’m no good at imagining what that amount of money means.

The format is nicked from the XKCD radiation infographic (subsequently also applied to money). I considered the option of having separate orders of magnitude — millions and billions — but in the end decided it was probably more helpful as a comparison tool with everything on the same scale.

I’ve actually only included a few of the Autumn Statement projects, because they turned out to be a bit boring when compared with a lot of the other projects and numbers I gathered. And I’ve not been very meticulous in my research or fact checking — this isn’t intended to be a perfect scientific dataset, just a quick way to see big numbers in context. The idea is that when Boris Johnson says he’s really doing a jolly lot to encourage biking in the outer boroughs, you can see that his fund for biking in the outer boroughs is about four times the size of the budget for a one day Zone 1 bicycle ride, and a bit less than the budget for a fancy Zone 1 pedestrian crossing. When Norman Baker tells you that the coalition is committed to local sustainable transport, you can see that their fund for it is only slightly larger than the electricity bill for London’s traffic lights.

Indeed, a few of the figures are really quite dodgy — the pavement parking costs, which were extrapolated as a mere thought experiment by Pedestrian Liberation, and of course the estimated costs of crashes, air pollution and obesity, which all rely on all sorts of questionable assumptions and on inventing market values for things that can’t have market values —  but I thought that it might be worth seeing them anyway. The final version would be accompanied by a long list of references and footnotes. (The graphic itself should also be a bit tidier!)

I’ve included all the numbers that were of interest to me and could found within a couple of minutes with Google. What else should I have included? What have I got wrong?

Image below the fold…

21 thoughts on “What is missing from this graphic?”

  1. brilliant

    I would add Cycling England (RIP) and Cycling Scotland’s budget (are there welsh or NI equivs) & the Forth Crossing replacement (which is what’s bumping up the Scottish transport figures)

  2. Forth Bridge is already in there — the big block under the Scottish transport budget :)
    I could add Cycling England… it would be smaller than the amount TfL loses to fare evasion.

  3. neat. I think I would use different colours or separate grouping for income vs. costs rather than mix things up randomly. Same with annual cost vs. budget cost, to make related/comparable items visually comparable. Oh, and the twenty miles/mile/metres per £1 million pieces should definitely be to (width) scale, now they all just look the same (as opposed to say Boris’s glue project vanishing in the shadow of air pollution.)

    1. aye — I was thinking of doing a separate one for distances per £million… perhaps with exhibition road and superhighways included.

      I could separate the orders of magnitude so that you can see the differences in the really big ones…

  4. Holy budget bloodbath batman! That’s some awesome work.

    The only thing is, some of the boxes (HS2 for example) are so immense that they’re longer than my whole screen, so I can’t see them next to any other ones and some of the comparative power is lost. The fact that not every box is progressively bigger than the previous one also means you can’t always tell what’s bigger when the boxes are very large – what would it look like if they were all sorted by size (maybe not linearly, go across first and then down, or something).

    Anyway, it’s still awesome. Thanks!

  5. In fact if I wasn’t stuck at work right now, I’d have a go at an alternate wider layout for you, more like the big boxes in the XKCD money one…

  6. How about the cost of a 3 week sporting event, say the London 2012 Olympics, original budget £2.4Bn current estimate of final bill £14Bn a cost over run of £11.6Bn…

  7. It’s hard to distinguish the grey 1m boxes from the slighty lighter grey ‘adjusted for inflation’ boxes – I had to look really hard before I noticed the lighter ones anywhere.

  8. Since the graphic relates money to lengths of cycle facilities, would it make sense to include some other lengths for comparison? For example, total length of Sustrans UK cycle routes, or total length of A-roads in Greater London area, something like that.

  9. Really helpful to see it all laid out like this – it’s important to be able to get a sense of the relative sums. I would, however, keep spending and costs completely separate, especially as some of the costs are rather speculative. And have you considered the format of the Billion Dollar Gram (http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/the-billion-dollar-gram/) which juggles things around to fit them into a rectangular format? I suspect it may be quite a pain to do…

  10. A couple of quite diferent points:
    1. Cost-benefit analysis is always dodgy for radical to use. See John Adams’ copious critiiques of it with regard specifically to transport planning (e.g. Transport Planning: Vision and Practice”. Basiclaly figures can be “double what you first thought of” in their arbitrariness and always tend to supp ort the status quo. It is also the case that figures can be both supposed benefits (e.g. economic activity from use of emergeny vehiclkes) as well as the dis benefits of crashes.

    2. I’m afraid I couldn’t get to grips with the graphics becasue:
    (a) A lot of the captions are very small
    (b) As pointed out above you ahve to scroll down.
    (c) What’s wrong with something a bit more traditional l;ike a pie chart?

    Having said all that, you couild do one just on TfL’s annual expenditure 9it was (c. £9.2 billion last year i believe)

  11. Nice! This is a cool format to compare things like this. You might want to take out on or two of the really big items – you make the point well just by including one of them, and the length of the graphic might discourage some editors/bloggers from embedding this into their own sites.

    Sigh – if only a few of those millions could surely be diverted to cycling…..

  12. Another thing you’d have to add (but would be quite difficult to find out) would be local council spending on cycling outwith the LSTF money. I know Spokes did a survey of Scottish councils, not sure if the figure are available for England though

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