LONDON commuters are generally a surly bunch, grumbling as they battle through the city's underground train network each morning. Nevertheless, records of their journeys could be a key to improving urban well-being.
Every day, millions of Londoners touch their Oyster card to the underground's wireless ticket readers each time they enter and exit the system, building up a detailed database of travel through the city. Computer scientist Daniele Quercia and colleagues at the University of Cambridge have now compared this data with official measures of social deprivation and found that a community's prosperity is reflected in the comings and goings of its residents.
Previous research has shown that when people are asked to describe their mental map of a city, the neighbourhoods they recall in better detail - areas with higher "visibility" - tend to score higher in social and economic measures of well-being. Gathering such measures normally involves manual surveys, but the team wanted to know if people's movements across the city could be used as an easily collected proxy.