A global map of travel time to cities

  • Dan Weiss University of Oxford (Creator)
  • Andy Nelson (Research team member)



A global analysis of accessibility to high-density urban centres at a resolution of 1×1 kilometre for 2015, as measured by travel time. To model the time required for individuals to reach their most accessible city, we first quantified the speed at which humans move through the landscape. The principle underlying this work was that all areas on Earth, represented as pixels within a 2D grid, had a cost (that is, time) associated with moving through them that we quantified as a movement speed within a cost or ‘friction’ surface. We then applied a least-cost-path algorithm to the friction surface in relation to a set of high-density urban points. The algorithm calculated pixel-level travel times for the optimal path between each pixel and its nearest city (that is, with the shortest journey time). From this work we ultimately produced two products: (a) an accessibility map showing travel time to urban centres, as cities are proxies for access to many goods and services that affect human wellbeing; and (b) a friction surface that underpins the accessibility map and enables the creation of custom accessibility maps from other point datasets of interest. The map products are in GeoTIFF format in EPSG:4326 (WGS84) project with a spatial resolution of 30 arcsecs. The accessibility map pixel values represent travel time in minutes. The friction surface map pixels represent the time, in minutes required to travel one metre. This DANS data record contains these two map products.

GIS; spatial; accessibility; mapping; travel time; cities
Date made available12 Mar 2018
PublisherDANS easy
Temporal coverage2015 - 2015
Date of data production1 Oct 2018
Geographical coverageAll permanently inhabited land masses of the world

Cite this

Weiss, D. (Creator), Nelson, A. (Research team member) (12 Mar 2018). A global map of travel time to cities. DANS easy. 10.17026/dans-ztx-2sd2