Visualization tools are crucial to facilitate access to complex spatial phenomenon. This is what the application “Commuting Scales” aims at demonstrating. As an example of such a complex phenomenon, the addressed question is that of the commuters’ space of the university campus of Lausanne, Switzerland. Dealing with traveling times and mobility choices through a day, the application aims at defining which are the scales and metrics of the space that the many users of the campus cover every day.
To reach this purpose, two main geographic metrics are used : that of the euclidean space and that of the time space. The produced images display an objective piece of information : time travel between two places. They are meant to set off a discussion on more complex and subjective features of mobility, such as perceived time, wellbeing, travel costs, etc. By changing the content of the cartographic analogy, it aims at giving to the map its inherent heuristic power, which consists in making readable a complex space, and giving a space to look at, in order to understand the role of topologic transportation systems, the role of distance or the motivations of users.
Public policies regarding mobility emphasize the need of a modal shift from car transportation to public transit. Campus commuters use significantly more public transportation than car, which constitutes a first unordinary situation in Switzerland.
The application Commuting Scales shows that, considering travel times, there is a huge gap between the two transportation means, in favour of car transportation, which constitutes a second paradoxical situation. This gap is mainly due to public transit’s low frequencies. Changing the content of the cartographic analogy allows different visualizations to facilitate the depiction of these issues, and raises the idea that mapping a space participate to its creation by emphasizing its paradox. The cartographic application gives a new base ground for debate on mobility. It raises in particular the idea that mobility is not just about travel time but faces other challenges.
The “modal shift” towards pubic transit is already accomplished for the biggest part of commuters, despite the advantage of car transportation. The majority of these commuters may be students, who are not the richest part of the population. But here is a hiatus that should be the starting point of public policies design. The idea that car is still rooted in young swiss citizens lifestyles is outdated. Public policies are ambiguous because they encourage people to use a less efficient mobility mean, when they should acknowledge the fact that this “modal shift” is accomplished and should improve the efficiency of public transportation to prevent students from returning to car transportation.