Guest Post: Walking the Tunnelbana – Walking Times between Stockholm’s Subway Stations

As a masters student in the Sustainable Urban Planning and Design program at KTH, James Thoem is constantly trying to make sense of the landscapes around him. His interests have led him to work in youth mobility, urban agriculture and activism in both his native Toronto and current home, Stockholm. Follow James on Twitter.

Last week a video appeared online of Philip Thudén successfully racing the tunnelbana (Stockholm’s subway system, you may have seen photos) from Medborgarplatsen to Slussen. Quiet impressive. But Philip, if you’re reading this, I challenge you to #racethetube from Hallonbergen to Kista. While neighbours along the Akalla line, these two stations lay nearly 5km apart, 20-minute run if you’re fit, a one-hour walk if you’re hoofing it (These two stations are actually interrupted by an unused ghost station, but that’s a whole other post).

Philip’s video left me curious, if he could run from station to station before the train arrived, I wondered how other inter-station journeys compared, especially when compared across the city. I turned to Google Maps’ reliable walking directions to compute distance and time. I wish I could say that I walked each trip, but sadly that is not the case. After gathering the data, I then inserted the walk times between stations onto a standard SL Tunnelbana map. 

Walking distances from station to station along the entire Tunnelbana network by James Thoem

One of the key concerns this map raises is the disparity between inner city Stockholm and it’s outlying districts. To most Stockholmers this comes as no surprise. Eras of changing social, architectural and spatial thought, coupled with the city’s unique archipelagic topography have left the outer-city home to not only the bulk of the city’s underserved neighbourhoods, but also some of the least walkable landscapes. Stockholm’s The Walkable City plan somewhat addresses this issue, but these outer neighbourhoods would greatly benefit from further investment in connectivity.

Maximum4.8 km2.2 km4.8 km2.8 km
Minimum0.45 km0.45 km0.9 km0.6 km
Average1.36 km1.06 km1.64 km1.37 km

It’s also worth noting the distance between stations along different lines. Sometimes the lines can seem to be worlds apart, but when you get out into the neighbourhoods you may be surprised to find some stations surprisingly close. For simplicity and readability’s sake, I opted not to include these details on this map (Joachim Holmér’s map does a nice job of highlighting the actual geographic distances). But some surprisingly short walks worth mentioning are  Rådsmansgatan to Tekniska Högskolan (15 minutes), Kärrtorp to Sandsborg (19 minutes), Stadshagen to Thoridsplan (11 minutes) and Duvbo to Hallonbergen (18 minutes). 

But there are some more positive take-aways from this map. Often it seems as if the number one priority for subway riders is to completely tune out from their surroundings. While we’re in this little world, we often forget about the neighbourhoods zooming by overhead. It’s easy to forget that each and every stop is it’s own neighbourhood complete with it’s own stories, daily rituals, familiar faces and hidden gems. And often, regardless of whether you’re in the inner or outer city, it’s the spaces between the stations stops where you get a real taste for the area. So please, keep this map in mind next time you want to add a 20 minute walk to get your heart pumping, some fresh air and last remaining glimpses of sunlight before you (and the sun) settle in for the winter.

What does this map tell you? Please leave a comment for discussion.