Fine particulate matter in Vienna’s subway

Country/area: Austria

Organisation: Quo Vadis Veritas / Addendum.org

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2 Mar 2020

Credit: Markus Hametner, Danijel Beljan, Gerald Gartner

Project description:

Fine particulate matter harms human health. Based on a study and additional data (which we collected), we show which subway lines expose commuters to high values of PM2.5 particles.

Impact reached:

The story was quoted in larger, more established yellow press media. The transport company, which did not provide us with any statements, ended up providing statements to larger media outlets.


Techniques/technologies used:

While most of the data we used was kindly provided by scientists who had published an analysis, we measured additional data using PM2.5 sensors, which we manually digitized. We analyzed the data in R and created data visualizations using javascript, SVG and d3, and an in-house scrollytelling framework.


What was the hardest part of this project?

We were intent on showing the Vienna subway map overlaid with measurement data, and then highlighting and “flattening” each line. Technically, this transition was the hardest part. Getting access to a PM2.5 sensor on a short notice (to validate our story and allow us to control for air conditioning on all relevant subway lines) and cleaning the raw measurement data was also a challenge.


Journalistically, reporting on the story correctly required lots of back-and-forth with scientists working on the fine particulate matter issue.


What can others learn from this project?

Gathering your own data often makes the better story.


Project links:


translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=www.addendum.org/feinstaub/u-bahn-feinstaub-belastung/ — google translate seems to work fine for translation if you use the Chrome browser