Infographic of the Day: Tracking Taxis Across Manhattan

So this infograhpic doesn’t necessarily deliver a brand-new message, but it’s pretty amazing nonetheless: The New York Times gathered GPS data from taxi cabs collected from January-March 2009, and mapped all the pick-ups and drop offs–thus creating a heat map of the city’s pulse.

What’s more, the map has been plotted over the course of the week, and you can watch a time-lapse view that shows activity ebbing and flowing in different neighborhoods, depending on what’s there. And you can also zoom in on eight select neighborhoods.

For example, here’s a shot of Penn Station–the city’s busiest taxi stand–on 7 p.m. Monday, when all the commuters are hustling to catch their trains home:

Meanwhile, here’s the Lower East Side, a haven for bars and restaurants, seven hours later:

Some background on the data, because it actually has some brilliant uses: Taxis began getting GPS about two years ago, as part of a tech modernization initiative–the idea being to better track cabbies and whether they were knocking off on the job, to figure out the best way to deploy the fleet, and also to create a way to track items accidentally left in cabs.

But as Flowing Data points out, Sense Networks took that data and added another brilliant application: They created CabSense, a free app for iPhone and Android–released last week–that tells you what corners are best for catching a cab, based on the time of day and your location. The Times infographic above is merely an animation of that same data.

It’s actually not the first time for this sort of visual experiment: In 2007, Stamen created the beautiful Cabspotting, looking at San Francisco’s cab traffic.