Highways Project Print Sample!
I got my first test print back from the printers today: a sample of the Texas map. Basically, I’m ecstatic with the way things are looking – all the research and effort I’ve put into this over the last one-and-a-half years is so, so worth it. Just a few more little behind the scenes things to put into place and I’ll be ready to share this project with you all.
Have I mentioned that I’m excited?
For comparison purposes, here’s some original concept work that shows the same area around San Antonio from way back in June 2012 – things have come a long way since then!
Proposed Map: Moscow Tram Network by nOne Digital & Branding Agency
Sent my way for comments by the agency, here’s a very slick proposal for a new map for Moscow’s tram network. As a westerner, I was only very dimly aware that Moscow even has a tram network (the Metro grabs the spotlight), but it’s actually the fourth most extensive such network in the world, with 181km of combined route length. The three larger networks are Berlin (190km), St. Petersburg (220km), and Melbourne, Australia (254km).
At first glance, the map looks a little spindly and hard to read, but the proposal makes it pretty clear that the full system map is meant to be printed BIG (see the second picture above), and will be supplemented by smaller, regional maps. The system is made up of two unconnected sub-networks, so this seems to make good sense.
With a staggering 48 routes to show, coming up with a colour palette that works is certainly a challenging task, but I think nOne has done a good job. They’ve basically run sequentially through the whole spectrum, but have cleverly modified the brightness of colours to provide the necessary contrast between adjacent routes. It does lead to some areas of the map taking on a more or less uniform colour — the second detail above is very pink/purple, for example — but the whole map passes the colour-blindness test surprisingly well, mainly because of that good contrast between adjacent routes.
Technically, the map is excellent, with smoothly drawn curves and consistently applied labels. There’s quite a few tight/unusual curves in the map, but they’re all handled very deftly, and the route lines flow really nicely from end to end. The treatment of terminus stops is lovely, with nice, big, easy to see route numbers and the direction of travel from that terminus indicated.
Interchanges with Metro stations are shown with both a bigger dot and the station’s name reversed out of the appropriate Metro Line colour. It might have been nice to also include the number of the Metro Line within the coloured box, just for that extra level of accessibility. Or would that cause confusion between Metro line numbers and tram line numbers? The decisions that designers have to make!
The Metro lines themselves are shown as a thinner line (lower down the information hierarchy), but I wonder if the map might be visually cleaner without them entirely: there’s a lot going on in this map! On such a schematic diagram, it might be enough to indicate where the tram routes interchange with the Metro without having to actually show the Metro’s path. Still, I can’t fault the technical execution!
Mention also of the proposed network logo, which is an even more stylised representation of the system combined with a bit of “heart” to make a distinctively colourful icon.
Our rating: More evidence that some of the best transit map design is coming out of Russia at the moment. Confident, technically excellent work that’s part of a larger, all-encompassing, rebranding proposal. Will be interested to see if this gets implemented. Four stars!
I talked about Sound Transit’s station icons in this review of the Link map that’s found in ST’s timetable book back in December 2012. Like you, I’m not particularly impressed by them. I think they’re overly detailed and they reproduce terribly at small sizes. They’re even kind of hard to make out on the strip maps on trains — becoming vague, blobby shapes — which is really not a good thing for an icon.
It’s kind of funny that in the questionnaire you reference above, Sound Transit uses Lance Wyman’s gorgeous Mexico City Metro icons as a point of reference, because they’re the absolute opposite of the Seattle icons — bold and simple, with each one being immediately visually distinctive from another.
However, icons are here to stay, as they’re mandated by Washington state law. From RCW 81.112.190 - Requirements for Signage:
The signage [for any light-rail system in Washington state] must also use distinguishing symbols or pictograms developed by the authority as a means to identify stations and may identify points of interest along the corridor for persons who use languages that are not Roman-alphabet based.
Seeing as Seattle is stuck with icons, you might as well try and get the best ones you can. If you like in Seattle and have an opinion, then you should take the survey — here’s a proper link to it.
Unofficial Map: Los Angeles Metro for the “Analogue Guide: Los Angeles”
Submitted by Stefan, who says:
I thought I’d share the Los Angeles Metro map that we designed for the Analogue Guide Los Angeles.
We always include “alternative” transit maps in our guide books, such Eddie Jabbour’s KickMap or Mark Noad’s Tubemap. In Los Angeles, given the sheer lack of maps, we designed one in-house.
It would be great to hear your thoughts on it!
Transit Maps says:
Thanks for sharing, Stefan! This is quite a neat piece of work that would seem to suit your needs very well. The design definitely fits in with the clean, minimalist look of the guide book itself! I’m never too certain about using Futura Condensed on a transit map myself, but it seems to be doing a good job here.
While concentrating on the central/downtown part of the city is probably perfect for what you cover in the guide, I’d personally still like to see some indication of the final destinations of each line: either as arrows pointing off the edge of the map, or incorporated into the legend at the top left. I also would have identified the lines by name in the legend, as LA has that weird mix of colour-named and destination-named lines (Expo and — soon — Crenshaw).
However, I do like the way you’ve incorporated the dates for the future openings of the various lines: it helps bring context to what is still an evolving and developing system.
Really minor typo: it’s “Light Rail”, not “Lightrail”.
Overall, I really like this map: it places the system on top of just enough geographical clues (the street grid, coastline,river and neighbourhood names) to allow for easy orientation — which is what a guide book should be all about, right?
Historical Maps: Railroad Spiral Tunnels of the Gotthardbahn, 1914
In my previous post, I mentioned that the map of the Gotthardbahn showed the spiral tunnels that the track uses to quickly change elevation in areas with limited space. Here are some fantastic maps of those spirals, taken from a 1914 German encyclopaedia and found on Wikipedia.
The maps show the spirals from north to south, with the distance in kilometres from the northern end of the line clearly shown along the route. The Gotthard Tunnel lies between the first and second map. The spirals are superb examples of late 19th-century ingenuity and engineering skill, still in use on the line today. The double loop around Wassen is considered one of the most photogenic spots along the route, offering three different views of the town’s lovely church as the line loops around the town.
Historical Map: Gotthardbahn (Switzerland and Italy), 1898
Here’s a beautiful Art Nouveau railway poster promoting the Gotthardbahn that links northern Italy with Switzerland and points north through the famous Gotthard Tunnel. At the time of opening in 1882, the tunnel was the longest railway tunnel in the world at 15 kilometres (9.3 miles).
The map shows the then privately-operated Gotthardbahn and its branch routes in thick black lines (the Swiss Railways incorporated the line into its national network in 1907). The tunnel is indicated by a dashed section, while the railroad spirals that the trains needed to quickly gain or lose elevation when space was limited are also indicated, although certainly not to scale!
The importance of this route to opening up European trade and passenger travel cannot be underestimated, and is well represented by the beautiful allegorical woman, standing atop a winged wheel — a symbol often used by European railway companies of the time — seemingly welcoming travellers from Italy to Switzerland, Germany and France.
Our rating: I’m an absolute sucker for Art Nouveau posters, and one that adds a railway map to the mix is always a winner in my eyes! Four stars.
(Source: Strange Maps website)
Photo: Here be Sea Monsters
Always thought there was something strange about Port Phillip Bay…
When catching a train to the bay, beware of the sea monster.
Reflected Berlin U- and S-Bahn map. I like this photo a lot.
You are here.
Official Map: Sydney Light Rail Network, 2014
Sydney’s light rail system is expanding this Thursday March 27, with an extension from the current outermost station at Lilyfield along an old freight rail alignment to Dulwich Hill.
Here’s the map of the “network” (can you call one line a network?) that’s now available on the Transport for NSW website. Stylistically, it’s been brought into line with the maps of the other Transport for NSW services, including that of the main Sydney Trains network.
Interestingly, the light rail line seems to have inherited the red colour that the main Sydney Trains map lost when the old Northern Line was rebranded as part of the Yellow “T1” line: I don’t know whether this is by design or coincidence.
The map is drawn well enough, showing the slightly circuitous route that the line takes through Pyrmont in a nicely stylised manner, but the whole thing just seems so… empty.
In a frankly baffling move, absolutely no indication is given of where the light rail interchanges with the main rail network — at Central (Sydney’s main railway station), Dulwich Hill, and (with a bit of a walk) at Lewisham West. Ferries are also easily accessible at the Pyrmont Bay station, and there are connections to bus services at many of the stations. A light rail line like this doesn’t exist in isolation: it’s a feeder service that creates and allows transit connections — why not show them, especially when there’s so much empty space on the map?
Our rating: Competent enough and in-keeping with the new Sydney transit design style, but needs to show better integration with other transit options to be truly useful. Two-and-a-half stars.
Source: Transport for NSW website
Official Map: Boston MBTA Government Center Station Closure Bypass
Submitted by Lawrence, who says:
As you’ve probably heard, the MBTA is about to close Government Center at the end of service tomorrow for a 2 year reconstruction. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the detour maps the T created and have put in stations. To me (a self-confessed transit geek), they seem adequate, but all of my friends find them very confusing. This leads to a broader question: how should transit agencies map and market necessary detours like this? What could be done to improve this? Thanks!
Transit Maps says:
Lawrence, I think you’re being extremely generous when you say that this is an “adequate” map. For me, it takes a pretty simple concept and obfuscates it with so much confusing and unnecessary information that it becomes difficult to decipher.
The idea behind the map is to show riders alternative ways to change between the Green and Blue Lines while Government Center (the natural interchange between these lines) is closed for the next two years. The MBTA’s own project webpage says this, which actually sums things up pretty succinctly:
The recommended path of travel for Green Line customers desiring access to the Blue Line is to travel to Haymarket Station and transfer to the Orange Line toward Forest Hills (southbound). Customers should transfer at State Station for Blue Line connections.
The recommended path of travel for Blue Line customers desiring access to the Green Line is to travel to State and transfer to the Orange Line toward Oak Grove (northbound). Customers should then transfer at Haymarket for Green Line connections.
It’s not exactly convenient — requiring two connections instead of the previous one — but the concept is pretty easy to understand: transfer at Haymarket and State.
You can also walk pretty easily between Park Street and State to achieve a Blue/Green transfer (I’d suggest it would actually take far less time to do this than to transfer trains twice), but the MBTA isn’t doing you any favours if you do. Unless you have an unlimited weekly or monthly pass, you’ll have to pay again to re-enter the system, which doesn’t really seem very fair in the circumstances. An act of good faith from the MBTA might be to allow out-of-system transfers at Park Street and State for the duration of the project (within a reasonable time frame, of course).
So, now that we know what the map is trying to convey, let’s see how it does.
My first — and biggest — problem with the map is the seemingly random way that it depicts the subway lines: all the lines that leave the central map area are ghosted back, except the Blue Line. Why is it shown differently? Why are any of them ghosted back at all? Ghosting a route line back like that can imply that service on that line is suspended or otherwise not operating, which is not true for any of these lines.
It’s particularly confusing for the Blue Line between State and Bowdoin, because it makes it look like all Blue Line services terminate at State. In fact, trains will continue to run through Government Center (without stopping) to Bowdoin, which will operate full-time during this project, instead of its normal limited operating hours.
The other big problem: the repetition of the station “T” icons to show secondary entrances to stations. For someone unfamiliar with Boston (hello, tourists!) these could reasonably be confused for actual, separate stations (which don’t really exist).
The entrance to State station at the Old South Meeting House is the worst offender: the denoted walking path from Park Street leads directly to a labelled “T” marker that’s almost exactly halfway between Downtown Crossing and State — looks like a station to me! The only indication for the uninitiated that this is an entrance to State is that the ring around the “T” shares that station’s blue and orange colour-coding. To my mind, the walking path should continue all the way to State through the marker. And of course, replacing the entrance “T” markers with their own, unique icon would remove any chance for confusion. An icon should never represent two separate, unrelated things!
The arrows used to represent the possible alternate routes do a solid — if unspectacular — job, but they’re surrounded by so much visual confusion that it’s hard to trust what they’re saying. It’s actually kind of frightening that two paragraphs of text on the MBTA website can do a better job of explaining the bypass than this map can — a visual medium should really be able to explain this so much more clearly than a text-based or verbal solution ever could.
In conjunction with the project webpage, which is actually pretty comprehensive, this map is just about tolerable. But for someone coming across it in a station with no other knowledge of the project — it’s awfully hard work.
(Source: MBTA Project webpage)