Official Map: New Jersey Transit Rail System
This morning, an interesting tweet came across my desk: “NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein unveils new customer friendly rail system map at today’s board meeting” with a link to the new map. Always eager to check out a new transit map, I clicked through… and was incredibly underwhelmed by what I saw.
Far from being the paradigm of customer friendliness that was promised, this map comes across as sad, tired and amateur. It seems to have taken elements from many different transit maps and mashes them into one big mess. We have the thick route lines and giant circle transfer stations of Washington, DC Metro, icons for the lines similar to - but nowhere nearly as well executed - the Lisbon Metro, and different station symbols for each and every mode of transit.
Admittedly, this map faces some unusual challenges in that it shows a state-wide system, rather than just a smaller city. Because of this, some semblance of geography and distance between stations has to be shown. However, I feel that there has to be a better solution than this, where the light rail systems around Hoboken and Newark are crammed into a tiny space with miniscule station names, while vast amounts of space remain empty throughout the rest of the state.
The stylised geography also troubles me - what exactly happens to the Delaware River when it gets to Port Jervis? And why do we need to see the vast empty bottom part of the state, especially when it cuts an ugly swathe across the informational text at the base of the map.
Have we been there? Yes - I’ve caught the train from Newark Airport into New York Penn Station.
What we like: Ambitious scope, attempting to show all rail services in the state of New Jersey - NJ Transit, PATH, light rail systems, as well as an indication of connecting services in neighbouring states - MTA, SEPTA and stations serviced by Amtrak. This is the first real transit map I’ve seen with a QR code on it - I wonder what it does?
What we don’t like: Unfortunately, despite its best intentions, this map is hideous. Almost everything - from the icons and colours chosen for the main routes, to the typography, to the clumsy treatment of the geography, to the enormous circles used for transfer stations, even the spacing of the stations - looks amateur and poorly thought out. Suffers even more from having to include every logo of every separate transit agency.
Our rating: A hugely wasted opportunity to create something memorable and exciting. One-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official NJ Transit website - PDF)