Historical Map: Boston Commuter Rail, 1976

Here’s a fine piece of mid-1970s transit map design, showing Boston’s extensive commuter rail network. Its style is definitely in line with other North American maps of this period, including this one of Philadelphia’s SEPTA system from 1980 - sharp lines and clean typography were the order of the day back then, it seems.

Have we been there? I’ve been to Boston, but haven’t used the commuter rail system.

What we like: Clean, clear and simple. The use of the subway lines to show the extent of Boston itself is nicely handled - and even though it’s very graphically simple, there’s a couple of nice touches: the notch in the Red Line to show where the Mattapan line begins, and the thinning of the route lines for the street-running parts of the Green Line.

What we don’t like: Perhaps a missed opportunity to better indicate connections to the subway, especially at North Station, where the Green and Orange Lines both connect. As it is, it looks equally likely that the Blue Line also has a connection at North Station. However, as this is a commuter rail map, this is a minor consideration.

Some spacing issues with stations on the Rockport Line - it may be more accurate, but cramps up some names a bit too much.

Our rating: I really enjoy the simple, stark nature of mid-1970s maps, and feel there’s a lot of lessons that can be learned by current designers from them. Less can be more. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: jimboyle93/Flickr)

Additional: Here’s what the same map looked like by the mid-1980s.

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