Submission: Official Map, Seattle Central Link Light Rail
Submitted by Joshua Fan, who says:
This is an official map of Seattle’s Central Link light rail line, which opened in 2009. It appears in the official guide of all of Sound Transit’s services, which can be found in this PDF on the Sound Transit website (this map is on page 22). Frankly, I am quite disappointed in this map: it tries to both diagrammatic and geographical, but fails on both counts (which is a common mistake that you have pointed out on several previously-reviewed maps). Between stations, the map attempts to portray a semblance of geography on the line between stations, but the distances are incorrect: for example, the downtown stations at the north end are much farther apart on this map than they are in reality. The depiction of water is even worse: the map shows a lot of details in the shoreline, suggesting that it reflects the actual geography, but however the shape of the shoreline in the map is a really ugly distortion of the reality. I am curious about what you think about it!
Transit Maps says: The problem with this map is that it’s trying way too hard to make Seattle’s single line of light rail look more impressive than it really is. So it (unnecessarily) shows a lot of the twists and turns in the route and some pseudo-geographic coastline, and adds some optimistic information about the time it takes to get between key stations. It’s not the worst map out there, but it’s really pretty dull. Once North Link and East Link get added to the equation, things should start looking a little more exciting.
If I was drawing this map, I’d keep the big turns in the line: the kink eastward through Tukwila which then turns north to Rainier Beach, and the Beacon Hill tunnel: the rest, I’d straighten out completely. The weird kink south of Rainier Beach is totally extraneous on a map like this.
My main problem with the Seattle map will always be the icons used to mark each of the stations. Not only do they reproduce horribly at smaller sizes — like on this printed map — but the rationale behind them is the worst type of retroactive design-speak.
For those who don’t know, the idea is that “points of interest” near the station are plotted as “stars”, and from these stars, “constellations” created as the station icons. Conveniently, the points of interest always seem to fall just where required in order for something relevant to be designed for each station. Some very selective choosing of those “interesting” places, I think.
Here’s a link to a PDF that tells you more about the Constellations for those who are interested.