Official Map: ART Bus System, Asheville, North Carolina

Submitted by Matthew Frazier, who says:

This is the new system map for ART, or Asheville Redefines Transit (a rather interesting name for a transit agency), from Asheville, North Carolina. I think this is a nice format for bus maps, balancing the stronger need for geographical accuracy with the simplicity of traditional rail maps.

(Though I do find it amusing that the “South” route S2 ends further north than it begins.)

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Transit Maps says:

I think this map is the perfect counterpoint to the abysmal Des Moines DART map I featured earlier in week. It shows that it is possible for a smaller city to produce a visually attractive and useful transit map if they try hard enough. For the record, the populations of the greater Des Moines and Asheville regions are very similar: around 500,000 to 430,000 respectively, so we’re comparing apples to apples here.

In Asheville’s case, they went to the professionals for help rather than trying to do it alone with limited resources. This map was designed by Carticulate Maps, who always put a lot of creative thought into their transit maps — a good match for a system whose acronym is “ART”.

So what do they do right?

Excellent color choices for their route lines: there’s lots of contrast between adjacent routes with little chance of confusion. And while the layout of the map is geographically based, irrelevant information (noise) has been stripped out. We don’t need to see every street in the city, but enough remain for quick and easy orientation. The streets that are on the map are clearly labelled and lots of actual bus stops are indicated along routes, which is so much more useful than just a blank route line.

A comprehensive and easily understood legend that fully explains the map. Route designations that make sense to the average commuter help a lot here as well: “N” routes serve the northetn part of the city, “S” routes go south, and so on.

Intelligent use of insets to show the ends of outlying 170 and S3 routes keeps the map nice and compact, and the downtown inset is nicely implemented as well.

My problems with this map are fairly minor: There’s a fair bit of randomly angled type which makes quick scanning of the labels a little hard, and I’ve never been a huge fan of Gill Sans for map labelling: it has a very small x-height which makes the type appear very small.

Our rating: Top notch: imaginative and useful cartography. Four stars. 

4 Stars!

P.S. For an example of a great diagrammatic bus system map produced by a small US city, check out this Spokane, WA map. (Feb. 2012, 4 stars)

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