Future Map: Washington, DC “Silver Line” Draft Map
Long time readers will be aware of my low opinion of the Washington DC Metro Rail map — here’s a fairly scathing review of the "Rush+" map (March 2012, 2.5 stars) to refresh your memory.
It looks like WMATA is preparing for the opening of the Silver Line and has put a draft version of a new map up on MindMixer for comments. According to the blurb there, the route lines are now thinner and station names are now treated more consistently. The other obvious visual change is the introduction of a new station symbol (one with thin “whisker” extensions) to accommodate the three routes that will now run across the middle of the map. Let’s discuss all of these in turn.
The route lines may be thinner, but only barely. Probably not enough to make any useful difference to the map. While the playful thickness of the route lines are very much an identifying feauture of the WMATA map, it’s now becoming a liability to its usefulness. The extra space required to accommodate the Silver Line through Foggy Bottom and Farragut West means that the six stations on the northwest leg of the Red Line inside the District have to be crammed into a ridiculously tight space — far tighter than anywhere else on the map. I always feel that a diagrammatic map like this has to strive for even and harmonious spacing across the entire map… and this map simply doesn’t do that well any more.
The new treatment of station names includes “consistent street abbreviations across the map”, which should be a good thing: it’s always better to choose either “Avenue” or “Ave” and stick with that choice across the whole map. However, “Hgts” is a visually awful abbreviation for “Heights” and is included for the sole purpose of making “Columbia Hgts” fit on one line without conflicting with the “Van Ness-UDC” label. “Ctr” is an equally terrible abbreviation for “Center”, and doesn’t actually seem to bring any real space-saving benefits to the map.
The new “whiskered” station symbol just feels forced and unnecessary to me. It introduces a third station symbol, even though hierarchically, it means exactly the same as the plain station circle that already exists. An elongated “pill” symbol with the same cap radius as the normal circle would work a lot better in my opinion. Or — narrow down the route lines until the normal circle symbol can touch all three.
At the moment, this map is only a work in progress, but I’m not exactly impressed by any of the new design decisions.