Historical Map: Boston Rapid Transit Map in Type 6 Mock-up Carriage, c. 1968
Here’s a variant Boston MBTA map I’ve never seen before: a version with 60-degree angled lines, instead of 45 degrees. Apart from that, it looks very much like the standard late-1960s/early 1970s Cambridge 7 spider map, although there’s some weird inconsistencies like the Green Line “A” Watertown branch (closed 1968) and Quincy Center (opened 1971) on the same map.
Here’s the interesting part. This map lives in the one and only mock-up of an MBTA “Type 6” train carriage at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. This wooden mock-up was created in 1968 by MBTA engineers to allow stakeholders and the public to judge the design’s layout and comfort, but the carriage was eventually deemed too expensive to produce. The MBTA ended up procuring the (incredibly unreliable) Boeing-Vertol LRTs instead. So… this map may actually be as unique as the mock-up that houses it: the only one of its kind. If anyone knows anything more about this variant, I’d love to hear about it!
Here’s an animated GIF you can show to those people who say the new MBTA map looks “just like the old one”. The clarity of design is so much better, even at this reduced size.
Historical Map: Boston Rapid Transit Map, early 1980s
Submitted by “Some Assembly Required” who says:
I’ve been enjoying your site for some time and recently remembered that I have an old MBTA system map in my basement. It came into my possession via a roommate over 20 years ago; I’m not sure how that person came to have it, but it probably wasn’t entirely legal. It’s a piece of metal (some sort of tin?) so I believe it was removed from a station.
Based on what is and isn’t on the map, I believe it dates to the early 1980s.
Transit Maps says:
You own this? JEALOUS.
(And your dating seems to be about right; definitely no later than
Historical Map: Original 1967 Boston MBTA “Spider” Map with 1980s Additions
The minor additions are the lengthening of two names on the Red Line to later versions — “Kendall” becomes “Kendall/MIT” and “Charles” is now “Charles/MGH”. No problems there. The real eye-opener is the addition of the Red Line extension past Harvard to Alewife. The sticker used has discoloured relative to the rest of the map, so the amendment is very easy to spot.
Now, this extension was fully open in 1985, so let’s date the additions to then. The rest of the map still dates from 1967, so huge parts of it are now horribly out of date. Green Line “A” branch to Watertown? Closed in 1969. Orange Line Charlestown Elevated to Everett? Demolished in 1975. Nothing shown for the Braintree branch of the Red Line, which was well and truly open for service by 1985.
The southern leg of the Orange Line — the Washington Street Elevated — is still accurate for this time period, as it wasn’t torn down until 1987. And we’ll give the “E” branch extending to Arborway and “Washington” station the benefit of the doubt: they both changed in 1985 as well. Still, this map must have been totally confusing for anyone trying to actually use it to get around!
(Source: Boston Andy on Twitter)
Unofficial Map: Boston “T” Map Made From Pipe Cleaners
In a similar vein to this London Tube Map made from paperclips, here’s a perfect little Boston “T” map made from other innocuous household objects. Created by the very talented Andy Woodruff of Axis Maps and Bostonography, who obviously had way too much spare time on his hands one day.
Historical Map: MBTA Keychain,
c.1980-1984, c. 1978-1979
Submitted by dinnerkettle, who says:
Inherited this MBTA keychain from my aunt recently. There’s no exact date on it, but it was definitely made before the red line got extended past Harvard and before some other stops got renamed.
Transit Maps says:
What a great piece of transit map-related ephemera! The best I can date it is after 1980 (when Braintree opened; an arrow points to it at the bottom right of the map), but before 1984 (when the Red Line extended past Harvard to Porter). Also of interest is the extension of the “E” branch of the Green Line all the way to Arborway: this was cut back to Heath Street in 1985.
While obviously based on the classic Cambridge Seven Associates “spider map” that first appeared in 1968, there’s a very curious misspelling of Northampton station as Northhampton (note the extra “h”), which makes me believe that this was produced by a third party vendor under license from the MBTA.
It also looks like the artwork was screen printed in five separate colours: red, green, blue and yellow/orange for the route lines and black for the stations and type. The Blue Line is registered terribly, almost completely missing the station markers along it.
UPDATE: David Sindel’s comment below and a little more sleuthing leads me to revise the date to c. 1978-1979. “Columbia” instead of “JFK/UMass” definitely dates it prior to 1982, and his reasoning about the alternate Harvard stations in the early 1980s is sound.
But the kicker is actually in the map itself, which uses black dots for the stations. By 1980, all stations except the four main interchange stations in the middle of the map were shown using white dots, and the western end of the Red Line had been flipped up at a 45 degree angle.
My Boston T map used in “The Last of Us” PS3 game without permission or payment
UPDATE, TUESDAY JUNE 25, 1:00pm: I’ve just spoken with Naughty Dog over the phone in a very constructive conversation. Can’t say more at the moment, but it seems as if matters will be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction shortly. I can say that they do acknowledge their error in using my map and were very apologetic for it. I likewise apologised for my initial vitriolic post. A lot of mutual respect for each other’s creative work.
It’s been a hell of a last couple of days: thanks for the support from many, and the interesting and varied comments from most.
Hopefully, back to regularly scheduled Transit Maps content soon!
Unofficial Map: MBTA Map Contest Entry by Michael Kvrivishvili
Here’s another entry for the MBTA’s map contest, sent to me by Michael Kvrivishvili, a graphic and interactive designer from Moscow.
Michael has chosen to show all of the services on his map that the MBTA does on their map — subway, BRT, commuter rail, key bus routes and ferries. He pulls it off pretty well, too, although the convoluted network of bus routes is always going to look a little busy.
Like Kerim, Michael’s map features a perfect diamond representing the downtown interchange stations, and he also manages to fit in all the Green Line stations.If it wasn’t for the little flip in the Red Line to Braintree, he’d also have a perfectly straight diagonal line across the map! Despite these similarities, the two maps are really quite different.
Much like the current Washington DC map, Michael has added badges to the end of each line that denotes that line’s name — ”OL” for Orange Line, and so on — an excellent aid for color-blind users of the system. He also adds the full name of the line in very small text within each line, which seems redundant and is also far too small to be of any real use.
For the most part, Michael’s handling of the commuter rail lines is well done: they’re obviously lower in the information hierarchy than the main subway lines, but still look attractive. Again, the ends of the commuter rail lines feature some lovely and unusual arrowheads — I love this sort of attention to detail. The one place the map is not as clear as it could be is at Readville station. The Fairmount Line terminates at this station, while trains on the Franklin Line stop, but trains on the Stoughton/Providence Line pass through without stopping. On Michael’s map. the Franklin Line looks like a continuation of the Fairmount Line (which isn’t named on the map), and there’s no visual indication that Stoughton/Providence trains don’t stop here.
There’s more usability problems with the Silver Line at Logan Airport. Michael shows all the stops, but he doesn’t show how the route loops around. From the information shown on the map, a reader might expect that once the bus reaches the end of the line at Terminal E, it reverses back along the line, stopping at the other terminals again along the way. A similar problem is evident with the end of the SL2 line at Design Center (also a loop in real life).
Interestingly, Michael has chosen to show non-accessible stations on the map, rather than accessible ones. This actually works quite well at cleaning up the central part of the map, where there are more accessible stations than non-accessible ones.
A few other thoughts: the legend at the bottom of the map is beautifully laid out; the subway to bus/commuter rail symbol is subtle but effective; and the bus routes are generally pretty well done. Also, the Silver Line makes a big capital “B” in the middle of the map!
Our rating: Really quite good. The few shortcomings are probably due to Michael’s unfamiliarity with the system and look like they could be easily fixed. Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Email from Michael, also on Flickr)
Unofficial Map: Kerim Bayer’s MBTA Map Contest Entry
While I’m personally not too keen on the MBTA’s map contest, I totally respect the rights of those who still wish to participate. As they’ve told me in conversation, kudos and recognition can be very strong reasons for less experienced or amateur designers to enter. A couple of those designers have sent their entries in to me to review and share with you — this one’s from Kerim Bayer, who also produced this rather striking map of Istanbul’s rapid transit system (June 2012, 4 stars).
To my mind, it’s definitely an improvement on the current map. The removal of the key bus routes helps to create a much cleaner look, although at the obvious loss of that information. The alignment of the Red Line — a strong, straight, diagonal slash across the map — provides a powerful visual axis, as does the perfect diamond formed by the major downtown interchanges (a device very reminiscent to the perfect square seen on older MBTA maps). Kerim has also managed to fit all stations on the Green Line branches into the perfect square required by the MBTA — a formidable achievement indeed!
The white stroke on the commuter rail and Mattapan lines help to differentiate these services from the main subway routes nicely and attractively (I love the arrowheads at the ends of the commuter rail lines), although I think the device is less successful when used on the Green Line. While it’s true that the B, C and D branches of the Green Line do act more like streetcars in the sections indicated, does having this information on the map actually help the viewer in any way? You still stay on the same train from one end of the branch to the other without the need to change trains like you would on the Mattapan line at Ashmont. One could also argue that the D branch also runs on the “surface”, as do portions of the Orange and Blue lines, albeit in specialised rail corridors.
While the typeface used is a lovely, modern sans serif font — Bariol, a welcome and interesting break from the ubiquitous Helvetica — I would say that much of the labelling on the map is too small: Kerim’s Instanbul map also suffered from this. It certainly adds to the clean look of the map, but diminishes its usability — especially when viewed from a distance, as it would often be in the real world at stations.
While Kerim has managed to show all of the stops on the Silver Line 2 BRT route out to Design Center, he has condensed all the Logan Airport stops into one blanket “mega-station”. Knowing that the bus stops at all of the terminals (and actually has two stops at the “B” terminal) as well as the direction it loops around the terminal road is necessary information and — to my mind — really needs to be included in some form.
Our rating: Stylish, clean and modern-looking. The type is a little too small to be easily readable, and some important information is lacking. Three stars.
(Source: via email conversation with Kerim)
Topology versus Geography in Transit Maps
Here’s a nice little animated diagram from Fathom Information Design that compares the two polar opposites of transit mapping using Boston’s MBTA rail network as an example. Click through to play around with it, and see the benefits and drawbacks of the two approaches. It’s also super fun to watch the map morph between the two styles.
In real life, most transit maps fall somewhere between these two extremes: very few use such a strict topological grid, and completely geographically accurate maps are also very rarely used for this purpose — even the New York subway map has a certain level of simplification and abstraction.