Historical Map: “Opening Day” Washington, DC Metro Map, 1976

Directly related to yesterday’s post, here’s an even older map of the Washington, DC Metro — this one is from an informational pamphlet released for the March 29, 1976 opening of the first part of the system, and is clearly dated at he bottom right.

Inexplicably, the Red Line is a dark burgundy colour, while the Orange Line is shown as red, even though they’re both clearly labelled correctly in the legend. How a printing error of this magnitude occurred is beyond me: with four-colour printing, you’d have to add about 40 percent more magenta ink to turn orange into red, and turning red into burgundy requires the addition of a lot of black ink where absolutely none should exist. Totally bizarre!

In another difference from yesterday’s map, you can see that neither Dupont Circle or Gallery Place are open for business yet.

Finally, long time correspondent Matt Johnson — who knows more about the Washington Metro than I ever will — has sent in some interesting information regarding some of the alignments shown on these old maps.  I noted yesterday that these old maps don’t have the distinctive kink in the Yellow/Green line near U Street — Matt tells me that’s because at this time there wasn’t planned to be one.

As shown, the plan was for the Green and Yellow Lines to continue directly north from 7th Street into Georgia Avenue (the northern extension of 7th Street) to Kansas Avenue and then on to the current alignment at Fort Totten. Later changes pushed the alignment across to 14th Street and then along New Hampshire Avenue to Fort Totten. And thus, a distinctive visual feature of the modern map was born (and here was I thinking that they put it in to accommodate the ridiculous length of U Street station’s current name!)

Matt also notes that the southern end of the Green Line was changed over time to something of a “hybrid” alignment. Originally, he says, the Green Line was to go to Rosecroft via Congress Heights. By the 1970s, that had changed, and the new plan was to send the line to Branch Avenue via Alabama Avenue, as shown on this map.

However, a lawsuit was brought that WMATA had not held public hearings in the DC area, and as a result a hybrid alignment was chosen. In DC, the line went via Congress Heights (as if it was going to Rosecroft). In Prince George’s the line headed for Branch Avenue. At the District Line, there’s a kink to connect the two different alignments.

Strangely, that kink only appeared on the official map with the recent Rush+ revision, even though it’s always physically been there!

(Source: later in the same Subchat.com thread from yesterday)

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.

Historical Map: Sydney Rail Transport System, c. 1970-1976

Here’s another interesting planning map from Sydney, Australia, showing a vision for the future that never quite got there.

If you look to the far centre right of the map, you can see the planned Eastern Suburbs line… including a never-built extension from the (now current) end of the line at Bondi Junction to Kingsford. There’s also an extra station at Woollahra in the section that did finally get built.

It’s these details that allow me to date the map fairly accurately: it’s post-1970, as the distances are in kilometres, not miles, but before 1976, which is when the extension to Kingsford was scrapped.

Have we been there? A little early for my time in Sydney (we moved there from Armidale in 1979).

What we like: A fascinating glimpse of what might have been. Although I’m not sure it’s intended, the thickness of the route lines throughout the system seem to act as an indicator of service frequency - something that is being seen more on modern transit maps. The old NSW Rail “arrow of indecision” is a pretty awesome 1970s logo.

What we don’t like: Pretty rough and ready, with distances being pasted on wherever they would fit. Not really for general consumption.

Our rating: Of historical interest for the vision of the Eastern Suburbs line alone, but doesn’t look great. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

(Source: davemail66/Flickr)