Official Map Update: Denver RTD Light Rail West Line
Transit Maps reviewed Denver’s light rail map way back in October 2011. We weren’t too impressed with it then, and nothing much has changed with this new edition that marks today’s opening of the new (aqua) West Line out to Golden.
The map itself has had to change orientation from portrait to landscape to fit the new route in, which raises the question of how it’s going to fit into existing fittings on trains and stations. The new format also seems to make a lot of the labels — especially those on the underlying street grid — very small and hard to read.
The route lines on the map are still very poorly dawn. Lines that run parallel to each other appear to have been drawn individually, rather than offsetting a master line with the tools available in most illustration software to ensure accuracy (Hint: in Illustrator, this would be the Object > Path > Offset Path command). As a result, there’s some very ugly and inconsistent gaps between routes in places. The curves are also generally badly drawn: the loop around the city would look so much better as a proper circular arc, while the sudden jog in the West Line at Federal Center looks positively dangerous for riders!
Finally, it looks as if the designer forgot to group all the roads together before reducing their opacity: it looks especially horrid where I-25 and I-225 intersect.
This is very much an interim map: the RTD’s FasTracks program is going to expand the passenger rail system in Denver hugely in the next few years — both light rail and commuter rail. However, that still doesn’t excuse sloppy work like this.
Our rating: Nothing’s really changed since last time in terms of execution or quality. Still two stars.
(Source: Official RTD website)
Official Map: Israel Railways Passenger Services, 2013
Originally sent to me as a photo by long-time reader and contributor, Sam Gold, I thought this map was interesting enough for a full review. It shows all the passenger rail services in Israel, which are divided into nine operational routes, plus a night route than runs the length of the main north-south trunk line.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Clear coding of the routes in attractive colours. The night service is handled deftly, with a distinct visual difference between it and the regular routes. The bilingual labeling is mostly nicely done, although a couple of stations at the southern end of the “Red Line” have their Roman script left-aligned when right-aligned would be more appropriate.
What we don’t like: The whole map feels a little disjointed to me. In a diagrammatic map like this, the main north-south trunk line from Nahariyya to Be’er Sheva really could be turned into a straight line — a strong visual axis that underpins everything else. Instead, it weaves uncertainly all over the place, leading to some awkward spacing between route lines and other elements
Stations that are recommended as interchanges have a bar linking all the lines, while other stations that serve multiple lines just have unconnected dots. I’d prefer to see them linked with a thin black line, just so it’s obvious that all the dots collectively belong to one station.
Although this is a diagrammatic map, the scale of some elements is very odd. Stations in Tel Aviv, which have to span across seven lines (plus the night line at Savidor Center), seem to take up half the width of the country, while the “Brown Line” from Be’er Sheva - North to Dimona — which is actually a 40-kilometre (25 mile) journey, appears to be a tiny shuttle trip, as its route line is only just longer than the distance shown between Be’er Sheva - North and Be’er Sheva - Central: a real-life distance of just over a kilometre!
Our rating: Serviceable enough, but visually, a whole lot more could be made of the main north-south trunk. Two stars.
(Source: Official Israel Railways website)
Official Map: Merseyrail Network, Liverpool, England
Submitted by ma77design, who says: I think it’s one of the most unattractive and horribly designed transit maps out there. It hasn’t been redesigned or reworked for a large number of years. It’s choice in colours is uninspiring and doesn’t really offer much to people using it.
Transit Maps says: While certainly not the worst transit map out there by any stretch of the imagination, this map is so bland and generic that it looks like it escaped from the cookie-cutter factory. There’s no major technical defects or horrible mistakes, but it’s just so… meh.
Aesthetically, things could be easily improved by rounding the corners where routes change direction and adopting a more contemporary colour palette (that yellow fare zone is pretty hard on the eyes). The part that needs the most work is definitely the table of station details underneath the actual map, which is pretty terrible. The table alone takes this down from a completely average (meh) score of 2.5 stars to a lowly two.
(Source: Official Merseyrail website)
Historical Map: Sydney Suburban Rail Network, 1969
Here’s an interesting map from my hometown of Sydney, Australia from around 1969. Unusually, it doesn’t display different services as separate coloured route lines: everything is shown as one uniform orange line. It also displays the distance from Sydney Central station (in miles), and the elevation (in feet) of each station. Non-electrified lines are shown as dashed lines. These odd features lead me to believe that this is a map for internal NSW Railways use, and was never intended for use by the general public.
Our rating: Of historical interest, but pretty bland and bare-bones. 2 stars.
Official Map: Metrô Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Here’s a map that’s going to be seen a lot by tourists over the next few years as Rio de Janeiro hosts both the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games. Will it stand up to such international scrutiny and join other transit maps as a definitive icon of its city?
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Suitably bright and exotic Brazilian colour scheme. Relatively clean and simple design.
What we don’t like: Poorly drawn route lines with some very uneven curves, which clash stylistically with the very straight “Subway Bus” route lines. Heavy-handed elements throughout the map, including very large and bold text for station names and enormous bicycle parking icons. Inconsistent placement of connection information: why is the “Cosme Velho” label placed below the station it connects to, when nearby stations have the label placed neatly to the side? Some absolutely hideous distorted text in the legend below the map.
Our rating: Not great. 2 stars.
(Source: Official Metrô Rio website)
Official Map: Denver RTD Light Rail
Here’s a transit map that can’t seem to make up its mind whether it is a rectilinear diagram or a geographically accurate map, and it ends up paying a price for that indecision. Overlaying the routes on a city-wide street grid can work well (see the Barcelona map posted previously), but here it seems to force the routes to be subservient to their geography, rather than the other way around. The labelling of the roads is also far too small to be really useful, and they often struggle to stand out from the oppressive grey background the map is placed on. There’s also some odd design choices, like placing the routes on the south-eastern leg out of alphabetical order: “H”, “E” and “F”, when it would be very easy to run the blue “H” line to the right of the red “F” line and maintain the correct order.
Have we been there? I’ve been to Denver, but haven’t ridden the train.
What we like: A nice, distinctive transfer station symbol works well and is a different approach to most other transit maps.
What we don’t like: A lack of craftsmanship in the drawing of the route lines. Spacing between the lines varies widely and curves are very uneven, creating a very slip-shod feel to the map. Extremely cramped downtown area and heavy-handed treatment of the free mall transfer bus service. Legend and fare boxes look very tacked on.
Our rating: It is clear and easy to understand, just unexciting and technically poor. Needs to evoke “Denver” a lot more to be truly successful. Two stars.
(Source: Official RTD site)