Historical Map: 1980 Spokane Transit System Tourmap

Check out this eye-poppingly bright bus map from Spokane, Washington, brought to my attention by Zachary Ziegler of the Transit 509 blog. Produced by a local design firm, this seems to be the first attempt at any sort of bus map in Spokane. It’s notable for the interesting way that the route lines overprint each other when they cross, which creates an interesting sort of plaid pattern where many routes meet downtown. Adorable little colour-coded buses can be seen traversing the routes, and there are some simple drawings of notable landmarks scattered around the map as well. I’d hazard a guess that the route lines were actually created with some kind of adhesive film cut to shape: you can see the rough joins where some routes change direction. This would have been much quicker than drawing all the route lines by hand (we’re still quite a few years before computers in design here).

Our rating: A swell little bit of 1980s ephemera, but looking fairly dated and clumsy by today’s standards. Lots of clip art (love the girl in the bikini repeated for every swimming pool in town!) and really, really bright colours. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

Compare to the current Spokane bus map by CHK America (February 2012, 4 stars).

Source: Transit509 website (go here for more info on the map)

Submission: Transportation in the Backwaters of Kerala, India

Submitted by Jim McNeill, who says:

Kerala in southern India is famed for its backwaters, a popular holiday destination for people to cruise in rented houseboats. I was amazed to see a transit map of the area, and not a bad one at that. I was impressed at the attempt to show road, train, boat and air all on the same map. Granted it’s not perfect, the ferry crossings become maze like in the centre and there are some awkward angles in the south, but overall I was impressed.

——

Transit Maps says:

It’s not the world’s most beautiful transit map, but I’m as impressed as Jim by the map’s intent: one map showing all the transportation options available in the Backwaters of Kerala — a huge area covered by lakes, lagoons, rivers and canals, sometimes compared to the Mississippi Bayous.

One thing the map doesn’t really do is give an idea of the scale of the area shown: it’s around 140km (86 miles) by road from Kollam at the bottom of the map to Kochi near the top. It’s only when you read the notes on the map and see that a ferry trip from Kollam to Allappuzha (not even as far as Kochi) will take seven hours to complete that you start to get an idea of what we’re dealing with here. Some context in the form of the large lakes that the canals join together would be helpful in this regard. 

I’d also agree that the maze-like representation of the ferry routes in the middle isn’t very helpful, although it seems that Allappuzha is the main hub and ferries from elsewhere all end up there eventually. Another thing to note is that India has officially-designated National Waterways, much like National Highways — the main water route through this area is National Waterway 3, and is clearly marked as such on the map.

Our rating: Not beautiful, and not really that great for ferry route-finding. But in the end, it’s quite a nice little overview of transportation in the Kerala region as a whole. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

Official Map: Sydney Light Rail Network, 2014

Sydney’s light rail system is expanding this Thursday March 27, with an extension from the current outermost station at Lilyfield along an old freight rail alignment to Dulwich Hill.

Here’s the map of the “network” (can you call one line a network?) that’s now available on the Transport for NSW website. Stylistically, it’s been brought into line with the maps of the other Transport for NSW services, including that of the main Sydney Trains network.

Interestingly, the light rail line seems to have inherited the red colour that the main Sydney Trains map lost when the old Northern Line was rebranded as part of the Yellow “T1” line: I don’t know whether this is by design or coincidence.

The map is drawn well enough, showing the slightly circuitous route that the line takes through Pyrmont in a nicely stylised manner, but the whole thing just seems so… empty.

In a frankly baffling move, absolutely no indication is given of where the light rail interchanges with the main rail network — at Central (Sydney’s main railway station), Dulwich Hill, and (with a bit of a walk) at Lewisham West. Ferries are also easily accessible at the Pyrmont Bay station, and there are connections to bus services at many of the stations. A light rail line like this doesn’t exist in isolation: it’s a feeder service that creates and allows transit connections — why not show them, especially when there’s so much empty space on the map?

Our rating: Competent enough and in-keeping with the new Sydney transit design style, but needs to show better integration with other transit options to be truly useful. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

Source: Transport for NSW website

Official Map: Brussels Integrated Transit Map
One of the most requested maps so far — thanks to thecitygeek, bjorkborg, Mladen Stilinovic and a couple of anonymous readers for sending this my way!
According to my correspondents, Brussels has recently switched from a geographical transit map to this new diagrammatic map. As you can see by comparing the two images of the centre of the city above, a lot of streamlining and simplification has taken place. The first thing that strikes me is the way that many bus routes have either been removed or have been condensed or “collapsed” into a single route line with a common label, simplifying the map immensely. The place where this is really obvious is at Gare du Nord/Noordstation, which now only has six route numbers listed next to it, compared to thirty-six on the previous map!
Major interchanges are now denoted by an enclosing ring, suggesting that all stops at that interchange — be they bus, tram or Metro — are in close proximity to each other. The Paris Metro map uses a very similar device at interchanges between modes.
However, while the map is a huge improvement over the crowded mess of the previous geographical map, it’s certainly not perfect.
The labelling — which admittedly has to overcome the requirement of being bilingual — is a bit haphazard in its application, with some labels for one station overlapping that of another in parts. Major station labels waste a lot of space when there’s only one or two route numbers listed under the station’s name.
Each and every route line is outlined in black, regardless of its colour, which gives a very heavy, cumbersome feel to the map. Normally, only very light coloured routes (yellow or light blues, for example) need this treatment, so I’m not sure why it was deemed necessary here. Also, while the difference in line thickness between trams and buses seems obvious in the legend, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart on the actual map when multiple routes are butting up to each other (Hint: stops on bus routes are ever so slightly wider than the route line — way too subtle for easy mode differentiation!)
The icons for points of interest are all so very generic and bland.
Finally, the colours used on the map seem very simplistic and cartoon-like, stopping the map from having a harmonious, unified feel. Both the green used for parkland and the blue used for water are way too strong and vivid: they compete with the route lines for attention, becoming a distraction.
Our rating: Better than what came before, but still not great. Despite all the reworking, it’s still very cluttered and confusing. The new Ile-de-France Regional Rail map sets the standard for this type of map, and this falls well short. Two-and-a-half stars.

(Source: Official STIB website) Official Map: Brussels Integrated Transit Map
One of the most requested maps so far — thanks to thecitygeek, bjorkborg, Mladen Stilinovic and a couple of anonymous readers for sending this my way!
According to my correspondents, Brussels has recently switched from a geographical transit map to this new diagrammatic map. As you can see by comparing the two images of the centre of the city above, a lot of streamlining and simplification has taken place. The first thing that strikes me is the way that many bus routes have either been removed or have been condensed or “collapsed” into a single route line with a common label, simplifying the map immensely. The place where this is really obvious is at Gare du Nord/Noordstation, which now only has six route numbers listed next to it, compared to thirty-six on the previous map!
Major interchanges are now denoted by an enclosing ring, suggesting that all stops at that interchange — be they bus, tram or Metro — are in close proximity to each other. The Paris Metro map uses a very similar device at interchanges between modes.
However, while the map is a huge improvement over the crowded mess of the previous geographical map, it’s certainly not perfect.
The labelling — which admittedly has to overcome the requirement of being bilingual — is a bit haphazard in its application, with some labels for one station overlapping that of another in parts. Major station labels waste a lot of space when there’s only one or two route numbers listed under the station’s name.
Each and every route line is outlined in black, regardless of its colour, which gives a very heavy, cumbersome feel to the map. Normally, only very light coloured routes (yellow or light blues, for example) need this treatment, so I’m not sure why it was deemed necessary here. Also, while the difference in line thickness between trams and buses seems obvious in the legend, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart on the actual map when multiple routes are butting up to each other (Hint: stops on bus routes are ever so slightly wider than the route line — way too subtle for easy mode differentiation!)
The icons for points of interest are all so very generic and bland.
Finally, the colours used on the map seem very simplistic and cartoon-like, stopping the map from having a harmonious, unified feel. Both the green used for parkland and the blue used for water are way too strong and vivid: they compete with the route lines for attention, becoming a distraction.
Our rating: Better than what came before, but still not great. Despite all the reworking, it’s still very cluttered and confusing. The new Ile-de-France Regional Rail map sets the standard for this type of map, and this falls well short. Two-and-a-half stars.

(Source: Official STIB website) Official Map: Brussels Integrated Transit Map
One of the most requested maps so far — thanks to thecitygeek, bjorkborg, Mladen Stilinovic and a couple of anonymous readers for sending this my way!
According to my correspondents, Brussels has recently switched from a geographical transit map to this new diagrammatic map. As you can see by comparing the two images of the centre of the city above, a lot of streamlining and simplification has taken place. The first thing that strikes me is the way that many bus routes have either been removed or have been condensed or “collapsed” into a single route line with a common label, simplifying the map immensely. The place where this is really obvious is at Gare du Nord/Noordstation, which now only has six route numbers listed next to it, compared to thirty-six on the previous map!
Major interchanges are now denoted by an enclosing ring, suggesting that all stops at that interchange — be they bus, tram or Metro — are in close proximity to each other. The Paris Metro map uses a very similar device at interchanges between modes.
However, while the map is a huge improvement over the crowded mess of the previous geographical map, it’s certainly not perfect.
The labelling — which admittedly has to overcome the requirement of being bilingual — is a bit haphazard in its application, with some labels for one station overlapping that of another in parts. Major station labels waste a lot of space when there’s only one or two route numbers listed under the station’s name.
Each and every route line is outlined in black, regardless of its colour, which gives a very heavy, cumbersome feel to the map. Normally, only very light coloured routes (yellow or light blues, for example) need this treatment, so I’m not sure why it was deemed necessary here. Also, while the difference in line thickness between trams and buses seems obvious in the legend, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart on the actual map when multiple routes are butting up to each other (Hint: stops on bus routes are ever so slightly wider than the route line — way too subtle for easy mode differentiation!)
The icons for points of interest are all so very generic and bland.
Finally, the colours used on the map seem very simplistic and cartoon-like, stopping the map from having a harmonious, unified feel. Both the green used for parkland and the blue used for water are way too strong and vivid: they compete with the route lines for attention, becoming a distraction.
Our rating: Better than what came before, but still not great. Despite all the reworking, it’s still very cluttered and confusing. The new Ile-de-France Regional Rail map sets the standard for this type of map, and this falls well short. Two-and-a-half stars.

(Source: Official STIB website)

Official Map: Brussels Integrated Transit Map

One of the most requested maps so far — thanks to thecitygeek, bjorkborg, Mladen Stilinovic and a couple of anonymous readers for sending this my way!

According to my correspondents, Brussels has recently switched from a geographical transit map to this new diagrammatic map. As you can see by comparing the two images of the centre of the city above, a lot of streamlining and simplification has taken place. The first thing that strikes me is the way that many bus routes have either been removed or have been condensed or “collapsed” into a single route line with a common label, simplifying the map immensely. The place where this is really obvious is at Gare du Nord/Noordstation, which now only has six route numbers listed next to it, compared to thirty-six on the previous map!

Major interchanges are now denoted by an enclosing ring, suggesting that all stops at that interchange — be they bus, tram or Metro — are in close proximity to each other. The Paris Metro map uses a very similar device at interchanges between modes.

However, while the map is a huge improvement over the crowded mess of the previous geographical map, it’s certainly not perfect.

The labelling — which admittedly has to overcome the requirement of being bilingual — is a bit haphazard in its application, with some labels for one station overlapping that of another in parts. Major station labels waste a lot of space when there’s only one or two route numbers listed under the station’s name.

Each and every route line is outlined in black, regardless of its colour, which gives a very heavy, cumbersome feel to the map. Normally, only very light coloured routes (yellow or light blues, for example) need this treatment, so I’m not sure why it was deemed necessary here. Also, while the difference in line thickness between trams and buses seems obvious in the legend, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart on the actual map when multiple routes are butting up to each other (Hint: stops on bus routes are ever so slightly wider than the route line — way too subtle for easy mode differentiation!)

The icons for points of interest are all so very generic and bland.

Finally, the colours used on the map seem very simplistic and cartoon-like, stopping the map from having a harmonious, unified feel. Both the green used for parkland and the blue used for water are way too strong and vivid: they compete with the route lines for attention, becoming a distraction.

Our rating: Better than what came before, but still not great. Despite all the reworking, it’s still very cluttered and confusing. The new Ile-de-France Regional Rail map sets the standard for this type of map, and this falls well short. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

(Source: Official STIB website)

Official Map: Tehran Metro, Iran

Tehran is not necessarily the first place you think of when it comes to an extensive, modern rapid transit system, but here it is. First opened in 1999, the system now boasts five lines (four rapid transit and one commuter rail), over 140 kilometres of track and carries more than 2 million passengers each day.

The map itself is fairly basic and workmanlike, although not unattractive in a blocky sort of way. It handles its requirement for bilingual labels (Persian and English) well, and the interchange markers are both unique and distinctive.

For such a diagrammatic map, there’s some uneven spacing between stations in places, and I’d probably have placed the labels and ticks for Razi and Rahahan stations on the light blue Line 3 on the left hand side of the line, rather than the right.

The map also understates the length of the green commuter rail line quite a lot — at over 40 kilometres long, it’s almost twice as long as any of the other lines, but is shown as being extremely short here. However, it definitely does allow the map to take on a more compact form.

Our rating: Basic and simple, but still effective enough. Two-and-a-half stars. 

2.5 Stars

(Source: Official Tehran Metro site)

Official Map: Timetable/Service Frequency Map, S-Bahn RheinNeckar, Germany

Here’s an interesting little map from one of Germany’s newest S-Bahn networks (established in 2003): a system map combined with some basic timetable information, which in turn illustrates how the lines interweave traffic to create higher frequency service along the central spine of the network.

The map only shows major or interchange stations: enough to give a sense of timing without overwhelming the map with too much information. As you can see, each route only has one train per hour in each direction, but these combine to create service with four or even five trains an hour in each direction between Schifferstadt and Heidelberg stations.

The map itself is fairly basic, but it does the job it’s designed to do.

One final point of interest: the compression of the routes into this simplified map give no real idea of the incredible length of the S1 line: at 200 kilometres (124 miles) and 51 stations, it’s one of the longest S-Bahn lines in Germany. If you count out the stops using the timetable information above, it would take almost four and a half hours to travel its entire length.

Our rating: a bare bones approach to combining timetable information with a basic system map. Not much to look at, and not a complete replacement for the map of the whole system. Interesting, nonetheless. Two-and-a-half-stars.

2.5 Stars

(Source: S-Bahn RheinNeckar website

From the Field — Official Map: Sydney Ferries Network

Greetings from beautiful, sunny Sydney, where I’m currently visiting family — my first time back home for six years. Of course, I can’t help but look around and see transit maps wherever I go, and here’s the one that shows the Harbour City’s extensive and under-rated ferry network.

Most notably, the map shows which wharf each ferry leaves from at Circular Quay, the main hub of the system. The importance of knowing this cannot be understated, so it’s nice to see it shown so clearly.

A little strangely, zone information is shown for the river services (west of Circular Quay), but not for the Harbour. A trip to Manly requires a MyFerry2 ticket, but that is not indicated here.

Aesthetically, the map follows pretty standard transit map rules, although there’s some weird angles on the Manly and Watsons Bay routes that detract from the look somewhat.

Our rating: competent-looking effort missing some important information. Two-and-a-half stars.

Submission - Official Map: Valleys & Cardiff Local Routes, Wales

Submitted by coto524, who says:

This is a map for the Valleys & Cardiff Local Routes, a network of commuter lines serving Cardiff, the capital city of Wales.

Although the map certainly makes a decent effort, it feels a little bland and half-hearted. The handling of the Welsh and English seems careless, and the irregular angle between Bridgend and Rhoose Cardiff International Airport is just off. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

——

Transit Maps says:

I think you’ve absolutely hit the nail on the head here with your assessment. This is just an incredibly generic map that could be from anywhere and ends up looking like it’s from nowhere at all. I think that part of the problem stems from the fact that the operator, Arriva Trains, runs different service franchises all over the UK, and has to churn out a bunch of very similar maps for each of them. From a quick internet search, it seems the map for Arriva’s Chiltern Railways is also similarly bland, for example.

I think the Welsh language information is handled competently: it’s only shown if the name differs between the two languages. Interestingly, as a private operator, Arriva is not required by law to provide information in the Welsh language, so it’s nice that they choose to do so.

The icons on the map, unfortunately, are a pretty mixed bag. The red car to denote a park-and-ride facility is simply awful, while “TVM” in a black box for an automatic ticket vending machine is definitely an uninspired and lazy choice.

I’d also really like to see something in the legend that ties the route colours to the actual names of the lines. In real life, there’s no “light blue” line; it’s the Butetown Branch Line… and so on. The name of the line is pretty important information, so why isn’t it shown in any way on the map?

Finally, yes: that weird kink in the line at the bottom left of the map is weird, uncalled for and incredibly visually distracting.

Our rating: A perfect example of a paint-by-numbers transit map. Competent, but as dull as dull can be. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

(Source: Arriva Trains Wales Route Maps )

Historical Map: Alilaguna Gold Line, Venice, 2006

We’ve featured Venice’s public transportation ferry map previously (February 2012, 2.5 stars), but here’s an interesting photo of a map by Alilaguna, a privately-run ferry and water taxi service.

This map, dating back to 2006, shows only the Alilaguna Linea Oro (Gold Line), running from the airport to St. Mark’s Square. Interestingly, this express route no longer exists, leaving passengers to lake the slower, local Linea Blu to the heart of Venice instead.

The map has some interesting Vignelli-esque aesthetics, with the lagoon islands reduced to simplified, blocky shapes (as well as beige water!). The execution works well for Venice itself; less so towards the edges of the map. There’s too much fussy detail over on the left side of the map near Malcontenta, and the way the mainland is strangely truncated makes Mestre and the airport look like they’re also located on islands. Global warming, perhaps?

Production-wise, it’s obvious that this map has been created by simply deleting the other Alilaguna lines from a master map, which leads to the three “station” markers shown being extremely long for no apparent reason. The indeterminate angle the route line takes from the airport down towards Murano is also a little odd-looking, given the strong 45-degree design aesthetic of the map.

Our rating: Nice concept, huge potential to be visually striking — but a shame about the uneven execution. Two-and-a-half-stars.

2.5 Stars

(Source: dr_loplop/Flickr)

Official Map: CTrain, Calgary, Canada

Lots of people have requested this map, but I’ve held off for a while as some extensions to the system and amendments to the map itself have been made. Calgary Transit actually released a preliminary version of this map last year and asked for public input on it via an on-line survey, which is good to see. However, it’s not the most thrilling map, and there’s still one quirk with it that could cause some confusion.

Have we been there? No.

What we like: Clean, minimal, easy-to-follow design. No extraneous bells and whistles to get in the way of a relatively simple system.

What we don’t like: I really don’t see the need to alternate the station labels between the left and right hand side of the route lines when they run vertically. The names would be much easier to quickly read if they just ran underneath each other to the right of the route line, much like a bulleted list. It looks particularly odd on the southern part of the Red Line, where Victoria Park/Stampede and Elton/Stampede are both to the right, and then the rest alternate.

The quirk I mention above regards the handling of the stations along 7th Avenue in the “Downtown Area” of the map. City Hall is the only station in the section where both lines run that serves both directions of travel — the rest of the stations alternate directions. The 1st, 4th and 7th Street stops serve all westbound trains, and the 8th, 6th, 3rd and Centre Steet stops serve all eastbound trains.

The designers have tried to show this by use of a directional arrow near each station. However, by placing these arrows within the coloured route lines, it could be interpreted that only Blue Line trains travel west and only Red Line trains travel east along this corridor. This ambiguity could have been averted by placing the arrows within the station dots or next to the station names themselves, where it would be almost impossible to misinterpret their intention.

However, the approach used here is still markedly better than the one used on the preliminary sample map, which placed the dots for all westbound trains in the Blue Line, and all eastbound dots in the Red Line! Now that would have been confusing!

Our rating: Workmanlike and honest, if a little dull. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

(Source: Official Calgary Transit website)