Official Map: Brussels Integrated Transit Map
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: 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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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.
(Source: Official Calgary Transit website)
Official Map: Streetcar Network, New Orleans
Brought to my attention by Transit Maps follower, Alex Marshall, this is the latest New Orleans streetcar map, updated after the opening of the new Loyola Avenue line in January of this year.
Have we been there? No. One day!
What we like: Informationally, it does the job, I guess. It shows the routes and connections to other services in a neat, easily understandable way. It’s just so… dull.
What we don’t like: The very best transit maps have a sense of place about them, and one could argue that New Orleans is like no other place on earth. The sheer amount of history represented by the historic streetcars and the unique culture of the city itself should be represented in this map, yet are completely absent. Instead, we’re given a bland, generic map that could be from just about anywhere.
Quickly looking at a geographical map of the network gives me so many ideas, I may just have to whip something up myself. The smooth curve of the St. Charles Line wrapped in the meandering shape of the Mississippi River could be so beautiful if handled well…
Also of note: apparently, the only two points of interest on the entire streetcar network are the Convention Center and NORTA’s own building. I never knew New Orleans could be so exciting.
Our rating: A hugely wasted opportunity to create something as memorable as the Big Easy itself. Competent but extremely dull. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official NORTA website)
Unofficial Map: “Orbital” London Underground Map by Jonny Fisher
Here’s an interesting new look at the London Underground from architect/designer/writer Jonny Fisher. It’s always fun when someone reinterprets something as well known as this: every designer approaches the same problem differently. For me, this map isn’t wholly successful, but it’s definitely thought-provoking.
Have we been there? Yes.
What we like: A bold attempt at a redesign of possibly the most well-known transit map of all. The “orbital” theme actually makes a lot of sense: London already has a Circle Line, and the Overground does form a looser larger circle around that. As a map designer myself, I can certainly appreciate the skill and effort that’s gone into making this look as coherent and attractive as it does.
What we don’t like: Station labels set in all lower case text… ugh!
Inclusion of far-distant Thameslink stations like Brighton, Peterborough and Kings Lynn (97 miles from London and — from my understanding — no certainty to be a part of the final Thameslink Programme) is faintly ridiculous and leads to some awful crowding of station names in the north eastern quadrant of the map. Inclusion of the Tramlink services in southern London may have been more warranted, and would have helped with the “orbital” theme of the map.
Lack of differentiation betwen the different types of service shown, even in the legend, which opts for a pretty “rainbow” of route lines instead. The colours may be in order, but the types of services are all mixed up. As the Underground operates at far greater frequencies that the mainline and rail services, this is an important distinction to make.
Some of the bigger interchange stations are now inordinately large: it looks as if you have to traverse across large parts of London to change from the Circle Line to the Victoria Line at Kings Cross/St. Pancras, for example.
I miss the Thames.
Our rating: Interesting new look at something familiar, if flawed. Two-and-a-half stars.
Official Map: LPP Bus Network, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Here’s an interesting diagrammatic bus-only map from Ljubljana, the capital and largest city of Slovenia in Central Europe. Completely diagrammatic bus maps are a fairly rare breed, as users often want to be able to see exactly where the routes go along roads. Because of this, geographical maps and slightly simplified geographical maps tend to be the most popular forms of bus map. In this case, the small number of routes, the small size of Ljubljana itself and the defining geography of the rivers through the city help this map work relatively well.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Very abstract route map for a bus-only network: for the most part it works well, mainly because of the way that the two rivers (the Sava to the north, and the Ljubljanica to the south) help to define the extent of the city.Routes are fairly easy to follow, with termini being called out well. Unusually but effectively, weekday, weekend and night services are all featured on the one map, with colour-coding and route numbering grouping the similar routes together.
Nice typography for the station labels - Erik Spiekermann’s FF Info Display type family is used effectively here, although we’ll get to less successful typography in the next section…
The combined bus stop/direction of travel icon is something I haven’t seen used a lot, and it actually works fairly well, albeit less so where the route line is dashed when everything gets a little busy.
What we don’t like: While FF Info Display is a very nicely-chosen typeface, that can’t be said about some other choices. The stolid, angular Bank Gothic used to denote parts of the city is totally at odds with the soft, humanist touches of FF Info, especially in the map title to the top right of the map (where there’s also a typo in the word “public”, although fortunately not the Really Bad One).
Even worse is the obvious later addition of text at the bottom right, set in Microsoft Tahoma! Quite clearly, changes were made to the map by people without access to the original fonts and the map suffers greatly because of it.
The light blue fill of the Sava River to the north has been accidentally moved to the left relative to its dark blue outline, giving the effect of a thick border on one side and a thin/non-existent border on the other.
Our rating: A solid, if not spectacular, diagrammatic bus route map, let down by some poor typographical choices and some lazy revisions. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official LPP website - PDF)