Submission - Historical Map: Chicago CTA Rapid Transit Map, 1983

Submitted by our resident repository of Chicago transit map knowledge, Dennis McClendon, who says:

This map of Chicago’s rapid transit network originated in the 1970s (this one is from June 1983), and this style was used until routes received color names in 1993. Happily, by that time digital printing in fiberglass-embedded signs made full-color maps easier to place in graffiti-prone environments.

These maps were silk-screened onto [blue] color blanks, and every color of ink added cost. So the CTA’s six lines are represented by using only two colors. Simple black is used for three “extension” lines that never overlap. A simple white line is used for the north-south line those connect with. For the two other through routes: black with white casing and white with black casing.

The side ticks for stations work fine, but a box for the places where transfers are possible is not altogether intuitive.  The CTA of that era employed skip-stop spacing, so alternate trains stopped at A or B stations only. Another graphic decision that might have deserved more thought:  the names of various suburbs—only a few of which can be reached by rapid transit—floating in their vague geographic positions, but no indication of Chicago city limits or Lake Michigan.


Transit Maps says:

I have to say that I actually really like the forced graphic simplicity of this map. There’s only two colours to work with, so every element has to be very carefully considered and balanced against others for the map to work at all. That it manages to keep the route lines recognisable and separated in the downtown Loop area without the use of an inset map is quite an achievement.

The famous “A-B” stopping patterns are shown pretty deftly as well, being mostly placed on the opposite side of the route line from the station name. The few stations where this doesn’t happen (due to crowding or space limitations) stand out like a sore thumb – Jarvis on the North-South line, and many of the stations on the Ravenswood line. There are also two stations with their labels set at an angle: Merchandise Mart is almost completely unavoidable, but Harvard on the Englewood Line could easily have been fitted in horizontally.

I think the “boxed” interchanges work well enough, having seen similar devices on quite a few maps (the Paris Metro included) now. I also like the extra detail included on the map: station closures on weekends and nights, direction of travel around the Loop, inbound boarding only on the last three stations on the Jackson Park North-South Line, and more.

I would agree with Dennis on the locality names, that just seem to float in space. The biggest offender is “Evergreen Park”, right at the very bottom of the map, below the legend!

As for depicting Lake Michigan, that seems like a good idea, but I struggle to think of a way of doing it without upsetting the delicate balance of the map. You can’t really use a white line, as that could be confused with all the white route lines, and you can’t have a large white area as that would be visually way too heavy. In the end, the lake isn’t that important for such a graphically stylised map (it really just delineates the eastern side of the map), so I’m not too upset by its absence.

Our rating: A fine historical example of how to use a limited colour palette effectively. Minimalist but still effective. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

  1. Camera: Olympus C8080WZ
  2. Aperture: f/2.8
  3. Exposure: 1/10th
  4. Focal Length: 16mm

Historical Map: Frankfurt S- and U-Bahn Map, 1982

Here’s a great map that shows the rapid transit of Frankfurt am Main in Germany at an interesting point in its development.

The Citytunnel that carried lines S1 through S6 under the central part of the city had opened just four years prior to this, and the bridge over the Main that carried the new S14 and S15 lines was constructed in 1980. The year after this map was produced, the Citytunnel was extended from Hauptwache to Konstablerwache, transforming it from a small station that only served the U4 and U5 lines to the second-busiest station in the network.

Also of interest is the strong divide visible in the network north and south of the Main river. Only one coloured S-Bahn route (the S15) makes it south of the river, and then only just. The rest of the routes that service the south are all shown in black, and all depart from the mainline platforms at the Hauptbahnhof. In effect, they’re really regional trains, despite their “S” numbering, and actually appear to be indicated as such in modern maps of the network.

The map itself is a great example of nice, clean, 1980s German transit map design, apart from the oddly large and out-of-place asterisk used to mark short-turn stations.

Our rating: Good-looking map of a system that was expanding rapidly at the time. Three-and-a-half stars!

3.5 Stars

Source: Dennis Brumm/Flickr

Historical Map: Sydney Rail Network, Early 1980s

The latest this can be from is 1984, as Abbatoirs station closed in November of that year. I remember versions of this above the seats on the old “red rattlers" as I travelled from Epping to Petersham for school in 1985, so they were still around after their "use by" date.

In a way, this is actually one of my favourite versions of the Sydney rail map, as it has a pleasingly compact shape that more modern versions lack. If there’s one failing with the layout, it’s the huge amounts of extra space between stations on the Western Line past Doonside: far more than anywhere else on the map. 

The other weird part of the map is the visual implication that all routes can call at all stations between Burwood and Central, which simply isn’t true and never has been. At the time, I believe that “all stations” service was only provided by the Bankstown Line, with some Southern Line trains also calling at Ashfield.

However, the Bankstown Line – represented by a neat, simple loop – has never looked better, and the triangle formed by the two routes of the green Southern Line (via Regent’s Park or via Granville) also looks great.

Also of interest is the way that the City Circle is simplified down to its own route designation, rather than attempting to show how all the separate routes loop around it and head back out to the suburbs, as more recent maps do. In a way, this reflects the hub-and-spoke nature of the network and the way that the vast majority of people used it: to get from their home to the city and back again. Trains were announced simply as “To Central and the City Circle”, and it was only if you were catching a train from the City Circle back out again that you needed to know the outwards destination. No one rides the train around the whole city loop: in fact, if you know what you’re doing, you get off at Town Hall and walk to a destination near Museum station, as it’s much quicker than riding around the circle via Circular Quay.

Less useful is the separate designation of the Eastern Suburbs line, as it’s always been operationally tied to the blue Illawarra Line.

Our rating: At last, an old map of Sydney that lives up to my nostalgic memories. Three-and-a-half stars

3.5 Stars

Source: davemail66/Flickr

Historical Map: TriMet Bus and MAX Routes, Portland, Oregon (early 1990s)

Certainly no later than 1998 as the MAX light rail only consists of the original Westside route (later to be the Blue Line).

Of note is the continued use of the service zone icons – fish, rain, snow, beaver, leaf, rose and deer – that defined Portland’s downtown transit mall for decades. I’ve featured them before on this map from 1978, but it’s on this map where their main failing comes to the fore. Because each icon is colour-coded, each respective service area just becomes a tangled web of lines, all represented by the same colour. Cross-town routes like the 75, – which have their own colour – just go to show how much easier a route is to follow when it contrasts against nearby routes, rather than matching them exactly.

Also a little odd: not naming any of the MAX stations on the map, and labelling regular frequency bus lines against very similarly-colured background boxes, which makes the route numbers a little difficult to discern.

All in all, an interesting look at the earlier days of MAX and the later days of the service area icons. It’s also fun to see which routes have survived to the current day and which have disappeared or been combined into one route (for example, the Fish-1 and Leaf-35 have become the modern day Greeley-Macadam 35).

Our rating: A nice piece of transit history from my adopted city, if a little imperfect. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

Source: Screaming Ape/Flickr

Official Map: Transit of Magdeburg, Germany

Submitted by keks63, who says:

I really enjoy your blog, so I thought I would submit the transit map of my nearest German city.

The network features 9 tram lines (1 to 10, they did not make a line 7 for some reason), and several bus and ferry lines. The city has about 200,000 inhabitants, and the tram serves all the important areas, you do not need a car to live in Magdeburg, which is very nice. I find this map quite good to use, however there is some confusion going on around “Alter Markt” and “Allee-Center” stations. But all in all, I think it’s a good transit map for a medium-sized German city.


Transit Maps says:

This is almost the archetypal German transit map: clean and clinical design that conveys a lot of information without any fuss. The trams are given the highest priority, followed by the bus lines and then the S-bahn, which has its station names highlighted in the distinctive green used almost universally across Germany for such services.

While I don’t necessarily find the Alter Markt/Allee-Center area difficult to understand, the way the routes seem to overlap randomly as they cross here is a little odd. There’s also one glaring mistake: the icons cover the station name at Jerichower Platz on the east side of the map where tram lines 5 and 6 join.

Our rating: About as German as a transit map can be. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

Source: Official MVB website 

Unofficial Future Map: Melbourne Metro Train Network by Bernie Ng

Submitted by Bernie, whose excellent map of Singapore (Nov. 2013, 3.5 stars) has already been featured on this site. Bernie says:

Hi Cameron,

I saw your post about the new Victorian Rail Network concept map (April 2014, 3.5 stars) by PTV and was very impressed - it’s quite a quantum leap forward from the existing map.  I thought I’d have a go at further redefining the map, but for the Melbourne Metro network only. (I personally don’t see the value in putting the regional/metro network in one map – an average user won’t really need both networks together, and as you say, scale is an issue.)

Quite naturally, the City Loop is used as the visual focal point.  I was hoping it could be placed in the centre of the map, but given the lopsided nature of Melbourne, it was not quite possible.  I have added some of the proposed extensions for the network, including the metro tunnel running through the city, creating a bypass from the congested loop. (This tunnel is currently attracting lots of debate - the latest government proposal is to run it south of the loop via Montague - although I prefer the original proposed route and have shown that on the map.)

Stopping patterns are shown as they are relatively simple compared to Sydney’s. Most routes operate all stops, or with one all stops and one limited stops service. With recent interest on “clockface” or “turn-up-and-go” services, the map indicates which stations have services at least every 15 minutes or better during the daytime.

Each line is assigned a letter code for easier identification, especially for tourists.  The letters are assigned in a counterclockwise order, starting with A-Line for Airport (Tullamarine) services.  

Melbourne public transport uses a fare zone system, but the number of zones have been reduced over the years. I would actually prefer to have more zones, which result in the ability to charge fares more commensurate with the distance travelled. This map shows fare zones in 10km increments from Southern Cross station. (I also have a cleaner version of the map omitting the zones.)

The font used is Source Sans Pro – thanks so much for the tip!  It is indeed a really great font. Very visually pleasing with high legibility. Perfect for maps.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the map.


Transit Maps says:

This is great work once again from Bernie: a very attractive map that features some distinctive and lovely flowing route lines. The representation of the City Loop as a perfect circle is deftly handled and a perfect focal point for the map (the ever-important visual “hook” that helps a map stand out from the crowd). However, I’m not so keen on the way that the labels for the stations on the loop are angled as if they were spokes on a wheel – Bernie’s done an otherwise excellent job of constraining labels to just two angles (horizontal and reading up from bottom left to top right), and this just seems a little gimmicky and fussy to me.

Bernie’s frequency icons are a nice usability touch (it’s always nice to know that you’re never more than 15 minutes away from the next train!), but I’m less convinced by his attempts to show service patterns. Looking at the legend, he’s using eight different station icons to convey this information, which is a lot to ask users of the map to remember. And – at least in the smaller image size that Tumblr allows – it’s pretty tricky to tell some of those icons apart visually. I’m generally in favour of letting timetables deal with the nitty-gritty of showing local/express route combinations, and this treatment doesn’t really convince me otherwise, although I certainly appreciate the effort Bernie has put into it.

Speaking of the legend, it really is beautifully put together and very comprehensive. Placing it neatly into Port Phillip Bay really works pretty much perfectly.

About the only other comment I have is regarding Bernie’s proposed route naming conventions. If I was giving route designations based simply on the alphabet as Bernie has done here, I would start at the one nearest the 12 o’clock position (probably Bernie’s “T” South Morang route) and continue in a clockwise direction, rather than anti-clockwise. It’s simply far more intuitive to use a universally understood convention like this to make finding route lines easier. Yes, “A” for “Airport” is hard to resist, but none of the other routes have any correlation between their destination stations and the letter designation, so the “A” should be as easy to find as possible.

Our rating: Looks fabulous, but perhaps tries a little too hard to convey a lot of information. Still, I have to applaud Bernie for pushing the envelope and attempting something a little out of the box (and mainly succeeding). Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

Victorian Rail Network — Concept Map, April 2014

Here’s an interesting proposed new map out of Australia which combines Melbourne’s suburban rail network with the V/Line passenger rail service. In a way, this makes sense, as many of V/Line’s services act as commuter rail services from surrounding cities like Geelong. With the introduction of the myki farecard, much of the V/Line network now even shares the same ticketing system, as shown on the map by use of a solid grey route line. However, it does look a little odd to have Craigieburn (25km from the Melbourne CBD) so close to Albury at the end of the line (over the border into NSW, some 330km from Melbourne). In the end, the diagrammatic distortion is probably a good trade off in making a compact, legible map.

Overall, I really think this a good effort, and I certainly like it a lot more than the current Melbourne rail network map that just uses two colours (blue and yellow) to represent fare zones, although I don’t know if this map will replace that one or is meant to complement it.

I was going to comment that an indication of which direction trains travel around the City Loop would be good, but some research reveals that there’s no easy answer to that: trains can go opposite directions around the loop depending on the time of day.

Apparently, this map is on display at certain stations around Melbourne and Public Transport Victoria will be surveying customers for their opinion. However, putting a call to action on the poster — “for more information, visit our website” — really only works if the end user can actually find the relevant information easily (I gave up after 10 minutes).

Our rating: Nicely done. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

(Source: Daniel Bowen/Flickr)

Official/Future Map: Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Strip Map (now with added Green Line!)

Submitted by Nathan Bakken, who says:

Hi, I am an Urban Studies major at UMN, and while riding the Blue line today I noticed the new transit map for our light rail system. thought i would share.


Transit Maps says:

Looks like the Twin Cities’ Metro Transit is gearing up for the opening of the new Green Line light rail nice and early! The line — which will link the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul — doesn’t open until June 14, but here’s a strip map ready to go on a train already. By the looks of it, the “Green Line Opens June 14, 1014” text is on a sticker that can simply be removed from the map at the appropriate time.

The map itself does just about everything you could expect from an above-door strip map that has to show the entire system: it clearly labels the stations (using type only set at one, consistent angle: well done), delineates the two downtown cores with a minimum of fuss and even gives estimates of the time taken to travel between stations. I’d like the interchange to the Northstar commuter rail service at the Target Field station to be given a little more prominence, but that’s really about my only complaint.

Our rating: Simple, clean, clear — what maps of this type should strive to be! It’ll be interesting to see how this map evolves further when the Green and Red Line extensions come into play, though. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

  1. Camera: iPhone 5s
  2. Aperture: f/2.2
  3. Exposure: 1/120th
  4. Focal Length: 4mm

New Official Map: Metro de Santiago, Chile

Sent my way by moon-monolith, here’s a new map for Santiago’s extensive Metro system. I reviewed the previous one back in March of 2012, giving it a pretty generous 3 stars.

In a way, this is really an evolution of the previous map, rather than a complete redesign — the routes still sit on top of a stylised street grid of the city, for example — but the execution is much more polished and stylish.

The whole city has been expanded horizontally (the map is rectangular now instead of the almost square proportions of the previous one). With more room to breathe, the labels for all the stations can be set horizontally instead of at angles for easier reading. The deletion of the express route information that was previously shown for Line 1 also helps with the cleaner look.

Informational icons have been simplified and standardised: instead of the entire (and complex) logo for the innovative BiblioMetro program, we now just have a quickly-identifiable (and universally understood) book icon. The standard “bike” symbol also works a lot better than the previous BiciMetro logo.

Things aren’t perfect, though: the poor old airport still loiters up in the top left hand corner of the map with absolutely no way illustrated to actually get there, and there’s some inconsistent and poorly drawn curves on the river. Look especially at the one to the northwest of Puente Cal y Canto station… ugly!

Our rating: An definite improvement! Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

(Source: Official Metro de Santiago website)

Official Map: TILO Commuter Rail – Ticino, Switzerland and Lombardy, Italy

The emergence of a unified Europe has led to a gradual but noticeable blurring of borders between countries in Europe, which now seem to often exist only on maps. With free and easy travel between the European countries that are bound by the Schengen Agreement, it’s not impossible for people to live in one country and work in another, especially when they live close to a border.

This map shows transit services in such an area, the border between Italy and Switzerland north of Milan. Here, Italian Lombardy (shown with a grey background) borders the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino (white background). Transit between the two areas is becoming more intertwined and reliable, as this map illustrates. The services offered by the issuer of the map — TILO — are the two-digit “S-number” lines: S10, S20, S30 and the narrow-gauge S-60. However, the map also shows the lines of Milan’s own commuter rail network that interact with these services: the S4, S5, S9 and S11 routes, as well as indicating a (slower) regional service that runs between the two provinces. Even the extent of Milan’s Metro is indicated, as are its interchanges with these commuter rail services.

The map itself is quite handsomely produced, and has a distinctive look of its own. The typeface used – Syntax – has a friendly, slightly quirky look to it that helps lift the map up from that typically efficient but clinical Swiss design. The “subway map” stylings definitely help to convey a sense of modernity and speed, even though the main centres shown on the map would take quite a while to travel between (1.5 hours from Milan to Bellinzona; almost three hours from Milan to Airolo).

If there’s a weakness to the map, it’s probably the multitudes of blue bus routes shown on the Swiss side of the border: they clutter that part of the map with a lot of visual noise and probably don’t contain enough routing information to be that useful past an initial confirmation that a town is serviced by a bus route.

Our rating: An attractive and modern-looking map that combines information from different transit agencies to benefit its customers: always a good thing! Three-and-a-half stars!

3.5 Stars

(Source: Official TILO website)