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.

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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)

Submission – Unofficial/Future Map: Long Island Rail Road by Anthony Denaro

Submitted by Anthony, who says:

Here’s my map of Off-Peak (weekdays, and nights) and Weekends Long Island Rail Road Service.  

This map shows service diagrammatically, de-emphasizing geography for clarity of branch services and transfers, introduces a grouping color coding system for branches, and improves legibility of the system. The LIRR current map lacks both routing and geographic info – there’s no sense of connecting roads and services and no sense of which branch’s trains stop at which station – failing at each of the things that most transit maps try to resolve at least one of. 

This map shows the future expansion to Grand Central Terminal which potentially will allow all branches to have direct access to both Penn and GCT – greatly changing the service patterns of the entire system. This could be a tool to better visualize how LIRR service will be affected when that happens. There’s yet been no indication of just what the service patterns will be so I choose just to split Penn Station and GCT-bound lines for now.

Some notes:

  • Peak service isn’t shown – it’s just not what this map set out to do. While LIRR peak rush hour services are a sight to behold I’d argue they’re practically impossible to map out diagrammatically. 
  • Connecting subway routes are shown textually instead of as an icon, breaking with how bus and ferry connections are displayed – this was purposely done to eliminate a clutter of black dots, and the burden of having to show subway lines, which isn’t the purpose of the map. (All but 2 of 22 subway routes directly connect, which would have required almost the entire subway system to be drawn).
  • Planned future stations like GCT, Sunnyside and Republic as well as nerdy station fantasy reopenings like Elmhurst and Woodhaven are shown. Future MetroNorth service to Penn Stations via Sunnyside is shown as well. 

Love to hear your take on it.

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Transit Maps says:

While I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information shown (not being at all familiar with the operations of the LIRR), I can say that this map looks absolutely gorgeous. Certainly better than the official map, which just uses the standard MTA subway map style to lesser effect.

I really like the stylish usage of 30/60-degree angles: it looks great, suits the shape of Long Island itself, and allows all the labels to be set horizontally, even along the long stretches of the Babylon and Montauk branches. Labelling like this would be trickier on a conventional 45-degree diagram, as these branches would run horizontally across the map. Skillfully and elegantly done.

The colour palette is also very nice: a step back from the bright primaries often used on transit maps, giving the map a nicely understated, refined feeling. The zone information is also deftly handled: subsidiary to the main route information, but easily found when needed.

I’m not so thrilled with the treatment of the coastline: it seems overly detailed in some parts, resulting in a distracting “stepped” appearance in some parts, especially along the Atlantic coastline at the bottom of the map. It’s not bad, per se, it just seems to clash a little with the elegant simplicity of the route lines.

The station labels from Carle Place to Bethpage in the middle of the map seem to be a little close to the route lines – perhaps Anthony has moved them inadvertently, as most other labels seem to be fine. As readers of this blog know, I’m a big stickler for accurate and consistent placement of labels!

Finally, I’m not really sure that a guide to service frequency is of much use when the two categories are "one or more trains an hour" and "fewer than one train an hour". How many trains an hour could that be for the former? Two, three… more? And are you waiting an hour and a half between trains in the latter category, or even longer? It seems to me that you’d still have to consult a timetable to ensure that you caught your train in any case. I guess it works to give a general idea that some branches have less frequent service… any LIRR riders want to weigh in on this?

Our rating: Love the layout and design of the route lines, not so keen on the underlying geographical treatment. Still pretty darn good. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

For more detailed information on this map, please visit Anthony’s Tumblr.

Unofficial Future Map: Singapore MRT/LRT by Bernie Ng

Submitted by Bernie, who says:

Hello Cameron,

I saw your recent post regarding future Singapore MRT/LRT maps and thought I’d throw mine into the ring. The Singapore MRT has long been one of my fave metro systems around the world. I like the concept of destination numbers and station numbers - I believe it is one of the first, if not the first, to use this concept (do let me know if that’s not quite right).  My approach for this map is to incorporate the station number into the station marker itself to avoid some of the clutter associated placing the station name AND the number alongside the station marker.  Also, I really wanted the Circle Line to be a circle, so I have adopted a few distortions to make that happen. Finally, I tried to incorporate geography of Singapore in a stylistic manner to further reinforce the circle motif.  I know this does not quite meet the professional standards I often see on this blog (this is drawn using Microsoft Visio), but let me know what you think all the same!

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Transit Maps says:

I don’t know, Bernie — this looks pretty darn nice from what I can see!

The temptation to make any line called the “Circle Line” live up to its name is almost always too hard to resist! Sometimes the result can be a little forced or contrived, but I think you’ve done a nice job here — for the most part, the stations are spaced out pretty nicely. I particularly like the way you’ve managed to keep the purple North East Line perfectly straight while heading entirely in the direction its name implies.

Integrating the station code into the station marker is a good idea that removes clutter — reader Xavier Fung pointed out that the new official map does this as well — and the insets for the LRT systems also work well in simplifying the main map as well as providing greater detail for these services than the official map can. I also really like the stylish shell-like shape that the island of Singapore takes on: stylised but recognisable!

My few quibbles — the graduated grey background could be seen as representing fare zones. As Singapore uses a distance-based fare system, not a zonal one, this could cause a lot of unnecessary confusion. I also find the grey a little drab and overpowering — it seems to make the other colours used on the map a little duller as well.

Finally: Visio? Not my tool of choice, and you’re probably pushing it to the absolute limit of its capabilities, but this does look really, really good.

Our rating: Strong visual concept, nicely executed, a couple of well-thought out innovations. Colours could be brighter and more evocative of Singapore. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

P.S. See another excellent unofficial redesign of the Singapore MRT map here.

Soon-to-be-Official Map: Tram Network of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

Submitted by Alexander Zaytsev, who says:

Hey Cameron and Transit Maps readers! I’d like to show you the first transit map that in my portfolio. Here are the tram routes of one of the largest Ukrainian cities — Dnipropetrovsk. This unofficial map is going to be official very soon :) What do you think?

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Transit Maps says:

I like it! Clear and easy to follow a route line from one end to the other. The map retains enough information to relate to the city’s street grid, which is more important for trams than it might be for a subway or Metro. The little jogs in the red Line 1 are a good example: I’d hate that kind of fussy detail on a subway map, but here it tells the reader that the line briefly jumps across to another street on its way through the downtown area. The little dogleg that Lines 4 and 12 take is also a nice visualisation of the actual street layout.

Interestingly, while the map shows connections to main line railway stations (denoted by a steam train icon!), it doesn’t indicate the Dnipropetrovsk Metro in any way. While I understand that the Metro isn’t exactly anything to write home about with just six stations and declining ridership, I think that some sort of acknowledgement of it of this map would be useful.

Apart from that, the only thing I’m not too sure about is the thinning of the route lines as they approach the big loop in the centre of the map. While I can understand the desire to save a little bit of space where five lines run concurrently, I don’t think the result is worth the effort. The orange Line 17 looks particularly off-kilter as it approaches the loop from the south, very obviously leaning to the right.

Our rating: A solid, earnest effort that’s clear and easy to use — far better than many maps of similarly-sized tram systems. Three-and-a-half stars!

3.5 Stars

Unofficial Map: Circular Sydney Suburban Railways by Maxwell Roberts

I have to admit: I’m still not entirely convinced by either the usability or the aesthetics the new “circular transit maps” design trend. However, I think I’ll make an exception for this diagram of my hometown of Sydney, Australia, which is… just beautiful.

Designed by the man at the vanguard of this design movement, Maxwell Roberts, this map actually has a lot of visible advantages over the current official Sydney rail map (Sept. 2012, 3.5 stars), not the least of which is consistent, evenly spaced station labels (all of which are set horizontally).

Wisely, Roberts has confined his map to Greater Sydney alone (i.e., the standard suburban services only, rather than including interurban services to far-distant places like Newcastle, Nowra and Goulburn), something I actually advocate for the official map as well. This is what gives the map far more room to breathe than the official one.

The “hub” of the map is obvious: the aptly-named “City Circle” that loops through Sydney’s CBD, and everything radiates out from there. The visual highlight for me is the treatment of the Cumberland Line, which is one of the few lines that doesn’t route through the city itself — running instead from Blacktown to Campbelltown in Sydney’s far western suburbs. It’s shown as one lovely, giant, sweeping arc for most of its route, which suits its orbital role in the system perfectly.

However, the radial treatment does mean that some destinations are in a slightly unexpected place: Bondi Junction appears far further north than it should be, while in reality Epping and Carlingford stations are just a few kilometres apart, not the vast distance they appear to be here.

The treatment of the inner west light rail line (curiously called the “Lilyfield Tram” here) is also a little problematic, as it appears to extend almost all the way to Meadowbank. In reality, Lilyfield is pretty much due north of Stanmore, much closer to the city’s core. However, station labelling requirements pretty much demand that the route line extends this far on the map, and it’s no worse than the official map in its execution. Some mode differentiation between this route and the main line trains would have been nice, as well as a note that the two systems currently use different fare systems with limited transfers between them.

Minor quibble: “Saint James”, “Saint Marys”, “Saint Peters” and “Saint Leonards” should be written as “St. James”, “St. Marys”, “St. Peters”, “St. Leonards”. No signage in the Sydney system spells out the “Saint”.

Finally, the map is missing the informational icons that are present on the official map — disabled access, parking, etc. — which makes for a much cleaner look, but at the expense of important information.

Our rating: Probably the most aesthetically pleasing circular map I’ve seen yet, quite lovely in its execution. Missing a lot of information that’s present on the official map, so it’s hard to do an “apples-to-apples” comparison. Let’s call it a draw. Three-and-a-half-stars.

3.5 Stars

Source: Crikey.com.au — The Urbanist

P.S. - For more information on Mr. Roberts’ circular maps, visit his website by clicking here.

Historical Map: Integrated Transit Map of Milan, 1982

Submitted by Kyril Negoda at Mapping Twin Cities.

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Milan boasts an comprehensive transportation system, consisting of a Metro, trams and buses. This map shows the ATM system in 1982, when the Metro was only 18 years old and consisted of just two lines. Not shown are the suburban rail services, which are operated by a separate company, although stations with transfers to it and mainline trains are indicated.

The first thing that really jumps out are the rings of tram and bus routes that go around the ancient core of the city, rather than through it — narrow, winding medieval streets preclude much transit from entering that part of the city. It certainly creates a strong visual look for the map, cleverly underpinned by also showing the main parks of the city, giving a strong sense of scale and geography to this otherwise very stylised map.

Have we been there? Yes, but I mainly walked the compact historical core without need for transportation.

What we like: Visually pleasing and oh-so-Italian in its design sensibilities. Takes a lot of information and displays it effectively and with some considerable style. 

What we don’t like: Differentiating stop/station ticks from the actual routes themselves can be tricky in some of the denser areas of the system. The black lines for intermodal stations can similarly be a little difficult to decipher, especially when they cross many route lines or are close together.

Our rating: A fine example of early 1980s transit map design. It still blows my mind that complex network maps like this were designed and executed without the aid of computers. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

(Source: Stagniweb - Italian Railways site — view map large here!)

See also: other Transit Maps posts about Milan.

Official Map: Everything Old is New Again for the Madrid Metro

Over the weekend, Madrid rolled out a new map for its comprehensive Metro and light rail system. After six long and controversial years, the previous map (March 2012, 2.5 stars) — with everything reduced to severe 90-degree angles and very little spatial relationship to the real world — has been consigned to the dustbin.

In its place, a new map that looks strangely familiar. The design of the map has returned in-house and Metro’s designers have obviously looked to the more traditional maps of the past for inspiration: the layout in the central part of Madrid is almost identical to the 1981 map, even taking into account new route lines.

The map also features the Metro’s new controversy: the renaming of Sol station as “Vodafone Sol”, with the telephone company’s logo and distinctive red featured prominently on the map at that location (right in the middle!). Apparently, the cost of producing new maps and brochures is funded by this measure, so we can’t really complain too much, I guess…

Personally, I like this map much better than the previous one, although it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The treatment of terminus stations is clumsy and inconsistent, and the banded fare zones are too hard on the eye — much as they are on the current London Underground map. One thing I do miss from the previous map is the indication of how long (in minutes) transfers between platforms at the bigger interchange stations could take.

Our rating: A (welcome) blast from the past! Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

(Source: Metro de Madrid website)