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.
(Source: Metro de Madrid website)
Unofficial Map: MBTA Map Contest Entry by Michael Kvrivishvili
Here’s another entry for the MBTA’s map contest, sent to me by Michael Kvrivishvili, a graphic and interactive designer from Moscow.
Michael has chosen to show all of the services on his map that the MBTA does on their map — subway, BRT, commuter rail, key bus routes and ferries. He pulls it off pretty well, too, although the convoluted network of bus routes is always going to look a little busy.
Like Kerim, Michael’s map features a perfect diamond representing the downtown interchange stations, and he also manages to fit in all the Green Line stations.If it wasn’t for the little flip in the Red Line to Braintree, he’d also have a perfectly straight diagonal line across the map! Despite these similarities, the two maps are really quite different.
Much like the current Washington DC map, Michael has added badges to the end of each line that denotes that line’s name — ”OL” for Orange Line, and so on — an excellent aid for color-blind users of the system. He also adds the full name of the line in very small text within each line, which seems redundant and is also far too small to be of any real use.
For the most part, Michael’s handling of the commuter rail lines is well done: they’re obviously lower in the information hierarchy than the main subway lines, but still look attractive. Again, the ends of the commuter rail lines feature some lovely and unusual arrowheads — I love this sort of attention to detail. The one place the map is not as clear as it could be is at Readville station. The Fairmount Line terminates at this station, while trains on the Franklin Line stop, but trains on the Stoughton/Providence Line pass through without stopping. On Michael’s map. the Franklin Line looks like a continuation of the Fairmount Line (which isn’t named on the map), and there’s no visual indication that Stoughton/Providence trains don’t stop here.
There’s more usability problems with the Silver Line at Logan Airport. Michael shows all the stops, but he doesn’t show how the route loops around. From the information shown on the map, a reader might expect that once the bus reaches the end of the line at Terminal E, it reverses back along the line, stopping at the other terminals again along the way. A similar problem is evident with the end of the SL2 line at Design Center (also a loop in real life).
Interestingly, Michael has chosen to show non-accessible stations on the map, rather than accessible ones. This actually works quite well at cleaning up the central part of the map, where there are more accessible stations than non-accessible ones.
A few other thoughts: the legend at the bottom of the map is beautifully laid out; the subway to bus/commuter rail symbol is subtle but effective; and the bus routes are generally pretty well done. Also, the Silver Line makes a big capital “B” in the middle of the map!
Our rating: Really quite good. The few shortcomings are probably due to Michael’s unfamiliarity with the system and look like they could be easily fixed. Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Email from Michael, also on Flickr)
Unofficial Map: Partizaning.org “Guerrilla” Moscow Metro Map
Last year, the Moscow Metro introduced a completely new official map, which featured 30-degree angles. Put simply, it went down like a lead balloon (link in Russian), forcing the authorities to hastily organise a competition for another brand new design.
However, some people decided they didn’t want to enter what’s essentially a no-spec design “contest” (there’s no payment for the winner, just thanks for a job well done) and set about designing their own map independently… and then covertly placing them on Metro carriages.
Reading the imperfect Google translation of their project website reveals their design goals: to bring the map back to a geographical grounding - showing the distance between stations better and how they relate to the physical landmarks of the city, especially the river. Connections to commuter rail are also shown, to better visualise usage of all transit in the greater Moscow area. All lines under construction have been excised from this map to bring greater clarity to the services currently offered.
Despite my own preference for diagrammatic system maps, I actually quite like this map. There’s some lovely work here, and the transparency effect applied to the route lines is quite beautiful. As seen by the last picture, it looks great in a real-world setting, and I’ve heard that the designers have enlarged the type size for better legibility since this first foray into the real world.
Our Rating: As much a political statement as it is a map, but undoubtedly good. Three-and-a-half-stars.
Unofficial Map: FrontRunner and TRAX, Salt Lake City, Utah
Brought to my attention by Garrett Smith when he submitted the abomination that is the new official UTA map, here’s a completely different take on Salt Lake City’s rail system from Flickr user H4vok_13. This map is by no means perfect, but it’s an absolute paragon of simplicity and clean design compared to the real thing.
What we like: Streamlined, simplified route lines that expand the city centre and compress the outlying areas work wonders for the clarity of this map. Removing the street addresses from the station names helps a lot, as does the shortening of some of the longer station names.
What we don’t like: I’m not entirely convinced by the use of dashed lines for the FrontRunner routes - dashed lines on a transit map almost always signify a route under construction.
Nor am I a huge fan of the county boundary labels on the FrontRunner lines - a little big and overpowering, and not hugely important for using the system. From what I understand, county boundaries don’t correspond to fare zones on FrontRunner, so why is that information linked so heavily to those routes?
The proposed Sugarhouse Streetcar is perhaps given a little too much emphasis as well: if built, the route will only be about two miles long.
There’s also one very unfortunate error on the map - the service numbers for the Blue and Red lines have been transposed: Blue should be 701 and Red should be 703.
Our rating: Not perfect, but still streets ahead of the official map. Three-and-a-half stars.
Official Map: Sydney CityRail Network Map
Here’s a map that has been requested quite a few times, but I’ve held off on until now. Having lived in Sydney most of my life, I think it’s difficult to be dispassionate about something I’m so familiar with… but here goes!
Have we been there? You know it!
What we like: Clear and easy to understand. Different types of services are denoted well, but in a nicely understated way: grey lines with coloured ticks that relate to the suburban lines they share track with for intercity routes works very well. Thinner, subordinate lines for country bus routes also share their colour with their related train route, carrying a nice “colour equals compass direction” theme through the whole map.
Comprehensive legend and a well-considered set of explanatory icons. The grid and corresponding list of stations is a nice usability touch for those less familiar with the system.
What we don’t like: Some terribly cramped station names, especially on the Illawarra Line between Arncliffe and Jannali. In fact, the unevenness of station name spacing throughout the whole map is one of its biggest flaws.
Part of this comes from having to show all CityRail services, all the way out to far-distant destinations. Goulburn (at the bottom left) is almost 200km (125 miles) from the centre of Sydney! Older CityRail maps concentrated solely on the suburban area of Sydney, with arrows and text indicating service to distant points, which gave the map more room to breathe. I’m not saying that a map like this one isn’t important, but it could be supplemented by a second map that deals with just the city.
The other main failing of the map is its attempt to place a diagrammatic representation of the network onto a “geographical” background. I’ll tell you now - Sydney’s coastline looks nothing like this. Everything is horribly distorted and the difference in style between angled diagram and “naturalistic” coast is jarring to my eye.
Our rating: Despite a couple of major problems, this map still manages to take a large, sprawling commuter and interurban rail system (plus buses and light rail!) and make it clearly understood. Clean design and nice colour choices help a lot (the Bankstown Line looks much better in orange than its old brown). Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: CityRail website)
Official Map: Hong Kong Light Rail
When I reviewed the map for the Hong Kong MTR back in April, I noted that the smaller, connecting, light rail system in Hong Kong’s north west wasn’t paid much attention. As seen here, it’s a complex and comprehensive system in its own right and is definitely too detailed to co-exist on one map with the MTR system.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: One of the most stylised and diagrammatic maps I’ve seen yet - and one that shows that such a map can be very effective (Although, if you rotate the map 90 degrees counter clockwise, the map does actually correspond pretty well to the physical layout of the system).
Clever integration of the MTR’s West Rail Line into the map - it is shown, but with the parts of the line that don’t interact with the light rail compressed into a tiny area of the map.
Nicely integrated bilingual labels that don’t detract from the layout of the map.
What we don’t like: I’m not a huge fan of the pastel colours for the Zone backgrounds - it makes the map look a bit rainbow-like to my eyes, although this may just be a difference in cultural perception - to my (admittedly untrained) eye, the colours in general do lend a very Chinese feeling to the map.
Our rating: A very solid diagrammatic map that fits neatly into a small, narrow space. Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official MTR Light Rail website)
Unofficial Map: Boston Subway Time-Scale Map
Peter Dunn from Stonebrown Design sent this map to me this morning for my thoughts, and it’s definitely worth looking at. You may recall that Peter is also responsible for this neat “subway map” of the Appalachian Trail, previously featured on Transit Maps.
Visually, this map reminds me of this unofficial map of Amsterdam’s Metro - mainly because of the unusual radial design and the treatment of bodies of water. However, this map arguably puts that radial design to better use: to represent time from the central “hub” of Boston, allowing a quick and easy visual comparison of journey times.
Have we been there? Yes. However, Lechmere to Government Center took considerably longer than eight minutes when I was using the Green Line.
What we like: The treatment of the four downtown stations - Park, Government Center, State and Downtown Crossing - is beautifully done: it fits the “hub” theme well and looks good doing it.
Map emulates the look of the real Boston map nicely, even though the format is quite different.
Love the statement in the legend: “All times are approximate; your results may vary. Especially on the Green Line.”
What we don’t like: As the map moves further away from the central hub, the time contours start deforming in order to fit things in. This is a pity, because the map works best (and looks better) where the contour lines form proper concentric rings. Compare how the station labels on the Red Line out to Alewife curve neatly with the time contours, while the station labels on the “B” branch of the Green Line don’t really match up with the contours at all.
The contours themselves could perhaps use a few more of their own labels for minutes: you have to scan a long way round from the southern Orange Line to find one!
Our rating: Leaving aside accuracy of the data used to create this map (some of these times do seem a little on the optimistic side, but if that’s what the timetable says…), this is still a very impressive piece of work, and an interesting alternative view of a familiar rapid transit system. I feel the map could look even nicer if the time contours formed concentric rings all the way out - time is a constant, after all! Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Stonebrown Design)
Official Map: Milan Metro and Suburban Rail Service
Milan’s Metropolitana subway system is Italy’s largest, and is supported by a comprehensive network of suburban and regional trains. It’s also linked by an amazing tram system, but no indication of those services, or connections to it, are presented on this map.
Have we been there? Yes, although I didn’t use the Metro, preferring to walk around Milan’s dense historic core.
What we like: Use of blue for the thinner suburban rail lines gives them their own distinct look while still being subordinate to the more important Metro lines. Comprehensive set of informational icons, although this does lead to some “icon overload” at Centrale and Cadorna stations. Important information is in Italian and English. Good accessibility information.
What we don’t like: A total absence of curved corners on routes gives a very severe, almost formal look to the map, as does the all-caps typeface used (which, despite being a bespoke typeface created for this map, ends up looking very similar to Franklin or News Gothic). The tinted colours behind the terminus station names, while effective at differentiating those stations from normal stations, looks a little old-fashioned.
Our rating: While this map looks quite sterile, it presents information quite clearly. I also feel that this look is totally intentional, as the streets of Milan’s historic medieval core are twisty and narrow. The contrast between those streets and the more direct routing of the modern subway is effectively highlighted in this map. Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official ATM website)
Historical Map: “Hutchison” London Tube Map, 1960
Requested by: My dad (whose love of transit maps I have inherited)
The London Tube Map is so synonymous with the name Harry Beck that I feel sure many people think he’s still holed up in a studio somewhere working on the maps even now (he died in 1974). In actuality, Beck’s last published Tube map was released in 1959: in 1960 it was replaced by this new version, ostensibly made by London Transport’s own Publicity Officer, Harold Hutchison (although he was not known as a designer).
Beck was horrified, believing he had an agreement with LT that “all future work on the diagram was to be carried out or edited by me”. However, if there was an agreement to this effect, it was verbal only and Beck got nowhere with his protestations. For better or worse, the diagram he had worked over 25 years on had passed on to new hands.
Have we been there? Yes
What we like: The first Tube Map to use lower-case for station names. This has two positives: it makes the diagram easier to read as a whole, and also allows the all-caps interchange stations to become more visually important.
What we don’t like: An absolute lack of curves where routes change direction make this diagram very stilted and angular, lacking the grace and flow of the best Beck diagrams. The strange jog in the Central Line at White City (where the Central Line crosses the Metropolitan) is very visually unappealing. The map gets very cramped around Bank and Monument, leading to “Aldgate” having to be broken up on either side of route lines to fit. Square stations markers for British Railways connections also disrupt the flow of the routes.
Our rating: Reviled by some as the map that was stolen from Beck, praised by others (including my Dad) as being “beautiful”, the reality is somewhere inbetween. Aesthetically, I don’t feel it is up with the best versions of the Tube Map - the sharp diagonals give a jagged, staccato feeling to the whole thing, but it’s certainly better than many maps around. Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: The London Tube Map Archive)
Official Map: Rail Transit of Stockholm, Sweden
Requested by losemycool
I really appreciate transit maps that combine different modes of transit, and this map does just that - showing Metro, light rail, trams and commuter rail in a very clean, restrained manner. Coloured route lines (blue, orange and green) set the dense and important Metro network apart from the subsidiary light rail, tram and commuter rail routes, which are shown in grey and thin black lines. Zone information is displayed through a chilly looking cyan blue background. A complete absence of curves creates a very formal, stiff look to the map. One unusual feature is the way that station markers always remain horizontal or vertical, even when the route line is at 45 degrees - making the stations “slice through” such lines at a distinctive angle.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Good information hierarchy through intelligent use of colour. Bi-lingual legend. I really like the way the Metro route lines fold over each other as they make a 90-degree turn - an unusual graphic device that works well and lends the map a unique look.
What we don’t like: Perhaps looks a little cold and sterile. The thin double black lines for commuter rail looks a little overly fussy in comparison to the clarity of the rest of the map, although I do like the way two parallel routes are represented by just three lines (the middle line being shared by the two routes).
Our rating: A very clean, solid transit map, if a little sterile. Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official SL website)