Submission — Official Map: Bus and Ferry Network of the Faroe Islands
Submitted by Helgi Waag, who says:
The entire bus and ferry system of the Faroe Islands. The online version is interactive. Hubs are in boxes and sea routes in blue.
The Faroe Islands — a remote island nation under Denmark’s sovereignty located about halfway between Norway and Iceland — isn’t necessarily somewhere you associate with a bustling and modern transportation network, but here it is!
This map shows the Bygdaleiðir, or “village buses”, which connect the cities and towns that are accessible to each other by road (including some that travel through undersea tunnels), and the all-important ferry routes between the islands. The Number 7 route shown on the map between the capital, Tórshavn, and the southern island of Suðuroy is a two-hour journey in good weather.
Not shown are the local buses — or Bussleiðin — in Tórshavn, which are operated by the city council, not the Strandfaraskip Landsins company. Interestingly, these buses are completely completely free of charge, an initiative introduced in 2007 to encourage people to use public transportation instead of driving their cars.
The map itself is a nicely stylised version of the archipelago, and information is presented nice and clearly. Nice bright route colours, too. My only complaint is that the interactive Flash version of the map on the website is the only version of the map available. Not all devices (especially mobile devices!) support Flash, so there should be an alternate image or PDF version easily available for those users.
Our rating: Nice work from an unexpected location. Three stars.
(Source: Official Strandfaraskip Landsins website)
Official Map: RENFE Cercanías Madrid Commuter Rail
Following on my review of Madrid’s old-is-new Metro Map (June 2013, 3.5 stars), I’ve had quite a few requests for Madrid’s commuter rail map, operated by the state-owned RENFE rail company — so here it is!
The map is a very solid effort, with unusual but effective station markers: small squares that “cut through” the route lines. The overall design is very angular, with no smoothing of the route lines or the zone boundaries that sit behind the map. It certainly helps give the map its own unique look, although I find it a little too harsh.
One negative is the ugly route designations — the bold “C” (perhaps trying to look somewhat like the Cercanías logo) next to a condensed numeral just looks odd and the placement of some of them seems arbitrary and/or cramped.
Finally, the depiction of zones on a transit map is almost always problematic: here, the harshly-angled and oddly-shaped grey areas dominate the map far too much, giving it a zebra-like appearance. The zones also require far too many labels, liberally sprinkled just about everywhere.
Our rating: Informational, with a look all of its own, but let down by a few jarring elements. Solid overall. Three stars.
(Source: Official RENFE website)
Unofficial Map: Kerim Bayer’s MBTA Map Contest Entry
While I’m personally not too keen on the MBTA’s map contest, I totally respect the rights of those who still wish to participate. As they’ve told me in conversation, kudos and recognition can be very strong reasons for less experienced or amateur designers to enter. A couple of those designers have sent their entries in to me to review and share with you — this one’s from Kerim Bayer, who also produced this rather striking map of Istanbul’s rapid transit system (June 2012, 4 stars).
To my mind, it’s definitely an improvement on the current map. The removal of the key bus routes helps to create a much cleaner look, although at the obvious loss of that information. The alignment of the Red Line — a strong, straight, diagonal slash across the map — provides a powerful visual axis, as does the perfect diamond formed by the major downtown interchanges (a device very reminiscent to the perfect square seen on older MBTA maps). Kerim has also managed to fit all stations on the Green Line branches into the perfect square required by the MBTA — a formidable achievement indeed!
The white stroke on the commuter rail and Mattapan lines help to differentiate these services from the main subway routes nicely and attractively (I love the arrowheads at the ends of the commuter rail lines), although I think the device is less successful when used on the Green Line. While it’s true that the B, C and D branches of the Green Line do act more like streetcars in the sections indicated, does having this information on the map actually help the viewer in any way? You still stay on the same train from one end of the branch to the other without the need to change trains like you would on the Mattapan line at Ashmont. One could also argue that the D branch also runs on the “surface”, as do portions of the Orange and Blue lines, albeit in specialised rail corridors.
While the typeface used is a lovely, modern sans serif font — Bariol, a welcome and interesting break from the ubiquitous Helvetica — I would say that much of the labelling on the map is too small: Kerim’s Instanbul map also suffered from this. It certainly adds to the clean look of the map, but diminishes its usability — especially when viewed from a distance, as it would often be in the real world at stations.
While Kerim has managed to show all of the stops on the Silver Line 2 BRT route out to Design Center, he has condensed all the Logan Airport stops into one blanket “mega-station”. Knowing that the bus stops at all of the terminals (and actually has two stops at the “B” terminal) as well as the direction it loops around the terminal road is necessary information and — to my mind — really needs to be included in some form.
Our rating: Stylish, clean and modern-looking. The type is a little too small to be easily readable, and some important information is lacking. Three stars.
(Source: via email conversation with Kerim)
Historical Map: London Connections, 1988
The reverse side of the British Rail Network SouthEast map, showing the detailed view of the area surrounding London. While this map is designed in a very similar style (at the same time, by the same people) to the regional map, I feel it’s slightly less successful for a few reasons.
The inclusion of the London Underground introduces many more colors to the map, which instantly makes it feel much busier. After using all these familiar and well-established colours for the Underground, there really aren’t many colours left to use for the main line/Network SouthEast routes. So they get saddled with orange, a very vivid, powerful colour that visually dominates the map, especially south of the Thames.
Interestingly, the London Overground — a service which has largely been formed from parts of these old main line routes — also uses orange as its route colour: is this map the origin of that designation?
Other points of interest: The Docklands Light Railway, opened the previous year, is shown but has not yet acquired its distinctive teal route colour. The Waterloo & City Line (a very short line between Waterloo and Bank stations) is still part of British Rail, not the Underground.
See also this British Rail map from 1965 (May 2012, 4.5 stars) that covers a very similar area but omits the Underground.
Our rating: A fine piece of work that skillfully incorporates a lot of information, but not as excellent as its sibling. Three stars.
University of Virginia University Transit Service (UTS) Map
Submitted by Justin Tran, who says:
This is a redesign I did of the University of Virginia’s University Transit Service (UTS) map. You can see the original here. It won’t be live until permanent repairs are done to a certain bridge on Grounds that has vastly detoured more than half of these routes.
Transit Maps says:
This is pretty nice work here from Justin. It’s definitely been hugely influenced by the London Underground map, but works nicely in this context. I do think that the single-direction bus stop “ticks” are a little clever for their own good and rely on referring to the map’s legend a little too much to understand them fully. Something as integral to a transit map as a bus stop shouldn’t really need any further explanation to be able to understand it. A small arrow indicating which direction of travel the bus stop serves is the usual approach to this problem.
For the most part, the map looks great, although some of the curves could flow a bit better, especially around the hospital on the middle right of the map and on the orange University Loop line around the stadium.
Our rating: A solid effort that wears its influences on its sleeve. Overthinks the problem a bit, affecting usability slightly. Three stars.
P.S. As an aside, the geographically accurate map that Justin links to (PDF) is also pretty darn good.
Official Map: Brussels Metro, Tram and Rail Network
Having touched briefly on the Brussels map with this previous post, I thought it was time to take a proper look at the current official map.
Have we been there? Yes, back in 2003, but I walked pretty much everywhere and didn’t use the Metro/tram system. I did catch trains from Brussels to other cities in Belgium, however.
What we like: The treatment of the Metro part of the system is excellent, with a nice solid 90-degree angle design really accentuating the orbital nature of lines 2 and 6. Strong, yet interesting, choices for the route lines seem to be aimed at maximising contrast between adjacent lines: the lines are paired in colours that are opposite each other on a colour wheel (blue/orange and purple/yellow).
The map still looks nice and clean despite the bilingual French/Dutch labelling required for many stations.
What we don’t like: The map is less impressive when it comes to some of the design choices made for the tram network - the yellow used for line 7 is so pale that it needs to be outlined in grey, which then makes that line look visually too strong. Line 7’s treatment at terminus stations is also inconsistent with all the other lines: its terminus dot sits above the station marker like the others, but its route line lies underneath the station.
An inconsistent approach to naming stations for the tram routes: most of the stations that don’t interact with the Metro system remain nameless, except for a few on the eastern part of Line 7… why are these stations different to the others?
The pastel striped main rail lines take quite a bit of getting used to: the effect does reduce their importance in the information hierarchy, but it all just looks a little 1980s after a while.
Our rating: If it was stripped back to show just the Metro, this would be a wonderfully strong map. As it is, each subsequent mode reduces the visual focus of the map and ends up as a slightly unsatisfying final product. Stilll very competently done, however. Three stars.
(Source: Official STIB website)
Official Map: Metropolitana di Napoli - 2 of 2
As promised, here’s the second map of Naples’ Metro system. Unlike the previous example, this one shows all of the rail transit options available in the city, which presents a much more complete picture.
Like the previous map, this map also presents something that I’ve never seen before on a transit map: a “Rainbow Line” (arcobaleno in Italian), where each station on the line is assigned its own colour. However, this map and station signage don’t seem to agree on what those colours are.
What we like: A much cleaner and more modern-looking map, definitely much easier on the eye.
What we don’t like: Lower-case station and line name labels - yuck! The centred station names at the northern end of Line 1 look a bit strange. The map is going to have to be reconfigured when the extension of Line 1 from Universita to Garibaldi/Stazione Centrale opens: there’s currently no room at all for that part of the line to fit in. The slight angle of the Mergellina funicular line seems a little at odds with the rest of the map.
Our rating: Much better, although by no means perfect. Shows the benefit to the end user of presenting all rail transit as a unified map, regardless of operator. 3 stars.
(Source: Official Metronapoli website)
Official Map: Commuter Rail Services of Helsinki, Finland
Here’s a different type of transit map altogether… if one could really call it a “map” at all. Showing commuter rail services out of Finland’s capital, Helsinki, this matrix instead focuses on showing stopping patterns on the four colour-coded commuter lines. Each pattern is clearly denoted with a letter that corresponds to a train - not unlike the local/express services on the New York subway - making finding the correct train to catch easy and quick.
For comparison, here’s a geographical map of the lines.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Unusual but easy to use matrix of services. Horizontal lines indicate each station, so it’s easy to see which train stops there. Colour-coded station names let you know which metropolitan area each station lies in, a clever touch to circumvent some of the geographical shortcomings of the matrix (see below).
What we don’t like: Serious distortion of the length of the lines. The yellow “M” line to Vantaankoski is really only 15km long, while the red “Z” line to Lahti is over 100km long, yet both are shown as almost the same length! This isn’t really a problem for commuters (the target audience), as they would use the system every day and have an understanding of the lie of the land. However, for new users, this could be quite confusing.
The subsidiary line that joins Riihimaki and Lahti stations is jammed in quite tight and small, a little at odds with the graphic simplicity of the rest of the matrix.
Our rating: Something very different that works surprisingly well as an informational tool. Probably needs to be used in conjunction with a geographical map for people unfamiliar with the system. Three stars.
(Source: Official VR website)
Official Map: Dallas DART Light Rail System
Hot on the heels of Miami’s new Orange Line comes another one: this one belonging to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system. This new line will eventually bring light rail to DFW airport, an essential transportation link in any large city, I feel.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Relatively clean and simple compared to many American transit maps. The street grid is visible, but subsidiary to the main information. The downtown inset, which at first doesn’t seem to offer much more information that the main map, is actually a very nicely done orientation guide, especially with the reference to the streetcar, which is below the scale of the main map.
What we don’t like: Sometimes can’t decide if its a diagram or a map. The wiggle on the eastern end of the Blue Line before Rowlett seems totally unnecessary, and the new Orange Line jumps around all over the place.
Not sure about labelling stations in the same colour as the line they’re on: the orange is a very recessive colour compared to the others, and it means that stations that serve multiple lines get black. I would have preferred all station names in black, as it is arguably the most important information on the map.
I would have crossed the Green and Orange lines over each other at their eastern intersection, rather than the west to get a cleaner-looking T-junction after West End station. It’s also unfortunate that the Orange and Green lines are next to each other. As commenters pointed out on the Miami map, orange and green look very similar for colour-blind people.
Finally, it looks like US 75 and I-45 are missing their light grey centre stroke, as they’re the only two roads to be shown in a darker grey. And what happens to I-35W after it hits I-20 at the bottom left? It should continue south behind the legend, as US 67 does.
Our rating: A solid map, if not spectacular. Three stars.
(Source: Official DART website)
Official Map: JFK Airport AirTrain Map, New York
This map is at the request of an anonymous follower, who wrote this about this map:
Truly terrible transit map that deserves a lashing: the AirTrain JFK. Way too complicated for something that should be fairly simple. Even worse are the TV screens in the stations showing information about where the train at each platform is going, which completely obscure the most important information.
Now, I can’t comment on the info screens, as I’ve never used the AirTrain, but I do have some thoughts about the map. People movers like this at major airports are a form of transit, albeit in a very small, closed system. Some just shuttle between terminals, but the JFK AirTrain also connects passengers to car rentals, long term parking, and (perhaps most importantly), the New York Subway and the Long Island Railroad, so its scope is bigger than some systems of this type.
Have we been there? I’ve spent long afternoons at JFK waiting between flights (and paying prohibitive prices for drinks at the bar!), but I’ve never used the AirTrain, either to transfer between terminals or head into New York.
What we like: Nowhere near as bad as my anonymous friend says it is. Conveys a lot of useful information - especially for visitors who have never been to New York before - in a relatively clean fashion. The inclusion of all potential costs for patrons is especially handy, and the destinations of the connecting MTA services couldn’t be made clearer. Direction of travel is well indicated, which is good if you’re trying to jump between terminals in a hurry - sometimes it might be quicker to jump on a Howard Beach or Jamaica train instead of the dedicated Terminal Shuttle!
What we don’t like: The drop shadows behind the station name boxes are unnecessary and ugly, as is the stacked treatment of the terminal station names. These would look far better if the boxes that contain the word “Terminal” simply lined up horizontally with the subsequent numbered boxes. Also not entirely sure that we need to see the exact outlines of all the terminals… I don’t know what extra insights a traveler is meant to get from that. I’m guessing that the map is not actually to scale, so it’s not like you can tell how far it is to your gate from the AirTrain station!
Our rating: Functional and chock-full of handy information for visitors to New York. A little fussy and over-designed. 3 stars.
(Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - AirTrain web page)