Submission — Unofficial Map: Intercity and Commuter Rail of North America’s East Coast by Edward Powell
Submitted by Isaac Fischer, who says:
Here’s a neat map I found online that shows the entire American east coast, as well as southeastern Canada. It shows both commuter and intercity rail lines. As far as I can tell, it seems fairly accurate, and could definitely be useful.
Transit Maps says:
While there’s more than a passing resemblance to my own Amtrak Passenger Rail map here — both in the general aesthetics of the map and in the circle/line device used to indicate whether trains call at a station or not — this map adds another whole level of detail by adding commuter rail services (and eastern Canada!) to the mix.
Note that the map shows intercity and commuter rail only, meaning that in New York, for example, the LIRR and Metro-North lines are shown, but not the subway. For a map of this scale (the entire eastern seaboard), that seems like a wise choice.
The layout of the map is great: nice and clean, very diagrammatic but still mindful of the “lay of the land”. The use of a single, distinctive colour for each agency also works really well — Amtrak’s distinctive teal blue and purple for the MBTA commuter rail are especially effective.
However, I find the typography less inspiring, with labels at a lot of different angles combined with some fairly lacklustre type layout for the different agency legends.
Edward also could have proofed his work a little better (although it’s definitely difficult to do a project this size, as I well know!). Even a cursory look at the map revealed quite a few errors, including labelling all the commuter rail stations in Florida as “VIA”, rather than “TRI” for Tri-Rail. Lake Worth station is also included twice, at the expense of Boynton Beach. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, a duplicate Chestnut Hill East station strangely serves as the terminus for the Chester Hill West line. And so on…
Our rating: great diagrammatic layout (although too huge to ever realistically be reproduced as a poster), but let down a bit by some average type treatment. Still a lot of detail to savour and enjoy, though! Three stars.
Source: Edward’s DeviantArt account
Submission - Unofficial Map: Park and Ride Commuter Bus, Northern New Mexico by Isaac Fischer
Isaac submitted this in two parts, which I’ve combined into one post here.
Of the first image, Isaac says:
This is the map that New Mexico Park and Ride provides in their system timetable; it’s probably the worst designed transit map I’ve ever seen. Not only is the design quality abhorrent, but it doesn’t even show the routes as even REMOTELY geographically accurate, and fails to include about two-thirds of the stops. Why they felt it necessary to make their map in this way is beyond me.
The second image is Isaac’s quite lovely redesign of the system as a proper transit map. He’s also made a future fantasy map in the same style, but let’s compare apples with apples for now.
First off, Isaac’s appraisal of the map from the official timetable is spot on. It’s an absolute disgrace, and has instantly found a place in the Transit Maps Hall of Shame. I really don’t need to describe what’s wrong with it, because it’s pretty darn obvious. I particularly like the way that the Purple Line extends to Albuquerque, but the Turquoise Line – which also goes there – is drawn completely separately, not joining on to the top part of the map at all.
Isaac’s map, by comparison, is quite excellent. There are a few minor things that could be tweaked, but in general, this is lovely, clean design that makes the network look easy and efficient to use. I particularly like the nice, wide, sweeping curves that the routes make when they change direction: the big arc that the Turquoise Line makes as it comes into Albuquerque is quite delightful.
I’m not entirely sure about the use of Gill Sans as the main labelling type. While it’s a classic sans serif typeface, I always feel that the x-height is a little small for the best legibility. Here, that failing is especially noticeable in the smaller “subtitle” labels.
I probably would have made the shade used for the Purple Line a little darker to provide better contrast with the adjacent Blue Line through Los Alamos: at the moment, they sort of blur into each other as their colour intensity is very similar. Overall, I find the colours very pleasing, with a nice New Mexican desert feel to the palette, but these two colours could be adjusted a bit for better balance between them.
A bigger problem: using the same line thickness to denote peak hour Purple and Blue Line bus route extensions and the RailRunner commuter rail service between Belen and Santa Fe. Rail is a different transit mode to bus and needs to be differentiated visually from it.
Finally, a letter line designation – “B” for Blue, “R” for Red”, etc. – for each route could assist colour-blind users. There’s quite a bit of empty space, so adding a couple of markers at each terminus station shouldn’t be too difficult.
Our rating: The official map obviously gets a big, fat, ZERO.
Isaac’s is far superior and really very promising work. Three stars.
Official Map: South East Queensland Train Network
Requested by quite a few readers, this is an new version of this map that I reviewed back in March 2012. Unlike that previous map, this one does not show Brisbane’s bus lane network, concentrating solely on the rail system. In my eyes, this is a wise move, as the scale of the map (it’s some 240km – or 150 miles – from Nerang on the Gold Coast at the bottom of the map to Gympie at the top!) is really too great to allow a peaceful co-existence between the two networks.
As a result, the map has been simplified a lot and has much better coherence in general. The central part of the map, in particular, is much easier to follow. There’s also been an interesting operational change: the Cleveland line used to be indicated in purple and run through downtown and become the Doomben Line, but now it’s blue and interlines with the Shorncliffe Line instead.
While the routes are drawn better than the previous map, this version still has some of its failings: small, difficult to make out icons being the most obvious one. 23 separate fare zones seems to be bordering on the ridiculous, but I’m not convinced a zone number next to every station is the best way to indicate them in any case.
The newly drawn background that the map is placed on is – for me at least – way too detailed. Look at the myriad little islands shown off the coast at the end of the Cleveland Line, or the detailed twists and turns of the Brisbane River to the east of Indooroopilly. On a diagrammatic map like this, this is fussy and unnecessary: like the route lines themselves, keep the geography simple.
Our rating: Six steps forward, five-and-a-half back. Ever so slightly better than what came before, but not enough to lift it up half a star. Still a three.
Source: Official Translink website
Official Map: Budapest Metro and Suburban Rail, 2014
With the recent opening of Budapest’s Metro Line 4, there’s been a rethink behind the city’s transit map. The previous version (July 2012, 2.5 stars) tried to show everything – Metro, suburban rail, regional rail, tram and key bus routes – on one map, but it was all a bit of a mess. With so many thin, colour-coded lines (using a strangely limited palette), things became very difficult to understand.
Hence this new approach, where the services are split out into separate maps. This map just shows the Metro and suburban rail services within the city (arrows point towards more distant destinations). Connections to regional rail services are simply indicated by a railway station icon. Another map (which I’ll cover later) adds bus and tram services, but takes a different approach to the previous version.
As a simple Metro map, this isn’t half bad. It’s easy to follow, and the simplified treatment of the river gives some nice geographical context, dividing the city neatly into its “Buda” and “Pest” components. The closeness of the stations on Metro Line 1 makes it look somewhat like a dashed “under construction” line – a drawback of using station symbols that are the same colour as the route line they’re on, but it seems to work well elsewhere.
I do miss the old Metro logo: it was one of my favourites from around the world. The new one is functional enough, I guess, and matches the corresponding new suburban rail “H” nicely, but it just lacks the distinctively East European character of the previous one.
Our rating: Solid, clean and clear. Not amazing, but better than some. Three stars.
Source: Official BKK website
Submission - Official Map: Stadtbus Gmünd, Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany
Let’s continue our recent look at small- to medium-sized German bus networks with this network map from Schwäbisch Gmünd in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, submitted by Bert.
I find this map interesting, because it really shouldn’t work as well as it does. While simplified, there doesn’t seem to be any real logic or unifying design principles behind the angles used for the route lines: they just seem to be drawn to make the routes fit together. Despite that, the map is pretty easy to follow and use. Part of that comes from the fact that there’s only ten different routes to show – it’s always easier to make a comprehensible map for a simple system – but some thought seems to have been put into making the labels as legible as possible and the route lines as easy to follow as they can be. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a bajillion times better than the awful effort from Marburg, and probably even as successful as the map from Göttingen.
Our rating: Somehow better than the sum of its parts. Three stars.
Source: Stadtbus Gmünd website
Submission – Official Map: Bus Network of Göttingen, Germany
Submitted by Hubert at the same time as the awful Marburg map. Of this map, Hubert says:
Check out the intertwined lines in the city center! I find this approach very interesting and useful and I would really like to hear your thoughts about this.
Transit Maps says:
The intertwined (or “candy-striped”) lines in the city centre are definitely the most interesting thing about this map. The rest of it is a competent, if unexciting, diagram of bus services. Executed better than the horror of the Marburg map, but nothing too brilliant to be seen. The light green colour of the suburb name labels should serve as a lesson to the Marburg map makers, though!
Then we get to the middle of town, and the designers start to combine lines that follow the same one-way routes through town to save some space. I’m not normally a big advocate of this approach, because it can make routes more difficult to trace from end to end, but it really works well here.
Why? Because the designers have grouped similar colours together for each “bundle” of routes. So you have a “blue” grouped route, and “green”, “pink/purple” and “brown”, which means tracing the routes through the city is actually pretty easy. Note also that the angle of the striping is not quite at 45 degrees, which means you get to see all the colours used when the route line is at 45 degrees. Nicely done!
Our rating: A pretty standard bus diagram until you get to the city centre, which is really quite excellent. Combined, the map turns out to be just a little better than average. Three stars.
Historical Map: The “Zéró” London Underground Diagram, 1938
Although clearly based on the H.C. Beck diagram of the period (which was only five years old at the time), this diagram created and printed entirely without Beck’s knowledge. Although the work is unsigned, it is now known that this map was designed by Hans Schleger – perhaps better known by his pseudonym “Zéró” – who had already created a number of memorable posters for London Transport.
Beck was furious, and he wasted no time in letting London Transport know exactly what he thought:
I have just happened to see a proof of a new Underground folder. The “H.C. Beck” diagram has been used, but with considerable and, I suggest, undesirable, alternations by another artist – one not on the staff – without reference to me.
The idea of redesigning the old geographical Underground map in diagram form was conceived by me in 1931; the original diagram, published in 1932 [sic: 1933] was of my own invention and design. Every variation of it since has been either made by me or by the lithographer under my supervision.
When I recently signed a form assigning the copyright of this design to the Board, it was not merely understood, but was promised, that I should continue to make, or edit and direct, any alterations that might have to be made to the design. This practice has been followed without exception since 1932.
I wish therefore to place on record my protest against the action taken in the present instance.
London Transport’s Publicity Officer, Christian Barman, managed to placate Beck, telling him that the new map was meant as an experiment in background shading only, and that “neither Mr. Patmore nor myself quite realised how far [the artist] had gone before we saw a proof.” His response, however, stopped short of assuring Beck that all future amendments to the map would be assigned to him…
As for the map itself, Beck’s assessment is pretty much spot on: the alterations are mostly undesirable. The graduated blue background – meant to highlight the central part of the map – is distracting and interferes with the legibility of type, especially when they are set in green type. The reversal of the Thames from white to blue where it cuts through this prototypical Zone 1 is also very visually distracting.
However, the use of a single circle for interchange stations is actually far simpler than what Beck was using at the time – many stations had two circles, and Hammersmith used three! Beck would experiment with linked “Olympic Ring” circles and other arrangements before setting on the now familiar and ubiquitous “barbell” connector in 1946.
Also of noteis the depiction of planned extensions to the Northern Line that were never completed due to the outbreak of World War II.
Our rating: An evolutionary dead end in the development of the Tube Map, but also the first indication that Beck’s position as the map’s guardian wasn’t as solid as he liked to think. Three stars.
Source: bananastrudel on Etsy
Submission - Historical Map: Los Angeles Metro, 1997
From reader Chris Bastian comes this awesome old photo of an early Los Angeles Metro map, dated precisely to the 14th of November 1997, thanks to our old friend the date stamp.
The map is incredibly primitive compared to today’s polished effort, with unevenly spaced stations, labels at all sorts of angles, clumsy integration of Metrolink services, and lots of big, ugly call-out boxes.
However, we can see that by 1997, the Blue and Green Lines as we currently know them were complete, although a few station names have changed over the years: thankfully all the redundant I-105s have been removed from most of the Green Line station names. At this stage, there’s no Purple Line (a designation that only started appearing in 2006), and the Red Line continues out to Wilshire/Western. Despite the dotted line extended hopefully west from there, Wilshire/Western is still the end of the line (although that is finally about to change). The future alignment of the modern day Red Line is also shown heading north from Wilshire/Vermont. Proposed extensions from Union Station to the east and north are shown as continuations of the Red and Blue Lines, rather than Gold.
Our rating: Fascinating to see the early development of today’s system, but it’s certainly not a patch on the modern map! Three stars — and that’s mainly for the historical value.
Official Map: Southern Vectis Bus Map, Isle of Wight, England
An attractively drawn map that bridges the gap between geographical representation and a diagram rather nicely. While the shape of the island is quite accurate (if simplified slightly), all the roads have been straightened out to remove unnecessary kinks and twists. The routes are clearly marked and major stops are shown efficiently. The map is also supported on-line by town maps for the destinations shown in larger type, so there’s more detail where it’s needed. There’s even some lovely icons for points of interest, such as Carisbrooke Castle, Osborne House and the famous steam railway.
No, the map doesn’t show every bus stop: but I’ve never really had a problem with that for bus route maps where it can generally be assumed that stops are fairly evenly spaced — although closer together in more urban areas, and farther apart in rural/outlying areas. The map gives a good idea about destinations that can be reached along each route: a timetable would then handle the fine detail.
About the only real problem I have with this map is its delivery method. While the map can be downloaded as a PDF from Southern Vectis’ website, this is actually a low-resolution JPG (complete with ugly compression artifacts) that has been resaved in PDF format from Photoshop. The map is really quite lovely, so it’s very disappointing to see that good work being shared in this manner. It degrades the crisp, clean look of the map and means that it is not able to be enlarged to any great degree without being pixelated. Nor is the text on the map searchable in any way, or accessible to vision-impaired users — being simply an image.
Sidenote: Interestingly, while “Vectis” has the ring of one of those fancy newfangled transit company names (much like “Arriva”), its use as the name for this bus company dates back to 1927. The name “Vectis” itself is much older, being the name that the ancient Romans gave to the island when they invaded around 43AD.
Our rating: Great map, poor delivery. Three stars.
(Source: Official Southern Vectis website)
Official Map: New York/New Jersey Regional Transit Diagram — Full Review
After our first glimpse yesterday, now it’s time for a more in-depth look at this map. Thanks to everyone who sent me a link to the PDF (and there were more than a few of you)!
First things first: this MTA press release confirms that the map was designed by Yoshiki Waterhouse of Vignelli Associates. It’s definitely nice to see that the original creators of the diagram continue to shape its future, rather than being handed off to another design team.
That said, the original source that this map is based off — the 2008 revision of Vignelli’s classic 1970s diagram, as used on the MTA’s “Weekender” service update website — actually creates some problems for this version of the map.
Because the bright primary colours used for the Subway’s many route lines are so much a part of the map’s look (and indeed, the very fabric of the Subway itself, appearing on signage and trains across the entire system) it forces the NJ Transit, PATH and Amtrak routes shown to be rendered in muted pastel tones in order to differentiate them from the Subway. This results in a visual imbalance between the New York and New Jersey sides of the map: cool and muted on the left, bright and bold to the right. I also feel that the PATH lines up to 33rd Street become a little “lost” compared to the adjacent subway lines.
The other result of using pastel route lines is a loss of contrast between all those lines: they all register at a similar visual intensity, making them a little harder to differentiate. Because of the sheer number of lines that have to be shown, some of the NJ Transit routes have lost their “traditional” colour as used on their own official map (Nov. 2011, 1.5 stars). The Bergen County Line is no longer light blue, but the same yellow as the Main Line, while the Gladstone Line now uses the same green as the Morristown Line. Their original colours get redistributed to New Jersey’s light rail lines and Amtrak.
Some people have noticed that the map shows weekday off-peak services and commented that this is useless for the Super Bowl, which is held on a Sunday. However, the map has to be useful for the entire week of Super Bowl festivities, not just game day, so I feel it’s doing the best it can under the circumstances. If it really bothers you, @TheLIRRToday on Twitter has made a quick and dirty version of the map that shows weekend service patterns. As as has been pointed out to me, service on Super Bowl Weekend will be close to that of the weekday peak, so the difference is negligible anyway.
What bothers me is the fact that the football icon has an extra row of laces. NFL balls have eight rows of laces — the icon shows nine.
Our rating: Based on the classic Vignelli diagram. While it remains true to its minimalist roots, it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessors. The need to integrate so many different routes and services while retaining familiar route colours for the Subway mean that the left half of the map isn’t as visually strong as the right. Still far better than many North American transit maps. It would also make a neat souvenir of a trip to the Super Bowl! Three stars.
(Source: NJ Transit “First Mass Transit Super Bowl" web page — also available on the MTA website)