Unofficial Map: Sydney Rail Network (Trains and Light Rail) by Ben Luke
Submitted by Ben, who says:
This is my version of the Sydney Trains map. I was inspired to try designing my own version after the introduction of the new official map which I found to be rather uninspiring. I have been learning Illustrator in the process, so thanks to your excellent blog for all the tips and tutorials.
I have used a realistic background layer which is distorted to fit around the map but maintains a sense of geographic familiarity (I’m a map geek so this is important to me!). My aim was to capture the essence of Sydney with its rich interplay between land and water without being to distracting. I have also decided to include the light rail system, which the new official map has dropped, as I’ve always been fan of multi mode maps. Other than that I just tried to keep things as simple and straight as possible.
Transit Maps says:
There’s a lot to like in Ben’s reinterpretation of the Sydney Trains map. His use of 30/60-degree angles actually helps a lot in some of the traditionally crowded parts of the map – the Illawarra Line south of Arncliffe and the North Shore Line, in particular. The reorientation of the main trunk line out to Blacktown as one long straight line on a 30-degree angle also works surprisingly well, countering the diagrammatic enlargement of the CBD nicely. There are places where the 30-degree lines look a bit awkward next to the 45-degree labels (Flemington to Granville, for example), but I can see why Ben’s taken this approach.
I also really like the “Intercity” labels that Ben has used to indicate the direction of longer-distance trains: it integrates the branding of the service more effectively than the official map, although adding some key destinations along each line might be a good idea for users unfamiliar with the system: Blue Mountains Line – to Katoomba and Lithgow works better than just the line name for me. A little more “breathing room” at the top and bottom of the map would also be welcomed, as the labels are pushed up pretty tight to the edge at the moment.
I do feel that the spacing of the stations in the western part of the map is a little big compared to other parts of the map: there’s nice, even, tight spacing up to Blacktown, then a giant gap to Doonside or Marayong, and much bigger spacing between all the stations from there on out.
I’ve gone on record as saying that I’m not the greatest fan of diagrammatic maps on geographic backgrounds – but if you’re going to do it, do it well. Ben’s done it very well here – it looks far less distorted and cartoony that the previous Sydney rail map.
Ben’s integrated the light rail system into his map – although he’s inexplicably changed it to blue from its official deep red – and has come across a pretty big problem. The sydney train network is vast and sprawling, covering huge distances in every direction – while the light rail line is much denser, with stations spaced much closer together. It’s very difficult to coherently place these two very different systems on the same map, although Ben’s put in a manful effort here. I’d probably be in favour of showing the light rail (because I like a good multi-modal map too!), but only labelling major terminus stations. Dots or ticks to indicate the number of other stations could be retained. A separate map could then be used to show the light rail system in detail, without having to show all of Greater Sydney on the same map.
Our rating: Some excellent ideas that improve on the official map in some aspects. Spacing of stations could be a little more even/harmonious, but it’s really a great effort. Three stars.
NEW Official Map: TriMet MAX Light Rail, Portland, Oregon
So I saw this at the MAX stop near my work yesterday, and managed to get some photos of it today. For now, the TriMet website still has the previous map, and it seems like these maps may currently be only posted along the 5th/6th Avenue transit mall downtown (any other sightings elsewhere, PDXers?)
So, what’s new?
First off is the obvious (and quite radical) change from 45-degree angles to 30/60-degrees… which can’t help but put me in mind of my own map of Portland’s rail transit, which did the same thing way back in 2011, and revised in September 2012. This map hasn’t taken the concept quite as far as my map, however, as the downtown lines still form a neat horizontal/vertical cross, rather than conforming the the 30/60 degree angles (which actually reflects the real street grid a little better).
The two streetcar lines (North-South and Central) are finally both being shown according to their official colour-coding (lime green and cyan, respectively), although no stops are named. This is actually a pretty good compromise – it’s better than the sad, unlabelled squiggle of previous maps, and it doesn’t mess with the scale of the map as much as it does on my version, where downtown has to be enlarged even more in relation to the rest of the system. The streetcar seems to stop every two blocks anyway, so you’re never that far away from the next one!
Future extensions are shown: the Orange Line to Milwaukie and the completion of the streetcar loop over the new Tillikum Crossing transit bridge. There’s some nice work on the Orange Line to get the station dots to line up properly and exactly over the dashed route line: I always appreciate attention to detail like this. The map still doesn’t tell us exactly how the Orange Line will tie in to the rest of the system: it’s just tacked onto the ends of the Yellow Line at PSU. I’ve heard rumours that southbound trains may change from Yellow to Orange at Union Station, while northbound trains will change from Orange to Yellow at SW College. I’m guessing that some Green Line trains may also change their designation, otherwise there’s really no reason why the Orange Line shouldn’t just be an extension of the existing Yellow Line in my eyes.
I also like the way that the Blue Line drops down southwards with the Green Line east of Gateway before turning again out to Gresham: accurate to real life and nicely done. I’m not so thrilled with the dinky little turns that the Green and Yellow Lines make between Union Station and the Steel Bridge. I also think it would be neater for the Green Line to cross under the Blue and Red Lines here, so that it doesn’t have to make that big right-angled turn across all the other lines out at Gateway. See my map for how this looks.
Some oddities: the Central streetcar line just completely disappears as it passes behind the MAX station labels east of the Willamette (se the right of the second picture above). Similarly, when the Red and Blue lines cross the Yellow and Green Lines downtown, the Blue Line is ghosted back so the “PORTLAND TRANSIT MALL” text can be read, but the Red Line disappears, as do the streetcar tracks when they cross the mall. Consistency is the key here: either approach has merits, but pick one and stick with it!
Finally, one of my pet peeves: stations named after sporting arenas with naming rights. It’s been PGE Park, JELD-WEN Field and now Providence Park, all in the seven years that I’ve been living here. Wouldn’t we just be better off calling the MAX Station “Stadium” and be done with it?
Our rating: Definitely an improvement on previous maps, with a sleeker, more modern feel and much better integration of the Portland Streetcar. Parts of it look eerily familiar to me, but it is also a logical progression from previous TriMet in-car maps like this one. Three stars.
EDIT: A comment from one of TriMet’s designers confirms that the “missing” route lines under the Transit Mall are printing errors on the backlit signs only.
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.