Proposed Map: Moscow Tram Network by nOne Digital & Branding Agency
Sent my way for comments by the agency, here’s a very slick proposal for a new map for Moscow’s tram network. As a westerner, I was only very dimly aware that Moscow even has a tram network (the Metro grabs the spotlight), but it’s actually the fourth most extensive such network in the world, with 181km of combined route length. The three larger networks are Berlin (190km), St. Petersburg (220km), and Melbourne, Australia (254km).
At first glance, the map looks a little spindly and hard to read, but the proposal makes it pretty clear that the full system map is meant to be printed BIG (see the second picture above), and will be supplemented by smaller, regional maps. The system is made up of two unconnected sub-networks, so this seems to make good sense.
With a staggering 48 routes to show, coming up with a colour palette that works is certainly a challenging task, but I think nOne has done a good job. They’ve basically run sequentially through the whole spectrum, but have cleverly modified the brightness of colours to provide the necessary contrast between adjacent routes. It does lead to some areas of the map taking on a more or less uniform colour — the second detail above is very pink/purple, for example — but the whole map passes the colour-blindness test surprisingly well, mainly because of that good contrast between adjacent routes.
Technically, the map is excellent, with smoothly drawn curves and consistently applied labels. There’s quite a few tight/unusual curves in the map, but they’re all handled very deftly, and the route lines flow really nicely from end to end. The treatment of terminus stops is lovely, with nice, big, easy to see route numbers and the direction of travel from that terminus indicated.
Interchanges with Metro stations are shown with both a bigger dot and the station’s name reversed out of the appropriate Metro Line colour. It might have been nice to also include the number of the Metro Line within the coloured box, just for that extra level of accessibility. Or would that cause confusion between Metro line numbers and tram line numbers? The decisions that designers have to make!
The Metro lines themselves are shown as a thinner line (lower down the information hierarchy), but I wonder if the map might be visually cleaner without them entirely: there’s a lot going on in this map! On such a schematic diagram, it might be enough to indicate where the tram routes interchange with the Metro without having to actually show the Metro’s path. Still, I can’t fault the technical execution!
Mention also of the proposed network logo, which is an even more stylised representation of the system combined with a bit of “heart” to make a distinctively colourful icon.
Our rating: More evidence that some of the best transit map design is coming out of Russia at the moment. Confident, technically excellent work that’s part of a larger, all-encompassing, rebranding proposal. Will be interested to see if this gets implemented. Four stars!
Historical Map: Gotthardbahn (Switzerland and Italy), 1898
Here’s a beautiful Art Nouveau railway poster promoting the Gotthardbahn that links northern Italy with Switzerland and points north through the famous Gotthard Tunnel. At the time of opening in 1882, the tunnel was the longest railway tunnel in the world at 15 kilometres (9.3 miles).
The map shows the then privately-operated Gotthardbahn and its branch routes in thick black lines (the Swiss Railways incorporated the line into its national network in 1907). The tunnel is indicated by a dashed section, while the railroad spirals that the trains needed to quickly gain or lose elevation when space was limited are also indicated, although certainly not to scale!
The importance of this route to opening up European trade and passenger travel cannot be underestimated, and is well represented by the beautiful allegorical woman, standing atop a winged wheel — a symbol often used by European railway companies of the time — seemingly welcoming travellers from Italy to Switzerland, Germany and France.
Our rating: I’m an absolute sucker for Art Nouveau posters, and one that adds a railway map to the mix is always a winner in my eyes! Four stars.
(Source: Strange Maps website)
Unofficial Future Map: Metro Denver Rapid Transit by Steve Boland
Long-time readers will know that I’m not a huge fan of Denver’s current light rail map (April 2013, 2 stars). And it seems that I’m not the only one, as Steve Boland of San Francisco Cityscape has turned his hand to designing a new map. We’ve featured his excellent Bay Area Rapid Transit map previously (Feb. 2013, 4.5 stars).
His Denver map includes all the FasTracks extensions — light rail along I-225 through Aurora, BRT lanes on US 36 to Boulder and new commuter rail lines to all points north, including a line out to Denver International Airport (finally!). Interestingly, he’s chosen to color-code the services by corridor, rather than by route designation, which actually works quite nicely and simplifies the map in the dense downtown core. The map also makes the peak-hour only nature of the “C” and “F” light rail routes visually obvious on the map by adding a white stroke to their route line: a nice usability touch.
Technically, the map is infinitely better drawn than the official one: no wobbly route lines here! I do miss the sweeping arc that the light rail lines make from Auraria West around to Union Station — I always felt that if it was drawn better, it could be the defining visual “hook” of the official map — but the squared off look does fit in well with the overall aesthetics of this map.
Personally, I find the kink in the “G” line at Aurora a little visually distracting in such a clean diagram, but Steve tells me he really wanted to show how the line leaves the I-225 corridor at that point. As he consistently labels all the main roads that transit travels along on the map, this is probably a fair point.
An oddity: without knowing how all the new lines will fit into RTD’s fare structure, the map has to constrain that information to the currently existing parts of the system — which actually highlights the new parts rather nicely.
Our rating: That’s much better! Clean, crisp, functional informational design that builds excitement for the future of transit in Denver. Four stars.
(Source: sfcityscape website — GIF)
Submission - Unofficial MARTA (Atlanta, GA) Map by Andrew Whited
Now this I like!
Part of an overall identity project for MARTA that Andrew completed, here’s his stylish revision of the system map (I reviewed the official one way, way back in October 2011, giving it a pretty generous 3 stars).
The MARTA system isn’t that complex — essentially only having two intersecting trunk lines with a couple of branches — so simplifying it down and abstracting it like this works really well. The slightly muted colour palette (almost like the route line colours have been multiplied with the background grey) is quite lovely and subtle. There’s also some lovely bespoke icons for restrooms and the airport, and the legend is both comprehensive and attractive.
A couple of quibbles — the spacing of stations on the Green/Blue lines east of the main Five Points interchange could be better — Georgia State is pushed right up close to the Five Points label (the station dots are much closer to the Yellow Line than the Dome/Arena dots are to the Red Line on the other side), The way the labels drop down after the Green Line ends also creates a visual gap between Edgewood and East Lake stations. The dots may be evenly and mathematically placed along this line, but sometimes things have to be tweaked and eyeballed until they look right. I’d probably also make all the labels just a little bit bigger — there’s plenty of room and it would suit the fat, chunky look of the route lines nicely.
Finally, I love the super simple, stylised highways that sit behind the map (including a good old literal “ring road”), but I do have to make a correction: Andrew has labelled them as U.S. Routes, when they’re actually Interstate Highways — that is, it’s not “U.S. 20”, but “I-20”, etc. And I know my Interstates from my U.S. Routes!
Our rating: Pretty yummy stuff! I’d definitely click through to Andrew’s site to check out the whole rebranding project — maps, signage, trains, buses, tickets, the works! Four stars!
Historical Map: AC Transit Route Map, 1967
Sweet illustrated map of bus routes in the East Bay, including a multitude of transbay services: I count 16 crossing the Bay Bridge to San Francisco!
As with all maps of this ilk, the fun part is finding all the little details in the illustrations that are liberally scattered throughout (My favourite is probably the sailor who is busily chatting up the cute nurse at the top centre of the map). The subtle painted texture of the mountains at the top of the map is also rather lovely.
Although quite whimsical in execution, the map actually conveys a lot of useful information as well: local, intercity and transbay services are all differentiated by colour; rush-only services are denoted by a square route box, rather than a circle. Different zones are also shown simply and efficiently by simple line across a route: the zone numbers are placed on the relevant side of that line. Effective, but not overpowering.
Our rating: Lovely late 1960s design. Lots of fun to be had poring over this one. Four stars!
Historical Map: Tyne and Wear Metro, 1981
A beautiful early map for this system, clearly showing how much of it was planned from the start. Apart from a few name changes (the proposed “Old Fold” station became Gateshead Stadium, for example), this is recognisably the same map that existed as far into the future as the year 2000, when the proposed extension to Sunderland made its appearance.
The outlined route lines to show proposed/future extensions work wonderfully well, making an excellent contrast to the existing coloured routes. The approach is even carried through to outlining the names of the proposed stations — a lovely and deft design touch.
Another interesting feature is how small and low in the visual hierarchy the ferry across the River Tyne is: in later maps, the ferry symbol has become very large and overpowering.
Our rating: The original and the best. Simple, stylish, uncluttered design that sets out a clear vision for the future. Four stars.
Historical Map: The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, 1956
A simply gorgeous mid-1950s map of the AT&SF’s passenger routes, taken from a promotional brochure produced in conjunction with Disneyland, which is shown prominently to the right of the map.
The brochure was ostensibly an introduction to the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland, then only a year old. Understandably, the AT&SF — who had basically bankrolled construction of the 5/8th scale railroad — were keen to get some return in their investment. As a result, much of the brochure is actually given over to advertising their “new and modern” rail services.
The whole brochure opens out to display this fantastic map, where Texas and Oklahoma are represented by scratchily drawn cattle, oil derricks and chemical plants, while the Grand Canyon becomes a large hole in the ground that a careless Native American is about to walk into. On top of these charming little drawings is a simplified route map of the AT&SF’s lines, stretching from San Francisco to Chicago.
Our rating: Gorgeous 1950s design sensibilities, although definitely more an advertisement than a practical, useful map. Four stars.
(Source: Vintage Disneyland Tickets website)
Unofficial Map: Singapore MRT by Andrew Smithers
As promised, here’s an unofficial map of Singapore’s rail transit that takes the future extensions and integrates them far more effectively and attractively than the official future map. This map was created by Andrew Smithers, who runs the quite excellent Project Mapping website — well worth losing a few hours to all the maps he has over there!
Immediately, you can see how design is used to simplify and clarify the routes — the Thomson Line becomes a north-south axis for the map, while the new Downtown Line now describes a perfect diamond-shaped loop. This motif is echoed beautifully by the larger loop of the yellow Circle Line — which visually lives up to its name far more here than on the official map — and even by little double-crossover between the Downtown and North East lines at the bottom centre of the map. Repetition of design themes in a transit map is a lovely thing, and it really helps to hold a map together thematically.
That’s not to say that everything is perfect, however. The station codes — used to help non-English speakers buy tickets and navigate the system — are just as problematic here as they are on the official map. Andrew has opted to place them on the opposite side of the route line to the station name; while it works well in the less-crowded parts of the map, it can get a little messy in places, especially where the Downtown Line runs close to the North East and Circle Lines in the densest part of the map (just to the right of centre).
Our rating: A lovely example of how repeated design elements can thematically tie a map together. Four stars.
(Source: Via email discussion with Andrew)
Historical Map: Montreal Tramways Company, 1941
Here’s a very handsome map of transit in 1941 Montreal, provided by the Montreal Tramways Company, or La Compagnie des Tramways de Montreal. Despite the name, there’s also a healthy (and growing) number of bus routes on this map, shown in blue.
Cleverly, the map rotates the city away from true north in order to fit everything onto the sheet of paper allocated, and the north pointer used is simply lovely, even including the company’s “MTC” monogram.
The map does a lot with just three colours, clearly differentiating between bus and tram services while highlighting regular services versus supplementary/rush hour ones with a minimum of fuss. The callout boxes for main stations are lovely, with the names contained within an ornate scroll at the top of the box.
My favourite part of the map, however, is how it effortlessly deals with the requirement to present information in both French and English. It even goes so far as to have one information box say “Index of/des Routes” while the other states “Index des/of Routes”, so that no-one feels that the other side got a better deal.
Finally, the roundel that the MTC uses for its logo looks awfully familiar...
Our rating: Quite lovely — clear and stylish. Four stars!
Historical Map: San Francisco Muni Transit Routes, 1970
For a long period of time, the San Francisco Municipal Railway, (commonly shortened to just “Muni”) used pretty much exactly the same map in their brochures. It seems that each year, they’d simply make any amendments required — addition of new routes, deletion of old ones, etc. — and then reprint the brochure/map in a new colour combination.
The earliest example I can find, from 1952, uses a sombre two-color palette of black and red, mostly tinted down to greys and pinks. However, by 1970, the map had evolved into this gloriously garish three-colour purple, yellow and black vision that suits the post-Summer of Love San Francisco perfectly.
The map shows all Muni streetcar, coach and cable car services, but with no visible mode differentiation — express services are shown with a dashed line. However, the map’s actually pretty clean and easy to follow: route termini are clearly shown by route numbers in large circles, and there’s enough smaller numbers along each route to allow you to follow them from one end to the other.
Also of note: basic fare is just 20 cents!
Our rating: Groovy, man! A psychedelic re-imagining of a long-serving and functional map. Four stars.
(Source: Eric Fischer/Flickr)