Historical Map: The City of Los Angeles Showing Railway Systems, 1906
Another amazing old map from the awesome Big Map Blog, showing the already-booming rail transit network that was found in Los Angeles in the early days of the 20th Century. Electric trolleys first ran in LA in 1877, but the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric and the “Yellow Cars” of the narrow-gauge Los Angeles Railway had only appeared a mere five years before this map was produced. Their lines are represented on the map in appropriate colours, along with those of other, less-remembered, railway companies.
Technically, the map is beautifully drawn, although there’s some strange issues with route lines extending past the visible area of the map and spilling over the lists of street names, the map’s legend and even completely bleeding off the edge of the page (see the detail view of the legend above for an example). It could be intentionally done, but it certainly looks a little messy.
From a production viewpoint, it seems as though the map was printed with five different inks: black for the street name legend and Los Angeles Pacific RR routes, yellow for the Los Angeles RR, red for the Pacific Electric, green for the Los Angeles Inter-Urban RR, and a dark blue for the Los Angeles & Redondo RR and the underlying linework of the map itself. Understandably, given the fairly primitive printing technology of the day, the registration of these colours is a little bit off in places.
Our rating: A beautiful look at the early days of mass transit in LA. Four stars!
(Source: the Big Map Blog)
Historical Map: British Rail Network SouthEast, 1988
Network SouthEast was an operating division of British Rail that was formed in 1982 (although it was known as London & South Eastern until 1986). It was responsible for inter-city and commuter rail for the densely-populated south east of England, including London. Of course, beginning in 1994, Network SouthEast was privatised along with the rest of British Rail, leading to the convoluted network of private rail companies we see today.
But what we have here is a very handsome network map, which obviously owes a great deal to the London Underground map, but has enough of its own identity to stand alone. This is mainly achieved by the removal of the Underground’s distinctive Johnston Sans typeface, replaced with what looks like a condensed Helvetica or similar Gothic face.
The map is broken down into six regions, which are cleverly shown by only using three repeating colours (red, blue and grey): this prevents the map from looking too rainbow-like and gives it a more corporate feeling. A fourth colour — orange — is used to show the brand-new ThamesLink service running north-south through London.
The London region itself only shows main terminals and connecting stations: a more detailed map of this area is shown on the reverse of this map: this keeps the map clean and uncluttered.
About the only real problem I have with this map is the colour of the water, which is almost exactly the same as the blue type that is used to denote connecting ferry services and ports. For example, there’s a ferry to France from Newhaven Harbour, but it’s very difficult to make that out.
Our rating: An excellent example of mid-1980s map design (remember: this is still before computers entered the design field, so a map of this complexity was quite an undertaking). Four stars.
Unofficial Map: Dallas-Fort Worth Rail Transit by Gabe Tiberius Columbo
I’ve been frustrated with the Dallas rail map for a while, and decided to make a comprehensive diagram of Dallas-Fort Worth rail trainsit.
Transit Maps says:
Simply put, this is a beautiful diagrammatic map and is far more visually attractive than the official DART map (August 2012, 3 stars). There’s a very elegant, restrained feeling to this: from the subtle grey background and typography to some excellent, slightly unusual colour choices for the route lines that work really nicely together. The way the Green and Orange lines interact with the Red and Blue is exactly what I wanted to see in the official map, and this treatment looks so much cleaner.
One could make a case for the inclusion of a few geographical features or major highways to give a better sense of scale and location, but — purely for route finding — the map doesn’t really need them, in my opinion.
The map’s not totally perfect: I don’t see a need for the smaller type for station names on the TRE and A-Train services: the thinner route lines already differentiate them from the main DART services, and the smaller type is somewhat harder to read. By the time we get down to the Amtrak routes and the M-Line Trolley, the type is almost ridiculously small.
There’s also a typo in the legend that references the “Fort Worth Transportaion Authority”.
Our rating: Excellent work that takes a completely different approach to the official map and does it very well. Four stars.
Historical Map: Washington, DC Metro Map, 1977
This is a Metro map from March, 1977 — about a year after the system first started carrying passengers. At first glance, it looks very similar to today’s modern map… but then you realise that the only section that’s actually in service is the Red Line between Dupont Circle and Rhode Island Avenue, denoted by black outlines around the station circles, rather than the plain white circles used for future stations.
The uncanny resemblance to today’s map comes about because the whole system shown here — up to and including the opening of the Green Line segment to Branch Avenue in 2001 — was planned for right from the start of the project. If you look closely, there are actually quite a few differences: the Blue and Yellow Lines south of Pentagon are reversed from today’s configuration, and a number of station names have changed from these initial plans. Bigger visual differences include the lack of the kink in the Yellow/Green line around Columbia Heights and a much greater sense of visual clarity: short station names (note that it’s only “U Street” here!) and no secondary information like cross streets, hospitals or timetable/routing callout boxes give the map room to breathe. While not quite the mimimalist classic that Massimo Vignelli’s New York Subway map is, this version of the map is definitely far more deserving of the “iconic” tag than its modern descendants.
Our rating: An unadulterated look at the far superior original concept. Four stars.
(Source: Subchat.com thread about the map: the thread originally dates the map to March 27, 1976, but later revises it to March 17, 1977 because of the stations that are shown as being open — Dupont Circle and Gallery Place stations opened after the rest of the Phase I Red Line stations)
Official Map: ART Bus System, Asheville, North Carolina
Submitted by Matthew Frazier, who says:
This is the new system map for ART, or Asheville Redefines Transit (a rather interesting name for a transit agency), from Asheville, North Carolina. I think this is a nice format for bus maps, balancing the stronger need for geographical accuracy with the simplicity of traditional rail maps.
(Though I do find it amusing that the “South” route S2 ends further north than it begins.)
Transit Maps says:
I think this map is the perfect counterpoint to the abysmal Des Moines DART map I featured earlier in week. It shows that it is possible for a smaller city to produce a visually attractive and useful transit map if they try hard enough. For the record, the populations of the greater Des Moines and Asheville regions are very similar: around 500,000 to 430,000 respectively, so we’re comparing apples to apples here.
In Asheville’s case, they went to the professionals for help rather than trying to do it alone with limited resources. This map was designed by Carticulate Maps, who always put a lot of creative thought into their transit maps — a good match for a system whose acronym is “ART”.
So what do they do right?
Excellent color choices for their route lines: there’s lots of contrast between adjacent routes with little chance of confusion. And while the layout of the map is geographically based, irrelevant information (noise) has been stripped out. We don’t need to see every street in the city, but enough remain for quick and easy orientation. The streets that are on the map are clearly labelled and lots of actual bus stops are indicated along routes, which is so much more useful than just a blank route line.
A comprehensive and easily understood legend that fully explains the map. Route designations that make sense to the average commuter help a lot here as well: “N” routes serve the northetn part of the city, “S” routes go south, and so on.
Intelligent use of insets to show the ends of outlying 170 and S3 routes keeps the map nice and compact, and the downtown inset is nicely implemented as well.
My problems with this map are fairly minor: There’s a fair bit of randomly angled type which makes quick scanning of the labels a little hard, and I’ve never been a huge fan of Gill Sans for map labelling: it has a very small x-height which makes the type appear very small.
Our rating: Top notch: imaginative and useful cartography. Four stars.
P.S. For an example of a great diagrammatic bus system map produced by a small US city, check out this Spokane, WA map. (Feb. 2012, 4 stars)
Fantasy Map: A Tube Map of the Periodic Table of Elements
Submitted by the awesome Gnimmel’s House of Maps, who says:
There are a lot of infographics around which are based on the tube map, and a lot which are based on the periodic table. So I decided to combine the two. Here’s a tube map of the periodic table (see also here for more details) and there’s also a periodic table of the tube map.
Transit Maps says: Science combined with a tube map equals a win in my book! It’s been a long time since high school chemistry for me, but this diagram seems to make pretty good sense, with the “fare zones” and “route lines” accurately depicting the different properties (groups, blocks, periods, etc.) of the periodic table. I especially like the ” River Thames”, which separates gases, liquids and solids — with liquids being “stations” placed in the river. This leads to Mercury — a metal that’s also a liquid at room temperature — getting its own little “lake”, a nice touch indeed.
Our Rating: Pretty darn awesome! Four stars.
Official Map: Zentralbahn, Switzerland
Here’s another unusual transit map - this one for the narrow-gauge, rack-assisted Zentralbahn railway in central Switzerland, serving the cities of Lucerne, Interlaken, Engelberg and points inbetween. Before a tunnel was built in 2010, the grade between Grafenort and Engelberg reached a staggering 25 percent — hard work even for a rack-assisted engine!
Totally appropriately for a system that serves an alpine area, the map looks as if it would be completely at home in a Swiss ski resort, with a detailed painting of the majestic Alps that’s reminiscent of the the famed James Niehues. Over this, the route lines are simply overlaid in red. Stations are labelled in blue boxes, while other destinations — many accessible through other alpine cog railways — are labelled in white ones.
The map has been rotated to show the best view of the valleys that the trains travel along, but the icon in the bottom right corner shows the true relation of the lines, with north properly towards the top of the page.
Our rating: Unusual, but appropriate and highly effective design that definitely evokes as sense of place. Four stars.
(Source: Official Zentralbahn website)
Historical Map: Transportation Map of Greater Winnipeg, 1941
Here’s another beautiful vintage transit map, this time from Winnipeg, Canada. It’s around the same age as this great map from Portland, Oregon, and displays a similarly austere wartime aesthetic. The map is printed in just three colours (black, red and green) and — apart from some of the typography in the legend — is entirely hand-drawn and lettered.
Important buildings and points of interest are all carefully and charmingly rendered, but the real winners for me are the numerous golf courses dotted around the city. On the fairways and greens are miniature golf players, most of whom seem to be having a very bad day on the course indeed.
Some other elements are slightly less successful, such as the poorly-drawn scroll around the downtown Winnipeg inset, but overall, this is a charming and whimsical map.
One final point of interest is the obvious replacement of the original streetcar network (solid green routes) by buses (red routes). By 1955 — just 14 years after this map was produced — the streetcar tracks were ripped up, and trolleybuses were phased out in 1970.
Our rating: A charming little slice of history. Red and green aren’t the best colours to use for differentiating service modes, but I doubt a lot of thought was put into that back in 1941. Ticked-off cartoon golfers elevate this to a four star rating.
(Source: Manitoba Historical Maps/Flickr)
A better Caltrain map: Caltrain’s current route map looks outdated and provides very minimal transfer information. I’ve created a refreshed map which provides more comprehensive transfer info (to other transit systems and airports) as well as a one-way fare chart. Stations served by Baby Bullet express trains are in bold. A current drawback: I left out all weekend-only and south-of-San-Jose stops. Future renditions could include those.
Transit Maps says: This is nice! Much, much better than the stale old official map.
The bold names for the adorably-named “Baby Bullet” service is simple but effective, and doesn’t clutter the map up with an extra route line for this express service.
Perhaps the BART services out of Millbrae station could point north rather than south to better reflect the direction trains actually travel in, but that’s a very minor quibble.*
Lovely colour palette, too. Four stars!
*An earlier version of this post erroneously misrepresented the location of Millbrae station and its relation to BART services toward SFO and OAK. It was a long day yesterday.
Unofficial Map: New York Regional Rail by Jake Berman, 2010
Directly related to the last post, here’s another map of greater New York’s regional rail. Designed by Jake Berman in 2010, this map takes a completely different approach to Carter’s work.
It uses colour-coding to differentiate between agencies, rather than routes, and shows services as main lines and branches, rather than showing each and every route along their entire length. This makes for a simpler-looking, more compact map, although it means that the map doesn’t even attempt to show any service patterns.
What we like: The treatment of the major hub stations on this map is lovely - the grey background simply and effectively sets them apart. Inclusion of the AirTrain lines at JFK and Newark is nicely handled, while the use of striking magenta type to call out transfers to other services is fantastic.
What we don’t like: One minor nitpick is that the western NJ Transit lines look a little cramped in comparison to other parts of the map. Also, the names of branch lines are quite small and hard to read because they’re contained within the route lines themselves.
Our rating: A completely different way of tackling the same problem as the previous map, but equally valid and attractive. I do slightly prefer being able to trace a route from one end to the other on a map, but this is still a comprehensive guide to regional rail in and around New York. Four stars.
(Source: subwaymaps/Jake Berman)