Submission — NEW Official Map: MARTA Rapid Rail System, Atlanta, Georgia
'Tis the season for new transit maps in the United States! Hot on the heels of Portland’s new MAX light rail map comes this new version for Atlanta’s rapid rail system. These photos were submitted by long-time correspondent Matt Johnson on a recent visit to Atlanta, and he notes that they are present in many of the system’s major stations.
This map has quite a few improvements and changes from the version I previously reviewed, not the least of which is the change from Futura to Helvetica as the map’s main typeface. This makes a big difference in my eyes — Helvetica may have some failings that prevent it from being a truly excellent wayfinding typeface, but its clean looks and large x-height are a big step up from the idiosyncrasies of Futura.
The other big change is the way that night services are now shown as a separate inset map, rather than trying to explain them on the main map with different markings on the route lines. For a relatively simple system like Atlanta’s this works extremely well and is definitely easier to use and understand. However, it introduces one element that is simply awful and totally out of character with the simplicity of the rest of the map. The nighttime Red and Green Lines (the ones that have service cut back to only cover the stand-alone sections of track) have tiny little directional arrows running along both edges of the route line. I guess it’s meant to emphasise the shuttle-like nature of the lines, but I think that it’s totally unnecessary (as well as ugly). Bi-directional travel along route lines is inherently implied on a transit map unless specifically indicated otherwise, so why are these arrows even needed?
Other changes for the better include better drawn route lines than now nest properly going around curves (yay!). They’ve also lost their bounding black keylines, which helps to simplify the map — the Gold Line is a deeper hue now to enable it to retain its visibility compared to the other lines.
Our rating: In a way, this map has almost come full circle back to the stylish minimalism of the map used in the late 1970s/early 1980s, and that’s a good thing in my eyes. The little directional arrows on the night services map are a strange aberration, but overall, this is a solid improvement over previous recent maps. Four stars!
Submission – Historical Map: Proposed Underground Mass Transit, Jakarta, Indonesia, c. 1993
Submitted by Josh Brandt, who says:
I used to work at a university, and one day while poking through some dumpsters I found a big hardbound book full of architectural drawings and tables and things, a final report on developing a mass transit system for Jakarta.
I don’t know if that sort of thing interests you, but here are some pictures of pages from it.
They planned for 2 lines, NS and EW, and mapped them out in detail— I only have pictures of 2 of the street plans since about 2/3 of the book is made up of drawings of the streets with the proposed rail lines overlaid. They came up with 3 or 4 potential plans, including one full-underground line and a couple of mixed underground and elevated rail lines. They also sketched out a couple of stations.
I haven’t gone through and compared in detail to what they’re building now, but it looks pretty similar at a quick glance…
Transit Maps says:
What an amazing find, Josh! This is a real old-school proposal document, with beautiful hand-drawn architectural renderings and plans. I’ll note here that one of the proposing companies is Parsons Brinckerhoff, the firm that I work for as a senior graphic designer – essentially producing the same type of proposal documents, but with the benefit of modern computer software and technology.
Josh has posted a great set on Flickr of pages from the proposal, but I’ve posted one of my favourites here: a plan view of what looks like the north-eastern quadrant of the two-line system, including landmarks and other proposed works along the way. The linework is simply beautiful, and I wish more proposals had hand-drawn maps in them these days.
By the way, the 1993 date comes solely from the artist’s signature on some of the other drawings, which are dated March 1993. More than 20 years later, construction on the Jakarta MRT has only just started…
Our rating: Super yummy old style architectural renderings and maps make me happy. Four stars!
Fantasy Map: Rail Transport in Westeros by Michael Tyznik
Not the first Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice of Fire transit map I’ve seen, but definitely the best designed. It was created by Michael Tyznik, who also made this great fantasy map of Columbus (May 2012, 4 stars).
I do detect the influence of my TGV Routes of France map in this work — the general station symbology, the curved routes lines out of King’s Landing and the use of colour coding to define route groups — but Michael has done a fine job of taking things further. His intelligent use of non-standard angles keeps the map nice and compact, but also creates some nice, fun visual shapes. The typeface looks like the superb Source Sans Pro from Adobe, a definite favourite of mine.
(Spoilers below, I guess…)
There is some commentary in the map based on the events of the books and TV series, but it’s limited to some wry notes or labels: ”Please pardon our dust as Harrenhal is restored”, or having most of the stations on the Wall Line shown as being closed, for example. The Twins is also divided into “East” and “West” stations with a walking route between then, a very nice touch. One thing the map does really well is to emphasise the importance of the Kingsroad, the main trunk line of the whole transit system, as it were.
Our rating: Great work: the map looks fabulous and it’s full of fun things for fans of the series. Four stars!
Source: Michael’s Behance page. Click through to see lots of yummy details of the maps.
Submission - Official Map: Copenhagen S-Tog Network, 2014
Submitted by 1993matias, who says:
I am a big admirer of your reckless slaughter of bad maps - and the praise of the good ones. But, the map you got for the Copenhagen S-train network (reviewed way back in November 2011, 3 stars) is not the best you could have gotten. This one above is the official one at all stations in the area.
It has that sleek feel as the other map, but the local trains in the north take much of the focus with their dark colour. The metro has some very neutral colours, contrary to the red and green they really have. And the black and white dots make no sense to me, why not use ticks as the rest of the map? There are no transfer station, as the ticket system is “open” - barrier free. That makes every station a transfer station.
The design has been thought through, I can’t see any glaring design mistake - maybe apart from the “merging” routes just after the central station on the big bend (purple and grey).
I wonder what they will do when the new metro circle line opens - there’s no room left in central Copenhagen…
Transit Maps says:
To be fair, I did review the previous map back in 2011, so I’m not really surprised that it’s changed since then (I do note that my source link on the previous post no longer leads to any maps).
That said, this version of the map addresses almost all of the issues I had with the older one – lack of geographical context, no indication of connecting services, no indication of the importance of Copenhagen Central station – so it’s definitely a huge improvement in my opinion.
I would agree that the dark purple colour used for the connecting “Lokalbaner” trains is far too visually strong, but I don’t really mind the light grey used for the Metro lines: it’s secondary, connecting information and shouldn’t be shown with the same importance as the main focus of the map, the S-Tog system. I’m also at a a loss to understand why the stations are white on the M1 line, but black on the M2: it really doesn’t seem necessary to me.
And yes, it looks like a rethink will be needed once the Metro circle line opens… the centre of the city is going to need a lot more room. However, there’s a lot of empty space (Sweden) to the right of the map, so it looks like the same square format could still be used.
Our rating: A big improvement over the previous iteration. Four stars.
Source: DSB website (PDF download)
Unofficial Map: Istanbul Railway Network by Bertan Kılıçcıoglu
I’ve already featured an excellent unofficial map of Istanbul’s transit network by Kerim Bayer (June 2012, 4 stars), but here’s a new one that’s worthy of some attention.
First, let’s note that Istanbul’s transit network has expanded considerably in the last couple of years, and there’s now finally a rail connection across the Bosphorus, as well as a new Metro bridge over the Golden Horn (with a station in the middle of the span, no less!).
Although there’s a revised official map to go along with this expansion (see the second image above), it’s pretty poor. Weird non-standard angles are employed to shoehorn new routes into the existing framework of the map and the whole thing has a very tired, amateur feel about it.
Apparently, Bertan felt so strongly about this poor, sad map that he decided to rework it in his spare time. A man after my own heart!
What’s interesting about his map, though, is that it’s not really a new design at all. Bertan has taken all the elements of the old map — the same colours, route line thicknesses, symbols, icons, and legend information — and has simply used them in a far more attractive, considered way.
Route lines are strictly limited to 45 degrees, all labelling is horizontal (and he’s taken great care to stop labels from overlapping his route lines), interchanges are shown more cleanly… and more! It’s a great example of how a little bit of care and effort can transform an ordinary map into something much more cohesive and user-friendly.
For those who are interested, the (rather nice, if a little quirky) typeface used on Bertan’s map is the open-source Google font, Titillium Web.
Our rating: Using the same building blocks as the official map in an intelligent way, Bertan has transformed this map from dowdy to diva: four stars!
Source: Bertan’s portfolio website — click through to read more about his design process, as well as see some more comparison images.
Official Map: Daytime Transport Services of Budapest, Hungary
In addition to the Metro/suburban rail only map that was introduced with the new Metro Line 4, there’s also this more comprehensive city map that adds tram, key bus routes, ferries and more to the mix. It’s more directly analogous to the old Budapest map (July 2012, 2.5 stars), and is also highly reminiscent of this Prague integrated transit map (August 2012, 4 stars).
Definitely aimed at tourists (the PDF file even has the word “turisztikai” in its file name) to give them a good idea of transit options within the central city, the map does a good job of that: the river and park areas work nicely to define the shape of the city and the Metro is given good hierarchical prominence. There’s even some nicely executed simple icons for points of interest around town.
Instead of the approach taken on the previous map, where each tram line was given its own colour, here they’re all represented by yellow. It’s a little odd that it’s the exact same colour as Metro Line 1, but the difference in stroke weight makes it immediately obvious which is which. Key bus routes are shown in blue, and the unique cogwheel railway (Line 60) is highlighted in magenta. For those who are curious, the “Children’s Railway" shown to the far left of the map is not necessarily a railway for children, it’s a railway operated by children (apart from adult supervision and the actual driver of the train).
The only real flaws with this map in my eyes are some overly fussy route lines for buses, particularly the 291 just north of Metro Line 2 on the west side of the river and the strangely jarring choice of Times New Roman for neighbourhood names.
Our rating: Excellent overview of transportation options in Budapest. Looks good and is easy to follow. Four stars.
Source: Official BKK website
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!