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
Amtrak On-Time Performance by Route
A neat little map/infographic accompanying an interesting article in the Washington Post about Amtrak’s inability to actually get people places on-time. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t own most of your track and freight trains get priority… but I digress.
The map does a good job at presenting the information in an interesting manner: the use of green to differentiate between “vaguely acceptable performance” and the varying shades of “are we ever going to get there?” purple is particularly nice.
However, the map does show one of the pitfalls of placing diagrammatic route lines onto a geographical background. The western terminus of the Missouri River Runner is shown correctly as Kansas City, MO, which the Southwest Chief also runs through. However, the 45-degree angle imposed on the Southwest Chief as it leaves Chicago means that it misses Kansas City by a considerable distance (by roughly half the state of Missouri, actually!). Whoops!
I’d also argue that the Texas Eagle should really only be shown from Chicago to San Antonio, as the Los Angeles section is really provided via a connection to the Sunset Limited at San Antonio (as shown on my own subway map-style poster of Amtrak routes).
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Click here to view the poster in my shop.
Historical Map: PATCO Hi-Speed Line (Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey), 1983
An odd little map from the Fall/Winter 1978 PATCO timetable brochure. While the Hi-Speed line itself is nicely shown in a lovely strong red, the absolute tangle of highways shown in New Jersey is somewhat bewildering, and really not that helpful.
The other bit of strangeness is the way that the map shows highways and towns all the way out to the Atlantic coast – some 45 miles past Lindenwold, the easternmost PATCO station. The map does note that you can transfer to “Seashore Buses” at Lindenwold, but doesn’t show any routes for them. Conrail trains actually ran from Lindenwold out to several coastal destinations just a few years prior, as this almost identical map from 1978 shows. Rather than completely redraw the map, PATCO just erased the tracks from the old artwork and reused it. Very pragmatic.
In 1989, the Atlantic City Line (re)opened, first with Amtrak trains, and then with the current NJ Transit commuter rail service.
Our rating: Sneakily repurposing an older map’s artwork may be thrifty, but it makes for a very off-centred, unbalanced map. Fully two-fifths of the area serves very little purpose. One-and-a-half stars.
Official Map: San Francisco Bay Area Regional Transit Map
Submitted by Reed Wagner, who says:
This map appears to be part of a greater “wayfinding” campaign by the SF Bay Area MTC - it appears at major Caltrain, Muni and BART stations and presumably is elsewhere (I took this picture at Caltrain 4th & King. In comparison to the maps made by SF Cityscape like this (external link: PDF), it seems that the official MTC map is falling short in every regard other than information overload in a messy form.
Transit Maps says:
It’s pretty difficult to disagree with Reed’s summary of this map: it is messy, cluttered and difficult to decipher. It’s a little unfair to compare it to the excellent SF Cityscape map (which only shows rail transit and thus becomes less cluttered instantly), but this is still pretty poor work. The main failings, in my opinion:
It’s neither a map or a diagram, and suffers from this hybrid approach. Cities and towns are in (or close to) their correct geographical location, but are simply connected with straight lines between them, creating a lot of very unattractive angles throughout the map.
The ugly and unnecessary feathered shading behind the route lines to denote (very approximate) urban limits. Use a label for each major city: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, etc, then let the station names do the rest of the work. This map has enough problems with colour already (see next point) without introducing more!
Finally, the legend of the map indicates that there are 38 (yes, 38!) different transit agencies or services shown on the map, and the only visual difference between them is the colour of their route line. It’s too much work for colour to do alone, and certainly isn’t very colour-blind friendly! Some attempt at differentiating modes (BART, commuter rail, bus, Amtrak, etc.) by using something like different stroke widths would allow less colours to be used overall (as the same colours could then be used more than once), while also adding an extra dimension of useful information to the map.
Our rating: More hindrance than help — the information as shown takes way too long to be interpreted by the reader, which isn’t very useful at a crowded railway station! One-and-a-half 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.
Fantasy Map: United States High Speed Rail System
Submitted by thethingtobomb, who says:
Obviously this potential US High Speed rail system has some layout problems, but the map itself is intriguing. What’s your opinion?
Transit Maps says:
The problem with this map is that it’s based on incredibly optimistic projections of HSR in the United States (I believe the technical term for this is a “pipe dream”). Back in 2009, there was a big push for high-speed rail and it seemed that everyone was getting behind it — hence, all the routes shown here.
Cue the economic downturn and suddenly things don’t look so rosy. HSR is expensive.
Of everything shown here, only the incredibly controversial California High Speed Rail is getting anywhere near construction. If I remember right, Florida explicitly rejected Federal grant money for HSR there, and I know for a fact there’s almost no funding in Oregon.
Of current routes, only the Northeast Corridor is taking baby steps towards becoming a true high-speed corridor: the Acela Express barely qualifies at its highest speed, and there’s plenty of sections of track where it has to operate at slower speeds.
In short, HSR has a long way to go before acceptance and implementation in the United States, meaning maps like this remain strictly in the “fantasy” category.
Design-wise, the map is functional enough, although the font used is pretty ghastly, in my opinion.
Unofficial Map: San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit, 2011
This post comes about because of a Tumblr Mail (go, on ask me something!) from an anonymous follower, who says:
“Any idea if a unified San Francisco transit map exists somewhere out there, perhaps a la the Portland one? SF has to have one of the more confusing transit systems in the country, what with Caltrain + BART + Muni + cable cars + the F line.”
As it happens, there are plenty of unofficial maps showing both just the City of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.
This one, from sfcityscape.com, is definitely one of the best. It shows BART, Muni Metro, the F line, Caltrain, and more. The only rail transit it doesn’t show are the historic cable cars (which surely don’t qualify as rapid transit, anyway) and interstate Amtrak trains, preferring to focus on the Amtrak California Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin services.
Extra handy features include an indication of stations with timed transfers between services and an awesome little diagram of how BART services change quite radically depending on the day of the week.
Technically, the map is extremely well drawn - there’s a lovely clean minimalism to the linework and the colour palette is gorgeous, especially in the background areas.
My one minor complaint is that the colours used to denote Muni Metro and Caltrain are very similar to each other. While the relative thicknesses of their service lines help distinguish them from each other, the services do touch and overlap in a couple of places. This problem seems like it could have been easily solved with a little more thought, but still barely detracts from the sheer quality of this piece.
Our rating: One of my favourite unofficial maps. Four-and-a-half stars.
(Source: SF Cityscape - PDF)
Unofficial Map: New York Regional Rail by Carter Green
To say I’m excited to share this map with you would be an understatement.
In August, I was contacted by Carter Green, a high school student who had been inspired by my maps (especially my map of French TGV routes) and had created his own of regional rail services in and around New York City. He asked whether I would mind taking a look at it, which I did. Immediately, I was impressed with the amazing quality of the cartography, but had a few suggestions which I thought Carter could implement. He took my ideas on board, and has now got back to me with the final version - and it’s beautiful.
Have we been there? My only experience with regional rail in the New York area is a NJ Transit train from Newark Airport to Penn Station.
What we like: A nicely unified design - the whole map gives off an elegant Art Deco feel (very appropriate for New York!), courtesy of the distinctive Neutraface type family and some nice little flourishes in arrowheads and the map’s north pointer.
The use of increasingly large circles for hub stations is something that could have looked terrible, but I think Carter has actually pulled it off very well - your eye is definitely drawn to them, and it quickly gives an idea of a station’s importance.
I absolutely adore the circular treatment of routes around Philadelphia, which is new to this version of the map.
Neat integration of New York Subway interchanges.
I wish I’d thought of Carter’s solution for stations where not every train stops - white dots linked by connecting lines, as seen on the red Metro-North routes into Connecticut.
What we don’t like: Some minor, minor things. The symbols for connecting services that aren’t the Subway aren’t as effective (just three-letter abbreviations and teeny tiny airport symbols for the AirTrain services).
The curves where a route line has to “step down” to remain next to other routes on the same corridor (on the Metro-North Waterbury branch, for example) could be smoother to fit better with the graceful curves seen throughout the rest of the map.
A couple of errors that can easily be fixed: the LIRR Belmont seasonal service is shown in the legend, but not its parent Greenport branch. “AirTrain” is misspelled as “AirTran” in the legend.
Our rating: Incredibly impressive work that shows a very complex network of services from many different agencies and makes it visually compelling and informative. Did I mention Carter is still in high school? Four-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Email correspondence with Carter Green)