Victorian Rail Network — Concept Map, April 2014
Here’s an interesting proposed new map out of Australia which combines Melbourne’s suburban rail network with the V/Line passenger rail service. In a way, this makes sense, as many of V/Line’s services act as commuter rail services from surrounding cities like Geelong. With the introduction of the myki farecard, much of the V/Line network now even shares the same ticketing system, as shown on the map by use of a solid grey route line. However, it does look a little odd to have Craigieburn (25km from the Melbourne CBD) so close to Albury at the end of the line (over the border into NSW, some 330km from Melbourne). In the end, the diagrammatic distortion is probably a good trade off in making a compact, legible map.
Overall, I really think this a good effort, and I certainly like it a lot more than the current Melbourne rail network map that just uses two colours (blue and yellow) to represent fare zones, although I don’t know if this map will replace that one or is meant to complement it.
I was going to comment that an indication of which direction trains travel around the City Loop would be good, but some research reveals that there’s no easy answer to that: trains can go opposite directions around the loop depending on the time of day.
Apparently, this map is on display at certain stations around Melbourne and Public Transport Victoria will be surveying customers for their opinion. However, putting a call to action on the poster — “for more information, visit our website” — really only works if the end user can actually find the relevant information easily (I gave up after 10 minutes).
Our rating: Nicely done. Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Daniel Bowen/Flickr)
Photo: Here be Sea Monsters
Always thought there was something strange about Port Phillip Bay…
When catching a train to the bay, beware of the sea monster.
Official Map: Sydney Light Rail Network, 2014
Sydney’s light rail system is expanding this Thursday March 27, with an extension from the current outermost station at Lilyfield along an old freight rail alignment to Dulwich Hill.
Here’s the map of the “network” (can you call one line a network?) that’s now available on the Transport for NSW website. Stylistically, it’s been brought into line with the maps of the other Transport for NSW services, including that of the main Sydney Trains network.
Interestingly, the light rail line seems to have inherited the red colour that the main Sydney Trains map lost when the old Northern Line was rebranded as part of the Yellow “T1” line: I don’t know whether this is by design or coincidence.
The map is drawn well enough, showing the slightly circuitous route that the line takes through Pyrmont in a nicely stylised manner, but the whole thing just seems so… empty.
In a frankly baffling move, absolutely no indication is given of where the light rail interchanges with the main rail network — at Central (Sydney’s main railway station), Dulwich Hill, and (with a bit of a walk) at Lewisham West. Ferries are also easily accessible at the Pyrmont Bay station, and there are connections to bus services at many of the stations. A light rail line like this doesn’t exist in isolation: it’s a feeder service that creates and allows transit connections — why not show them, especially when there’s so much empty space on the map?
Our rating: Competent enough and in-keeping with the new Sydney transit design style, but needs to show better integration with other transit options to be truly useful. Two-and-a-half stars.
Source: Transport for NSW website
Official Map: “BUZ” Frequent Service Bus Network, Brisbane, Australia
"BUZ" apparently stands for "Bus Upgrade Zone", a somewhat convoluted way to refer to frequent service routes — every 10 minutes in peak periods and every 15 minutes at other times. That Brisbane has 20 such frequent service routes is actually pretty impressive, but the map itself is not.
What a horrible, twisted, messy, scraggly attempt at a network map this is. Completely diagrammatic in some parts, and overly precise in others: what is with the ridiculous twists in the two routes at the very top of the map? The central part of the map is simply ghastly, with absolutely no thought as to how to group routes together properly. Routes that leave the city headed towards a common direction or destination should all be grouped with each other, not randomly separated as they are here.
Why does the western end of the Maroon Cityglider have a slight non-standard and visually distracting angle applied to it?
Looking at the map, but not the legend, tell me if the last stop at the eastern end of the Maroon Cityglider is Stones Corner or Langlands Park. It’s the former, although the placement of the labels leads you to believe its the latter.
The 90-degree curve on the cyan Route 340 line through the city centre is terribly drawn and — appallingly — runs into the lime green Route 196 terminus at Merthyr.
Station dots that don’t align with the route line they’re on, badly implemented arrows that point at stations that are too far away from their labels, labels that aren’t consistently aligned (there’s a thought for another tutorial!), insipid typography (Arial!), strange spacing (what’s with the giant empty gap in the middle of the southern leg of Route 100?)… the list of awfulness goes on and on.
Our rating: Not thought through at all and almost incoherently executed. It’s like a first draft by someone who’s never made a transit map before. Who signs off on these things? One (incredibly generous) star, and that’s only because I was born there and have a sentimental attachment to the place.
(Source: Translink Queensland website)
Submission - Unofficial Map: Sydney Trains Aerial Image
Submitted by thatlattesipper.
Sydney Trains routes (complete with new “T-line” branding) for the north and west of the city overlaid on a Google Earth image.
If nothing else, this map reminds us of how staggeringly huge Greater Sydney really is. It’s 20 kilometres in a straight line from the dot representing Central Station at the lower left to Hornsby (just off the right of the map), and over 30km from Central to Prospect Reservoir, the large body of water just glimpsed at the centre top of the map. And this view doesn’t even show the entire southern half of the city (it’s another 20km from Central south to Waterfall) or Western Sydney from Prospect out to Emu Plains.
Some perspective: Greater Sydney has a population of around 4.6 million and an area of 12,100 square km (a population density of just 380 people per square km). The five boroughs of New York City have a population of 8.3 million in just 786 square km (or approximately 10,600 people per square km!)
[GIF] Comparison between my Sydney Trains map and the official one
Just for the heck of it. Post about project here.
My Reworking of the New Sydney Trains Map
Okay, I couldn’t help myself: I just had to redraw this thing to illustrate all the points I talked about earlier — correcting the obvious errors I discovered in my technical review, and also addressing the general thoughts of my initial post.
So here it is: not a redesign, but a reworking of the design concept while working within the established principles of the official map. If you’re just starting out with designing transit maps, this is always a fun exercise: opening up a PDF file in Illustrator, pulling it apart and putting it back together again to see how it works. I reworked this over just two days, probably spending about 8-10 hours on it in total.
My objectives with this map were to clean up and simplify. To achieve this, I completely redrew everything apart from the header, footer and legend. I did this so I could guarantee consistency throughout: I drew it, so I knew it was what I wanted, basically.
There’s only two major changes to the map, both of which help a lot, I feel. Firstly, I’ve removed the line names from the terminus stations on the map, leaving only the “T-number” designator. The T-numbers are explained clearly in the legend: I feel that repeating them on the map is superfluous and takes up way too much space. This change also allowed me to place the T-numbers more consistently and away from the route lines, instead of butted right up to them, as they sometimes were (especially at Epping and Hornsby).
The second change is the straightening of the T3 Bankstown Line, which makes it much easier to follow, in my opinion. Changes in direction in a route line should always be kept to a minimum, and the twisty path that the original map takes just didn’t make much sense to me.
After that, much of my work was just respacing stations for a more even effect throughout the map: see the Lidcombe detail comparison above for a good example: Granville, Clyde, Auburn and Lidcombe are far more evenly spaced, despite their differing text sizes and boldness. One effect of the respacing is that only one station name — the unavoidable Olympic Park — cuts through another route line: Sydenham and Flemington now sit away from nearby lines.
I also paid huge attention to curves throughout the map: all curves are now consistently sized with an equal radius (no curve is longer than it is wide). Stations don’t sit on a curve anywhere on the map: the closest they come is on the point that marks the start of a curve. The city comparison detail image above shows how this affects the station markers at Redfern, Central and Town Hall. Because none of the dots are on a curved part of the line, they can be placed perfectly evenly across the routes.
The other thing I’ve done with curves is to ensure that joins between lines always have a curve on them: no line joins straight onto another one. On the city detail image, you can see this where the Bankstown Line heads north to Town Hall, and where the Airport Line heads south to Green Square. This kind of information is subtle but important, as it makes it absolutely explicit which direction the line travels once it joins onto the other one.
Finally, the wireframe comparison image shows how clean my artwork is: no extraneous points in the middle of a straight line and two-point curves: simple, clean and — most importantly — easy to edit later.
Things that could still be addressed: I’d love to be able to get a T3 icon next to Lidcombe, and I’m still not convinced that the T1/T5 lines need to change direction between Parramatta and Blacktown — it might be nice for the T5 line to continue in a straight 45-degree line from Harris Park all the way to Schofields, with the T1 branching off from Blacktown to Emu Plains.
(Source: Original Official map PDF from this page)
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Better? Worse? The same?
Technical Review: New Sydney Trains Network Map
It seems that the draft Sydney Trains map that I posted about the other day is the real thing: printed timetables featuring it have been seen and scanned. So, I started looking at it again in order to write a proper review, when I started to notice a lot of little technical things that — as a designer — I found jarring and inconsistent.
I opened the PDF file in Adobe Illustrator and began to poke around. I thought it might be interesting — and perhaps instructive for designers who are interested in making their own transit maps — to show you what I found.
First, apologies for the four separate images: it’s an attempt to get around Tumblr’s maximum 1280px width for pictures. For reference, lets call then NW, NE, SW and SE.
My biggest problem with the map, and what I noticed first, is the wildly inconsistent positioning of labels. The one that really caught my eye was Lindfield on the North Shore Line on the NE map: it’s waaay out of place. St Marys on the Western Line (NW map) is also pretty bad. But, really, almost every label is poorly placed.
To show just how poor, I created cyan guides that are offset a small distance out from the route lines: this seemed to me to be about the right distance away for optimum placement of station labels. Then, for each orientation of label, I created an L-shaped magenta guide that shows both the baseline and the correct alignment (left or right) for the type. I then copy-and-pasted these guides to almost all the labels on the map, being sure to always keep them in the same position relative to each station maker.
As you can see, things are pretty horrific. It’s pretty obvious that there’s no common baseline for labels relative to their stations, nor are they a consistent distance away from the route lines. It’s almost as if each label has been placed individually and then nudged into position, rather than setting up a master set of label positions and applying them as required. Illustrator’s Duplicate function (Command/Control-D) makes this kind of thing so simple: place once, copy elements the required distance to place the next station, then Duplicate, Duplicate, Duplicate until all the stations are quickly and consistently placed.
It can be seen on the North Shore Line (NE map) that even the station dots are inconsistently placed — I’ve put a magenta dot over the top of any station that wasn’t where I expected it to be if things were placed mathematically. Possibly the worst culprits here are Merrylands, Guildford and Yennora stations at the bottom of the NW map: Guildford’s dots aren’t even at the correct angle to each other, and the label placement is completely different for each station. The huge gap between Yennora and Fairfield stations is also pretty ugly: it definitely should be possible to evenly and smoothly space the stations all the way down from Merrylands to Campbelltown.
Some route lines aren’t actually constrained to 45-degree angles: the worst offender is the East Hllls line from Riverwood to Holsworthy (SW map); others are also shown with an overprinting magenta line.
The distance between parallel route lines is inconsistent across the map: this is shown with a little measuring line. The black lines show my base measurement, while the blue lines show inconsistently spaced gaps, which may also be inconsistently spaced with each other! Again, spacing between elements can be controlled easily in Illustrator by entering precise values into the Move dialog box, so this type of thing is very frustrating to see.
The under construction South West Rail Link route is drawn differently to the North West Rail Link: it has no curves where it changes direction and the angled part of the line is too thick. I’ve rotated and overlaid the NW Link on top of the SW Link in cyan to illustrate the difference.
Why is the Macquarie University (NE map) station label set in bold “Interchange” text, but has no interchange ring around the station marker?
Finally, the nesting of curves where parallel routes change direction is very poor throughout the map. Look especially at the City Circle, where huge gaps open up between the route lines at the 90-degree corners. The corners on the orange Bankstown line there aren’t even a consistent radius, being much wider than they are tall.
You know, I really want to like this map. I don’t have any huge attachment to the old one, even though it’s competent enough. Sydney has regularly changed the look of its system map, so we certainly don’t have the same attachment to it that London has to its Tube Map, for example.
This new map is nicely simplified and streamlined, properly full of promise for the new timetabled services. It’s even looks quite friendly and cheerful! However, as a designer, I find it very difficult to look past glaring technical errors like the ones that litter this map, and now I can’t help but see them every darn time I look it.
NOTE: The PDF I edited is slightly older than the one now posted on the Sydney Trains website, but almost every error I talk about is still present in this final version. North Strathfield’s label no longer intersects the T7 Olympic Park line, which is an improvement of sorts.
Official Map: Sydney T7 Olympic Park Line
Glad they had a whole page to fit this super complex and confusing line map on…
Historical Map: Tramways System of Perth, Australia, 1920
An absolutely lovely official government map of Perth’s burgeoning tram network in 1920. The Western Australian state government had taken over the system from private operators just a few years prior to this. The alternating colours along the routes would seem to indicate fare segments, at a penny per segment. Five pence fare to Nedlands!
The map is beautifully drawn, and has two cleverly integrated insets to show the longer routes out to Osborne Park to the north and Victoria Park over the Swan River to the south.
Compare with this map from the 1940s.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)