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)
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)
Fantasy Map: Tyneride BRT Network Map
Utterly plausible bus rapid transit (BRT) system map for the Tyneside region of England, designed as if it was a division of the Tyne & Wear Metro.
While I can’t comment on whether Nexus/Metro would ever actually operate its own BRT network, I certainly can’t fault the aesthetics of the map itself. It’s absolutely spot-on, mimicking the look of the official Metro rail map (Nov 2011, 3.5 stars) perfectly. The 30/60-degree angles and the use of the distinctive Calvert slab serif typeface all convince the viewer that this is an official Metro map.
If anything, it’s perhaps a little too similar — the only indication that this is a BRT map as opposed to light rail is the red “B - Buses” symbol at the bottom left, a riff off the iconic yellow “M - Metro” logo.
Our rating: A fun visual homage to a well-known system map, although perhaps a little too close to be successfully adapted to real-world usage if such an event ever occurred. Three stars.
Future Map: “ProjectConnect” Central Texas High-Capacity Transit Vision
I’ve featured a couple of dodecalinear maps recently (both for Amsterdam — here and here), but this future transit map for Austin and San Antonio has got ‘em covered. It’s a hexadecalinear map. That is, there are sixteen possible directions for a route line to head from any given point.
Interestingly however, the angles between the route lines aren’t evenly arranged. Instead of 0 - 22.5 - 45 - 67.5 - 90 degree arrangement, this map uses 0 - 26.5 - 45 - 63.5 - 90. Ultimately, it doesn’t make a huge visual difference, and the resulting grid is adhered to accurately. If anything, it helps to limit the width of the map because of the long diagonal line from Austin to San Antonio.
Normally, I’d say that a 16-directional transit map is total overkill, seeing as most maps only have eight directions to move in and manage perfectly well, but this actually looks very striking and effective while probably also more closely conforming to the actual geography of the area. The legend is also excellent, clearly delineating currently operating, planned and under construction routes for all the transit modes.
I’m not so keen on the completely unnecessary angled labels for many of the stations: there’s plenty of room for horizontal labelling on this map (it’s okay for the street names to follow the direction of the road). The project logo is also pretty blandly generic and doesn’t really fit in with the stylish look of the map itself (Neutraface at work again!)
Our rating: Attractive and full of promise for the future — hugely important in trying to affect a change of mind-set regarding transportation options in a auto-reliant area like Texas (where — like large parts of the U.S. — the most popular new vehicle is a Ford F-150). Four stars!
(Source: Project Connect website)
Official Future Map: Los Angeles Metro Rail
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency released a “under construction” map yesterday, showing all the lines that are planned for the near future: Expo Line Phase 2, Gold Line Foothill Extension, the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Purple Line Extension and the ambitious downtown Regional Connector.
Overall, the map fits quite well into the existing LA Metro design aesthetic, although the crowded downtown area is now starting to make the station labelling look a little cramped and messy. It also presents a much larger problem — pointed out to me by Sam Huddy — in that its depiction of the Regional Connector is seriously flawed.
As seen in the second picture above, the Connector will cross the Red and Purple Lines after the 7th Street/Metro Center station and have a stop at 2nd Place/Hope — on the west side of the existing Red/Purple tracks. However, the new map chooses to place the 2nd Place/Hope station on the east side of those tracks, and has the entire Connector parallel to them, instead of showing the crossings.
A lot of this comes down to the limited space available in this part of the map, and the Silver Line is already taking up the available space on the west side of the Red/Purple Lines. However, while this is a diagrammatic map, it’s still hugely important that stations are placed in the correct positions relative to each other. Really, the central part of the map should have been completely redesigned to accommodate the Connector in its correct position, rather than simply tacking it on to the existing map.
Once the Connector is completed, it seems likely that service patterns on Metro rail will change, with the Gold, Blue and Expo lines drastically reconfigured — so there’s a chance this somewhat lazy error will get fixed then.
(Source: LA Metro website — “Under Construction Map” link)
Unofficial Map: MBTA Map Contest Entry by Michael Kvrivishvili
Here’s another entry for the MBTA’s map contest, sent to me by Michael Kvrivishvili, a graphic and interactive designer from Moscow.
Michael has chosen to show all of the services on his map that the MBTA does on their map — subway, BRT, commuter rail, key bus routes and ferries. He pulls it off pretty well, too, although the convoluted network of bus routes is always going to look a little busy.
Like Kerim, Michael’s map features a perfect diamond representing the downtown interchange stations, and he also manages to fit in all the Green Line stations.If it wasn’t for the little flip in the Red Line to Braintree, he’d also have a perfectly straight diagonal line across the map! Despite these similarities, the two maps are really quite different.
Much like the current Washington DC map, Michael has added badges to the end of each line that denotes that line’s name — ”OL” for Orange Line, and so on — an excellent aid for color-blind users of the system. He also adds the full name of the line in very small text within each line, which seems redundant and is also far too small to be of any real use.
For the most part, Michael’s handling of the commuter rail lines is well done: they’re obviously lower in the information hierarchy than the main subway lines, but still look attractive. Again, the ends of the commuter rail lines feature some lovely and unusual arrowheads — I love this sort of attention to detail. The one place the map is not as clear as it could be is at Readville station. The Fairmount Line terminates at this station, while trains on the Franklin Line stop, but trains on the Stoughton/Providence Line pass through without stopping. On Michael’s map. the Franklin Line looks like a continuation of the Fairmount Line (which isn’t named on the map), and there’s no visual indication that Stoughton/Providence trains don’t stop here.
There’s more usability problems with the Silver Line at Logan Airport. Michael shows all the stops, but he doesn’t show how the route loops around. From the information shown on the map, a reader might expect that once the bus reaches the end of the line at Terminal E, it reverses back along the line, stopping at the other terminals again along the way. A similar problem is evident with the end of the SL2 line at Design Center (also a loop in real life).
Interestingly, Michael has chosen to show non-accessible stations on the map, rather than accessible ones. This actually works quite well at cleaning up the central part of the map, where there are more accessible stations than non-accessible ones.
A few other thoughts: the legend at the bottom of the map is beautifully laid out; the subway to bus/commuter rail symbol is subtle but effective; and the bus routes are generally pretty well done. Also, the Silver Line makes a big capital “B” in the middle of the map!
Our rating: Really quite good. The few shortcomings are probably due to Michael’s unfamiliarity with the system and look like they could be easily fixed. Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Email from Michael, also on Flickr)
Unofficial Map: Kerim Bayer’s MBTA Map Contest Entry
While I’m personally not too keen on the MBTA’s map contest, I totally respect the rights of those who still wish to participate. As they’ve told me in conversation, kudos and recognition can be very strong reasons for less experienced or amateur designers to enter. A couple of those designers have sent their entries in to me to review and share with you — this one’s from Kerim Bayer, who also produced this rather striking map of Istanbul’s rapid transit system (June 2012, 4 stars).
To my mind, it’s definitely an improvement on the current map. The removal of the key bus routes helps to create a much cleaner look, although at the obvious loss of that information. The alignment of the Red Line — a strong, straight, diagonal slash across the map — provides a powerful visual axis, as does the perfect diamond formed by the major downtown interchanges (a device very reminiscent to the perfect square seen on older MBTA maps). Kerim has also managed to fit all stations on the Green Line branches into the perfect square required by the MBTA — a formidable achievement indeed!
The white stroke on the commuter rail and Mattapan lines help to differentiate these services from the main subway routes nicely and attractively (I love the arrowheads at the ends of the commuter rail lines), although I think the device is less successful when used on the Green Line. While it’s true that the B, C and D branches of the Green Line do act more like streetcars in the sections indicated, does having this information on the map actually help the viewer in any way? You still stay on the same train from one end of the branch to the other without the need to change trains like you would on the Mattapan line at Ashmont. One could also argue that the D branch also runs on the “surface”, as do portions of the Orange and Blue lines, albeit in specialised rail corridors.
While the typeface used is a lovely, modern sans serif font — Bariol, a welcome and interesting break from the ubiquitous Helvetica — I would say that much of the labelling on the map is too small: Kerim’s Instanbul map also suffered from this. It certainly adds to the clean look of the map, but diminishes its usability — especially when viewed from a distance, as it would often be in the real world at stations.
While Kerim has managed to show all of the stops on the Silver Line 2 BRT route out to Design Center, he has condensed all the Logan Airport stops into one blanket “mega-station”. Knowing that the bus stops at all of the terminals (and actually has two stops at the “B” terminal) as well as the direction it loops around the terminal road is necessary information and — to my mind — really needs to be included in some form.
Our rating: Stylish, clean and modern-looking. The type is a little too small to be easily readable, and some important information is lacking. Three stars.
(Source: via email conversation with Kerim)
Future Minneapolis & St. Paul Transit Map
After several months in development, I’m proud to present to you the Future Twin Cities Transit Map. A comprehensive summary of current rapid transit proposals, this version shows all existing and future light rail & BRT lines as well as select major bus routes, commuter rail and HSR connections. Detailed summary of transit improvements available at MetroTransit’s homepage.
In 2030, Twin Cities are expected to join the likes of Chicago, Curitiba and Copenhagen in operating an efficient, reliable, and extensive transit network. Take a peek at the future!
Download, Print, Share, Modify…
No project is ever complete, so I would welcome anyone to use it as a template for their own mapping project!
The map is published under a Creative Commons license(Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike).This means sharing and making copies is not just allowed but strongly encouraged.
Comments / questions? Just ask!
Transit Maps says:
I’ve been following this project with interest for quite a while now, and all I can say now that it’s completed is: WOW!
This is a transit map designed to inspire future riders. It’s beautifully designed, technically excellent (I’ve pulled apart the PDF in Illustrator to get a good look under the hood), and — quite frankly — puts a lot of official transit maps produced in the U.S. to absolute shame.
What I love most is the crystal-clear informational hierarchy: thick, coloured lines represent rapid transit, be it LRT or BRT. Regardless of the mode, service comes frequently (9 to 12 minute headways) and the vehicles move quickly. Grey lines (lower in the hierarchy) show arterial bus service, with line thickness neatly representing service frequency. Beneath this, the I-494/694 ring is subtly shown for orientation, and the geography is rendered in a style that complements the routes beautifully. The legend is clear and easy to use, and the colour scheme for the whole map gives it a very sophisticated, modern feel.
Finally, the icons used on the map are excellent from top to bottom, from the distinctive segmented interchange markers, down to the tiny airport, commuter rail and Amtrak icons. Fantastic attention to detail is evident here.
Our rating: Everything I love about modern transit map design. Five stars!
Los Angeles Rail Maps
Great photo showing how the LA Metro maps are part of a larger, unified, wayfinding system. Consistency of typography and brand are key — note how the titles of each map are in the same location and typeface every time, as is the Metro logo: colour is the main differentiator of information.
Official Map: Rapid Transit of Cleveland, Ohio
After posting a photo of a vintage Cleveland RTA rapid transit map, I was curious as to what the current map looked like. Oh dear. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Sadly, the best thing about this map is the nicely retro-styled RTA agency logo. As for the rest…
What we don’t like: Multiple angles for route lines instead of the standard 45-degrees looks messy and poorly thought out. Strange spacing of stations on the eastern part of the Green Line.
Multicoloured concentric rings for interchange stations gives a strange rainbow vibe to the whole map that becomes quite jarring when four colours -green, red, blue and silver - are used at the Tower City station. Strangely and inconsistently, this concentric ring device is not used on the Waterfront Line, with two half rings being used instead.
The Waterfront Line is also drawn with thinner lines than the rest of the map, which confused me greatly at first: isn’t it just an extension of the Green and Blue Lines? I had to do some research to find out that the Waterfront Line only operates on weekends - an incredibly vital piece of operating information that isn’t indicated on the map at all. A simple addition to the legend would have worked nicely here.
Embarrassingly desultory addition of the HealthLine BRT route.
Our rating: Ugh. An ugly, confusing, inconsistent mess. One star.
(Source: Official RTA website)