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)
Official and Future Maps: EmX BRT System, Eugene, Oregon
One of the best things about this blog is finding people out there who - like me - aren’t always satisfied with the status quo and want to improve on the transit maps that are out there.
Take these maps of the EmX* bus rapid transit system in Eugene/Springfield, Oregon. The first one is the current system map issued by the Lane Transit District. While it’s functional enough, it’s certainly not very exciting. I always believe that a good transit map should be enticing and attractive to draw people towards it as a transportation option. In effect, the map is an advertisement for the service - if it looks modern and well-designed, the system benefits by association.
The second map is of a potential EmX system in 50 years’ time, made by Dave Amos, based off information found on LTD’s website. You can read more about the development of the map on Dave’s Tumblr here. Leaving the accuracy of the map aside, as I can’t really comment on that without a lot of further research (and Dave himself admits the map is somewhat speculative), let’s concentrate on the aesthetics.
Dave’s map seems to draw a lot of design cues from the London Underground map, which is good in that it instantly takes on a clean, well-designed look… and a little bad in that it drains the map of its own unique identity a bit. It would be nice to see a map that channels a bit of the character of the city it represents, but this is still a very attractive piece of design. HF&J’s Whitney is a nicely understated, yet modern sans serif font and works well here. The main hubs of Eugene and Springfield are emphasised well, and the inclusion of the important University of Oregon and Lane Community College campuses is welcome.
That’s not to say the map is perfect: the need to show the eastern extent of Springfield’s city boundary creates a lot of empty space, which in turn reduces the size of the routes themselves. I think the names of the streets that the routes follow could be rotated to follow the direction of the streets, like in a street directory, rather than remaining horizontal all the time. The 18th & Willamette station label could be split into two lines to prevent it being confused with the nearby Jefferson station.
There’s also a couple of operational concepts that aren’t shown on the map which might be worth considering. Some sections of the routes operate along one-way couplets, which might be worth showing for clarity and ease of use (For example, an eastbound stop might be one block over from the westbound stop - a handy thing for a traveller to know!). I also know that, currently, buses operate both clockwise and counter-clockwise around the Gateway loop. This is indicated on the current map, but not on Dave’s.
* Side Note: “EmX” is meant to be pronounced as “Em-Ex”, short for “Emerald Express”. But try as I might, I still just keep saying “E-Em-Ex”…
Thanks for that! From the image over at the blog you reference (which isn’t the clearest), it looks like that’s the Metro “Under Construction” map with the Phase 1 Expo Line now coloured as an actual route line, rather than being a dashed “under construction” line. Aesthetically, it’s very much in line with Metro’s current map: I actually think they have some of the most unified branding/map design out there at the moment, which is a good thing!