Submission - Historical Map: Chicago CTA Rapid Transit Map, 1983
Submitted by our resident repository of Chicago transit map knowledge, Dennis McClendon, who says:
This map of Chicago’s rapid transit network originated in the 1970s (this one is from June 1983), and this style was used until routes received color names in 1993. Happily, by that time digital printing in fiberglass-embedded signs made full-color maps easier to place in graffiti-prone environments.
These maps were silk-screened onto [blue] color blanks, and every color of ink added cost. So the CTA’s six lines are represented by using only two colors. Simple black is used for three “extension” lines that never overlap. A simple white line is used for the north-south line those connect with. For the two other through routes: black with white casing and white with black casing.
The side ticks for stations work fine, but a box for the places where transfers are possible is not altogether intuitive. The CTA of that era employed skip-stop spacing, so alternate trains stopped at A or B stations only. Another graphic decision that might have deserved more thought: the names of various suburbs—only a few of which can be reached by rapid transit—floating in their vague geographic positions, but no indication of Chicago city limits or Lake Michigan.
Transit Maps says:
I have to say that I actually really like the forced graphic simplicity of this map. There’s only two colours to work with, so every element has to be very carefully considered and balanced against others for the map to work at all. That it manages to keep the route lines recognisable and separated in the downtown Loop area without the use of an inset map is quite an achievement.
The famous “A-B” stopping patterns are shown pretty deftly as well, being mostly placed on the opposite side of the route line from the station name. The few stations where this doesn’t happen (due to crowding or space limitations) stand out like a sore thumb – Jarvis on the North-South line, and many of the stations on the Ravenswood line. There are also two stations with their labels set at an angle: Merchandise Mart is almost completely unavoidable, but Harvard on the Englewood Line could easily have been fitted in horizontally.
I think the “boxed” interchanges work well enough, having seen similar devices on quite a few maps (the Paris Metro included) now. I also like the extra detail included on the map: station closures on weekends and nights, direction of travel around the Loop, inbound boarding only on the last three stations on the Jackson Park North-South Line, and more.
I would agree with Dennis on the locality names, that just seem to float in space. The biggest offender is “Evergreen Park”, right at the very bottom of the map, below the legend!
As for depicting Lake Michigan, that seems like a good idea, but I struggle to think of a way of doing it without upsetting the delicate balance of the map. You can’t really use a white line, as that could be confused with all the white route lines, and you can’t have a large white area as that would be visually way too heavy. In the end, the lake isn’t that important for such a graphically stylised map (it really just delineates the eastern side of the map), so I’m not too upset by its absence.
Our rating: A fine historical example of how to use a limited colour palette effectively. Minimalist but still effective. Three-and-a-half stars.
Submission - Official Map: Chicago “L” Map, Dan Ryan Branch Closure, 2013
Submitted by Ryan, who says:
Chicago’s updated CTA map. The Red Line is closed for 5 months between Cermak/Chinatown and 95th so there are now shuttle buses shown along with Red rerouting along green. Green also has a new Rush Hour route around the loop. A new transfer is also shown between Red and Blue at Lake and Washington (although this transfer requires a person to leave the station and walk a couple blocks to the other).
What do you think?
Transit Maps says:
Aesthetically, there’s very little difference between this map and the version I reviewed way back in October 2011 (3 stars): everything that was good abut that version still holds true, and its faults remain much the same as well.
However, as a prompt informational update for what promises to be a difficult few months for “L” riders in Chicago’s south, the map works effectively. The affected section of the Red Line is clearly shown, as is the rerouting of the southern leg of the Red Line along the Ashland Branch of the Green Line. Bus shuttle services that replace much of the Dan Ryan branch’s operations are also indicated, although an idea of service frequency for these buses would be nice — do the buses run as frequently as the trains used to, should riders allow extra travel time, that sort of thing.
The real test of this map will be its deployment, I feel. It’s probably unrealistic to expect every “L” map in Chicago to be replaced by this temporary version, so it’s important that this map is put in places where the highest number of affected riders will see it and understand the changes to the system.
(Source: Transit Chicago (CTA) website)
Where To Go Next?
Taken at Addison station on Chicago’s Blue Line. The “L” system map plus timetable and route information relevant to the current station/line: a simple but effective combination of useful information.
(Source: Lucyrk in LA/Flickr)
Video: This Is Not New York
Submitted by NosE, who says:
I found your site through Spanish blog Yorokobu.es and wanted to share what I did with some Chicago CTA maps.
Transit Maps says:
I really don’t get enough videos to share, so this is an unexpected treat! A lovely little bit of joyful urbanism: hopefully, the people who end up randomly receiving these maps appreciate them as art.
Red Line L Train
Rather lovely strip map for the Red Line at Lake station. The Cubs logo in place of the station dot at Addison station is a very deft touch — providing useful information without detracting from the simplicity of the map.
The tiles in the station are rather nice too,
although having a big “L” for “elevated” in one of the few subterranean stations in the system is a little ironic, don’t you think?
EDIT: Oh, of course… it’s “L” for “Lake”. Silly old me.
Official Maps: In-Car Strip Maps for Loop or Circle Lines
An anonymous follower asks: “Do you have any examples of a line map for a loop/circle line? I’m curious as to how those are implemented.”
Transit Maps says:
Generally, a strip map for a loop or circle line follows much the same principles as a usual one, although the available space may have to be used a little more creatively in order to fit things in. Above are a few interesting examples.
London’s Circle Line: With recent additions, this line is no longer a true loop — for which the travelling public is sincerely thankful, as any problems on the Circle used to impact the District and Hammersmith & City lines terribly, throwing much of the Underground into chaos. From the picture above, it can be seen that the Circle Line’s strip map utilises a much deeper space above the doors than many Underground strip maps do. Often, they run in a single, shallow line above the windows of the carriage. The other lines that share track with the Circle Line are also shown, but not lines that cross it: these are shown as standard interchanges instead.
Chicago’s Orange Line: This line runs around Chicago’s central Loop and returns back the way it came. The map handles things in a pretty straightforward way, although, interestingly, the thickness of the route line halves while it’s going around the loop. The direction of travel around the loop is clearly indicated with arrows.
Tokyo’s Yamanote Line: Of course, the Japanese use technology to display information about their famous circle line! Each car on the Yamanote Line has LCD displays that indicate the current station (the red box), as well as the estimated time to the next few stations. The display alternates between Japanese and English information.
Glasgow Subway: Well, the whole subway is a loop — earning the system the nickname “The Clockwork Orange” — so all their maps look like this. Despite the inner and outer loops travelling in opposite directions, this map neglects to point out which one goes where!
Imprint Magazine: 50 Years of Chicago “L” Graphics
Say goodbye to a productive day and go and have a look through this stunning collection of Chicago “L” maps, posters, timetables and more from around 1910 through to the 1960s. Some amazing pieces, including some promotional posters that rival the best work the London Underground ever produced.
Source: via Twitter user @erik_griswold
Staying on a Chicago theme for the day. Okay, so the actual map of the Brown Line is way, way in the back, but this is such a great “slice of life” photo that I couldn’t resist. Just another day on the El…
Looks like an in-car map from the early 1990s (see the “under construction, 1993” notice at the bottom left for Roosevelt station).
(Source: Rob Elliott/Flickr)
Chicago “L” In-Car Map
These narrow above-door spaces are a bitch to fit an entire system map into. This really is probably the best that can be done for a big system like Chicago’s.