Photo: Tactile Muni Metro Map, San Francisco

Maps in underground stations on the Muni light rail network in San Francisco have raised route designation letters and route lines, as well as braille labels for station names. Nice!

I know that it’s entirely happenstance*, but I really appreciate the fact that the M, K, and T lines appear next to each other on the map, making an “MKT” for Market Street.

*Historical aside: Muni streetcar letters were originally assigned alphabetically in the order they came into being, all the way from A to N. Letters then disappeared as many of the old streetcar lines were converted to numerical bus routes, leaving us with the strange assortment of letters we have now. The modern T Line breaks from this naming convention, as it simply refers to the road it mostly runs along, Third Street.

Source: jdaisy/Flickr

Fantasy Map: Mock-Up Boston MBTA Map Spotted in LA for Filming

Posted by Seiji Tanaka on his Twitter account, here’s a fictional MBTA map at an LA Metro station for film/TV shooting. The map is at the fictional “Rockwater” station on the equally fictional Yellow Line (replacing the real world Orange Line).

We’ve covered fictional transit maps from TV shows and movies before (this weird DC Metro map from the TV show “Leverage” springs to mind), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one where the prop designers have just downloaded and edited the official map, which is obviously what has happened here. What’s more, it’s been edited really badly.

The blue water and white background of the official map has been removed and the whole map has been placed on a grey/beige background instead… but all the white boxes behind bus route numbers and white keylines around the route lines that were used to separate them from other elements are still in place. Which means there’s a lot of weird, random white elements on the map for no apparent reason. There are also ferry routes, but no water for them to sail across.

Most of the commuter rail routes have been removed, but not all of the stations: Yawkey is just floating in the middle of the map by itself, for example, and interchange stations still retain their extra “blob” for commuter rail platforms.

The real-life Blue line is now Purple, the Green Line is now Blue (with all sorts of branch name errors) and the Orange Line is now Yellow. This line has also had all of its station names changed, mostly to very un-Bostonian names, like “San Jacomo” and “Cabrerra”. Is this the MBTA or Grand Theft Auto? To me, this suggests that this part of the map might feature a little more prominently in whatever scenes it is featured in.

Yes, I know that these maps tend to appear fleetingly in the background of whatever show they’re used in, so it’s a little unfair to subject them to the same scrutiny as a real transit map, but this one struck me as particularly odd, seeing as it’s so directly and obviously based off the official map (it even has the crossed-out station icon for Government Center).

P.S. Anyone know what TV show/movie this prop is from?

1977 BART Icon Redrawn

Spent five minutes or so redrawing that awesome 70s BART icon in Illustrator, just because. Grab the Illustrator CS3 or SVG artwork file here if you like. For personal use only, please.

Historical Map: San Francisco BART & Buses Map, September 1977
Front cover for a 1977 map of BART and connecting bus services with some great late-1970s typography: tightly spaced Helvetica*, yum! That BART icon is also pretty amazing and is just asking to be digitally recreated. However, there’s something screwy about that map, as much of BART appears to be located in or underneath the San Francisco Bay. Global warming, perhaps?
Hardly: some quick Photoshop analysis reveals that  the underlying map has simply been erroneously rotated 180 degrees and flipped horizontally: that’s the San Mateo Bridge at the “top” of the Bay. Whoops!
Source: Luke O’Rourke/Flickr

Historical Map: San Francisco BART & Buses Map, September 1977

Front cover for a 1977 map of BART and connecting bus services with some great late-1970s typography: tightly spaced Helvetica*, yum! That BART icon is also pretty amazing and is just asking to be digitally recreated. However, there’s something screwy about that map, as much of BART appears to be located in or underneath the San Francisco Bay. Global warming, perhaps?

Hardly: some quick Photoshop analysis reveals that  the underlying map has simply been erroneously rotated 180 degrees and flipped horizontally: that’s the San Mateo Bridge at the “top” of the Bay. Whoops!

Source: Luke O’Rourke/Flickr


Great photo that pretty much encapsulates the BART experience. Looks like the old, more geographically-faithful map in the car.

Source: Xuan Che/Flickr

Submission – Fantasy Map: Pacific Northwest (USA and Canada) Regional Rail

Submitted by opspe, who says:

This is my concept for what an integrated regional inter-city rail network in the Northwest could look like, if things had developed that way.  All there is now (regionally) is Cascades, which I ride all the time, but it’s still rather limited.  I decided to include the local commuter rail lines (WES, Sounder, WCE) too.  I also decided to beef up CalTrans a bit - they don’t actually serve Redding, although it’s in discussion.

I sort of based the concept on the National Rail network in the UK, although things had to be scaled up a bit.  The area shown is about 2.5 times the size of the UK, after all.  I decided to include the main communities the lines pass through, rather than have a ton of whistle stops.  To me that makes it feel more…functional, for lack of a better word - more like a proper, seamless system. That being said, I think the scale belies the vastness of the region, so if I were to make smaller-scale maps for individual routes, I would probably include “whistle-stop sections” along the route.  But that’s TMI for an overview.

The routes are all current rail lines, in various states of freight usage or disrepair. I think the section between Juntura and Burns has been scrubbed entirely, but the grade is still there. There are several other minor infrastructure adjustments that would be needed too (downtown Hillsboro comes to mind).

As far as design goes, it seemed best to include some stylized geographical accuracy rather than have it be too rectilinear.  I tried to make the route names somewhat geographic, but I also numbered them for clarity. Route 1 (CascadesExpress) I had imagined as being a high-speed line, as opposed to the more local routes 2 and 3. Together they replace Amtrak Cascades (but keep the name for continuity).

Tumblr and/or Dropbox will likely crush the resolution, but the idea is that it’s supposed to be a big map, such as you would find mounted inside a station, or as a PDF online.

I’m curious what you think of it.


Transit Maps says:

Overall, this is a fine effort, which could just use a little polishing here and there to make it a quite excellent fantasy map. A couple of areas stand out to me for potential improvements:

First, the insets at the top, right and bottom of the map – all for just a few stations each – really make it look like you just ran out of room and didn’t want to go back and rework things. There’s lots of room on a map this big to tighten things up and make everything fit without insets. Even bringing all your stations just a tiny bit closer together across the entire map can create a surprising amount of extra space. For mine, insets should only be used when the complexity of the system at that point can’t reasonably be shown any other way: the inset of the Loop on the official Chicago “L” map stands as a good example of this.

Secondly, you could work a little more on stylizing and simplifying your coastline and rivers. The San Juan Islands look particularly blocky to me, and I think the Columbia River would look so much nicer if it had sweeping curves as it changed direction, rather than the harsh angles you currently have. Remember, the style of your background should complement your route lines, not draw attention away from them.

I also think the thick black border around your legend is a little heavy handed, but that’s a very minor thing.

One thing on the operational aspect of your system (which I don’t normally comment on too much, preferring just to focus on the technical and aesthetic qualities of the map)… I’m not sure any regional/commuter rail system would ever run a route one way up one side of a river and the other direction on the opposite bank like you’ve done with Line 12 in British Columbia. It’s just not at all practical for users! Imagine if I live in Agassiz, and I commute to Vancouver each day: I drive my car to Agassiz station and catch the train. Coming home, I can only return to Chilliwack, which is nowhere near where I left my car. Maybe there are shuttle buses between the two stations, but that just seems incredibly inefficient. I would suggest that most regional rail systems would have one route along the side of the river that serves the most people, or maybe – just maybe! – they’d split the service (but halve the frequency) in both directions on both sides of the river.

Historical Map: Opening of the Los Angeles Metro Red Line, January 30, 1993

A very simple map showing the first segment of Los Angeles’ Red Line on its opening in January 1993. The Blue Line (part of which is also shown on this map) had opened three years earlier.

The map is mainly notable for the “RTD” logo that belonged to the southern California Regional Transit District, the immediate ancestor of today’s Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA, or more commonly, just “Metro”). In fact, the LACMTA was formed just a few months after this map was produced.

Source: Striderv/Flickr

Historical Map: Comprehensive Rapid Transit Plan for the City and County of Los Angeles, 1925

This is one of the earliest plans commissioned by the City and County of Los Angeles. The consultants — Kelker, De Leuw and Co. of Chicago — were asked to create a plan to accommodate a future city population of three million.

Metro’s own history archive has this to say about the project:

The plan shows a number of proposed immediate and future subways: one across Hollywood to La Brea Boulevard, another from downtown to 7th Street, up Vermont Avenue, and across Third Street. It initially would have run to Larchmont Boulevard as subway with a future extension on elevated rail to Third Street and down Wilshire Boulevard to Beverly Hills and the ocean in Santa Monica.  It also shows a subway from downtown across Pico Boulevard, initially to Rimpau Boulevard with a future extension to Venice Beach. 

Solid lines on both the regional map and the urban map represent mass rapid transit routes recommended for immediate construction to relieve downtown congestion. Dotted lines predict future extensions that will be necessary to serve population increases. The plan recommended for immediate construction of 153 miles of subway, elevated rail, and street railways at a projected cost of $133,385,000. Strong opposition by the business community to planned sections of elevated rail, as well as voter reluctance to tax themselves to benefit the privately held Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway effectively shelved the plan.

The map itself is a superb example of cartography, complete with some lovely contour work on the mountains around the city and simply lovely hand-drawn typography — check out the loveliness of that “PACIFIC OCEAN” label.

The map does a lot with a limited colour palette, but it’s effective: existing rapid transit in black, proposed lines in red, and everything else in a pleasant (and visually recessive) gold. It’s worth noting that there aren’t any roads shown on this map, just the tracks of the two main streetcar companies, the Los Angeles Railway and the Pacific Electric Railway (see this contemporaneous map of that system).

Our rating: Gorgeous, and fun to compare against the actual existing Metrorail system. Four stars!

4 Stars!

Source: LA Metro archive library (lots of other fun planning maps there!)

Photo: Coast to Coast

Lady with a NYC subway map umbrella looking at a Muni map in San Francisco. Great photo!

(Source: the N Judah Chronicles/Flickr)

Unofficial Map: Los Angeles Metro for the “Analogue Guide: Los Angeles”

Submitted by Stefan, who says:

Hi Cameron,

I thought I’d share the Los Angeles Metro map that we designed for the Analogue Guide Los Angeles.

We always include “alternative” transit maps in our guide books, such Eddie Jabbour’s KickMap or Mark Noad’s Tubemap. In Los Angeles, given the sheer lack of maps, we designed one in-house.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on it!


Transit Maps says:

Thanks for sharing, Stefan! This is quite a neat piece of work that would seem to suit your needs very well. The design definitely fits in with the clean, minimalist look of the guide book itself! I’m never too certain about using Futura Condensed on a transit map myself, but it seems to be doing a good job here.

While concentrating on the central/downtown part of the city is probably perfect for what you cover in the guide, I’d personally still like to see some indication of the final destinations of each line: either as arrows pointing off the edge of the map, or incorporated into the legend at the top left. I also would have identified the lines by name in the legend, as LA has that weird mix of colour-named and destination-named lines (Expo and — soon — Crenshaw)

However, I do like the way you’ve incorporated the dates for the future openings of the various lines: it helps bring context to what is still an evolving and developing system.

Really minor typo: it’s “Light Rail”, not “Lightrail”.

Overall, I really like this map: it places the system on top of just enough geographical clues (the street grid, coastline,river and neighbourhood names) to allow for easy orientation — which is what a guide book should be all about, right?