Historical Map: The Burlington Route (Chicago to San Francisco), 1879
Here’s a beautiful map from the glory days of American railroading, showing the route from Chicago to San Francisco via Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. Amtrak’s modern-day California Zephyr still calls at many of the same locations between Chicago and Omaha to the east and from Elko to Oakland in the west, but takes a different route through the middle, using Colorado instead of Wyoming.
Although presented as one continuous route, the journey is actually made up of smaller sections owned by multiple railroad companies: the section from Chicago to Omaha is the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, then Union Pacific to Sacramento and the Western Pacific the rest of the way. Many other railroads have track that connects to and branches off this main trunk route — Southern Pacific, Central Pacific, Utah Central & Southern, Utah & Northern, Central Railroad of Iowa… the list seems endless!
The map itself is packed full of information: the population of towns, connecting rail and stagecoach services, the distance from either Chicago or San Francisco, the elevation of the railroad (cleverly shown as a green profile line below the map), and even the terrain type and major industries and land uses along the way — “heavy timber”, “gold and silver mines”, “elegant farms”, etc. Poor Stockton, CA is noted for its “insane asylum” (see detail image above). As the blurb at the bottom of the map proclaims, “Armed with this Guide, the passenger needs no further information.”
About the only thing that lets this map down is the low quality printing. There’s a lot of poorly registered colours, which slightly spoil the flamboyant and stylish look of the map. The design certainly asks a lot of a late-19th century (pre-offset lithography) printing press!
Our rating: A superb piece of American railroading ephemera, only slightly spoiled by poor printing. Four-and-a-half stars!
(Source: The Big Map Blog)
Historical Map: San Francisco Muni Transit Routes, 1970
For a long period of time, the San Francisco Municipal Railway, (commonly shortened to just “Muni”) used pretty much exactly the same map in their brochures. It seems that each year, they’d simply make any amendments required — addition of new routes, deletion of old ones, etc. — and then reprint the brochure/map in a new colour combination.
The earliest example I can find, from 1952, uses a sombre two-color palette of black and red, mostly tinted down to greys and pinks. However, by 1970, the map had evolved into this gloriously garish three-colour purple, yellow and black vision that suits the post-Summer of Love San Francisco perfectly.
The map shows all Muni streetcar, coach and cable car services, but with no visible mode differentiation — express services are shown with a dashed line. However, the map’s actually pretty clean and easy to follow: route termini are clearly shown by route numbers in large circles, and there’s enough smaller numbers along each route to allow you to follow them from one end to the other.
Also of note: basic fare is just 20 cents!
Our rating: Groovy, man! A psychedelic re-imagining of a long-serving and functional map. Four stars.
(Source: Eric Fischer/Flickr)
Historical Map: Rapid Transit for San Francisco: Monorail Alternative,1952
Well, thank goodness this never eventuated. Can you imagine an elevated monorail running down the length of Market Street?
From a 1952 San Francisco Public Utilities Commission report entitled Rapid Transit for San Francisco: Monorail, Elevated, Subway? A Report of Possibilities.
(Source: Eric Fischer/Flickr)
Historical Map: San Diego “Park Line” Bus Route Map, June 1978
Looks like tightly-spaced Avant Garde was totally in vogue in 1978 (see also this Portland, Oregon bus map). This is a charmingly naive little map, complete with scratchy pen and ink drawings of points of interest, a lovely ornate north pointer (another 1970s typeface with some great swashes!) and an adorable little green hand pointing at the downtown inset. It even clearly shows all relevant street names and interchanges with other routes. What’s not to love?
Our rating: Charmingly rough around the edges, but does the job well. Three-and-a-half stars.
Historical Map: Pacific Electric Strip Map
Submitted by Sam Huddy, who says:
This is a strip map of the Santa Monica Air Line that appears on several station platforms along the Expo Line in Los Angeles. As far as I know, this idea is original to the Metro era. As a work of art, the stops are unlabeled, and typical of the PE, it’s unclear what makes some stops “major” or “minor.”
Transit Maps says:
This is actually a lovely little homage from the LA Metro: acknowledging what came before them (the Expo Line utilises much of the Air Line’s original right of way) and giving it due credit. Love it!
Historical note: the Santa Monica Airline was a Pacific Electric streetcar service that ran from downtown LA to Santa Monica from 1909 to 1953.
(Source: Photographed by Sam)
Historical Map: Oakland-San Francisco “Key System” Commuter Rail Routes, c. 1939—1940
A charming, if simplistic, map of commuter rail services offered by the Key System company. Some sources on the Internet date this to 1941: however, the prominent “Exposition Ferry from Ferry Bldg.” callout box would seem to link this map to the timeframe of the Golden Gate International Exposition held on Treasure Island between February 1939 and September 1940.
These dates mean that the Bay Bridge, the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco and the transbay commuter rail routes as shown on the map are all pretty much brand spanking new. By 1958, commuter rail over the Bay Bridge had ceased operations: the Key System replaced these services with buses, and were themselves taken over by AC Transit in 1960. AC Transit’s B, C, E, and F lines still roughly follow the corresponding Key System routes today.
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)
Official Map: San Francisco Bay Area Regional Transit Map
Submitted by Reed Wagner, who says:
This map appears to be part of a greater “wayfinding” campaign by the SF Bay Area MTC - it appears at major Caltrain, Muni and BART stations and presumably is elsewhere (I took this picture at Caltrain 4th & King. In comparison to the maps made by SF Cityscape like this (external link: PDF), it seems that the official MTC map is falling short in every regard other than information overload in a messy form.
Transit Maps says:
It’s pretty difficult to disagree with Reed’s summary of this map: it is messy, cluttered and difficult to decipher. It’s a little unfair to compare it to the excellent SF Cityscape map (which only shows rail transit and thus becomes less cluttered instantly), but this is still pretty poor work. The main failings, in my opinion:
It’s neither a map or a diagram, and suffers from this hybrid approach. Cities and towns are in (or close to) their correct geographical location, but are simply connected with straight lines between them, creating a lot of very unattractive angles throughout the map.
The ugly and unnecessary feathered shading behind the route lines to denote (very approximate) urban limits. Use a label for each major city: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, etc, then let the station names do the rest of the work. This map has enough problems with colour already (see next point) without introducing more!
Finally, the legend of the map indicates that there are 38 (yes, 38!) different transit agencies or services shown on the map, and the only visual difference between them is the colour of their route line. It’s too much work for colour to do alone, and certainly isn’t very colour-blind friendly! Some attempt at differentiating modes (BART, commuter rail, bus, Amtrak, etc.) by using something like different stroke widths would allow less colours to be used overall (as the same colours could then be used more than once), while also adding an extra dimension of useful information to the map.
Our rating: More hindrance than help — the information as shown takes way too long to be interpreted by the reader, which isn’t very useful at a crowded railway station! One-and-a-half stars.
An Official Unofficial Map: San Francisco BART Creative Commons Map
In a move I’d like to see more often from transit agencies, San Francisco’s BART has a fully-editable “non-official” version of their system map available for download from their site. It has a Creative Commons license, meaning that you simply have to attribute the original map to BART and it’s free to use, commercially or otherwise.
Mainly designed for app and third-party website developers who need a BART map, it’s also great for those learning to create transit maps. You can simply open it up in Adobe Illustrator and edit to your heart’s content. While the file is saved in the Illustrator-native .ai format, and not the open-standard .svg format, it should be openable in the open-source vector-editing application, Inkscape.
The map itself is reminiscent of the official map with its distinctive “hexagonal” form, but is different enough to stand alone, which is exactly what BART intends. They really don’t want their official, copyrighted map used by third party applications and websites (which might imply BART endorsement where there is none), so they offer this alternative instead.
Personally, I’m not crazy about the green type used for transfer stations, and I wish the background coastline was editable vector artwork instead of a background raster image file. But hey — if you don’t like it, now you can edit it yourself and make it better!
Historical Map: The City of Los Angeles Showing Railway Systems, 1906
Another amazing old map from the awesome Big Map Blog, showing the already-booming rail transit network that was found in Los Angeles in the early days of the 20th Century. Electric trolleys first ran in LA in 1877, but the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric and the “Yellow Cars” of the narrow-gauge Los Angeles Railway had only appeared a mere five years before this map was produced. Their lines are represented on the map in appropriate colours, along with those of other, less-remembered, railway companies.
Technically, the map is beautifully drawn, although there’s some strange issues with route lines extending past the visible area of the map and spilling over the lists of street names, the map’s legend and even completely bleeding off the edge of the page (see the detail view of the legend above for an example). It could be intentionally done, but it certainly looks a little messy.
From a production viewpoint, it seems as though the map was printed with five different inks: black for the street name legend and Los Angeles Pacific RR routes, yellow for the Los Angeles RR, red for the Pacific Electric, green for the Los Angeles Inter-Urban RR, and a dark blue for the Los Angeles & Redondo RR and the underlying linework of the map itself. Understandably, given the fairly primitive printing technology of the day, the registration of these colours is a little bit off in places.
Our rating: A beautiful look at the early days of mass transit in LA. Four stars!
(Source: the Big Map Blog)