Fantasy Future Map: Los Angeles County Light Rail System from the Movie “Her”
I love it when I’m able to fulfill requests from readers. Here’s a note I got from an anonymous follower the other day:
The new movie “Her” is set in a futuristic LA with a very un-LA-like amount of public transport use and at one point includes a shot off to the side of the frame of a map showing a much, much bigger LA Metro rail network. Would love to see that on this site! Don’t suppose you have any connections in the movie business?
Not really, but luckily, the good people over at r/losangeles on Reddit have come to the rescue and posted this screenshot from the movie. By the looks of it, future LA has ripped up the entire current system and replaced it with a new one.
The map itself is a bit naff, with all sorts of weird angles in its lines (which also take some ridiculously circuitous routes to get where they’re going), angled text and strangely patterned background. There’s a definite Washington Metro map vibe to it with the thicker route lines and circular interchange station symbols — although the large red circles look more like the epicentre of a nuclear blast than a place to change trains. There’s also a station at the northern end of the “Orange Line” that seems to broadcast an awesome wi-fi signal.
I haven’t seen this intriguing-sounding film yet, but I’m guessing that this map is seen for a few fleeting seconds only and certainly isn’t meant to hold up to any in-depth scrutiny — it’s designed to set a mood, not define the transportation policy of a future Los Angeles.
For an interesting read about the movie’s portrayal of a public transit-oriented future in LA, see this Atlantic Cities article.
Historical Map: AC Transit Route Map, 1967
Sweet illustrated map of bus routes in the East Bay, including a multitude of transbay services: I count 16 crossing the Bay Bridge to San Francisco!
As with all maps of this ilk, the fun part is finding all the little details in the illustrations that are liberally scattered throughout (My favourite is probably the sailor who is busily chatting up the cute nurse at the top centre of the map). The subtle painted texture of the mountains at the top of the map is also rather lovely.
Although quite whimsical in execution, the map actually conveys a lot of useful information as well: local, intercity and transbay services are all differentiated by colour; rush-only services are denoted by a square route box, rather than a circle. Different zones are also shown simply and efficiently by simple line across a route: the zone numbers are placed on the relevant side of that line. Effective, but not overpowering.
Our rating: Lovely late 1960s design. Lots of fun to be had poring over this one. Four stars!
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)