Fantasy Map: Columbus, Ohio Light Rail by Michael Tyznik

It’s been a good week for fantasy maps here on Transit Maps. Hot on the heels of the superb Freshwater Rail map comes this beauty from Michael Tyznik of his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. There’s an undoubted Massimo Vignelli 1970s New York Subway map vibe to this - Michael told me that this project actually began as an update of that map, but then morphed into another city altogether - but it still manages to look fresh and new, thanks to some subtle touches like updating the ubiquitous “subway map” geometric sans font with Akzidenz Grotesq and Gotham Black. If you have time, I’d definitely pay a visit to the map’s project page on Michael’s website where you can see the progression of his thoughts on transit in Columbus - from a fairly generic and bland concept that looks like it could be any city in the world, through an elegant-looking light rail system that utilises existing freight-rail right-of-ways, to this (final?) considered and intelligent piece. You can buy prints at Michael’s Society6 store.

Have we been there? No.

What we like: Looks great! The concept also looks plausible (to the eyes of someone who has never been to Columbus, at least!), and the amount of thought put into this map really shows.

The blocking out of localities is something that could look heavy-handed and forced, but comes across quite well. It definitely gives context to the routes. The dashed line treatment for the express routes is quite beautifully done: I especially like how there’s a neat little box around stations where the dash doesn’t show. Adding street names along the streetcar routes is a nice usability touch, especially when the routes convert from light rail to streetcar, reinforcing the differences between the services offered by the two modes.

What we don’t like: I’d like to see more differentiation between local and express stations than just whether the name is set in bold or regular text. I don’t think that this is enough of a visual clue for a transit map by itself - maybe a black station dot for express, and a white one for local could work.

While I understand why individual stops on the streetcar lines aren’t shown (stops are closer together and thus “beneath” the scale of this map), I think it would be useful to indicate where transfers between light rail and streetcar can be made. Examples of this include the 2, 3 and 4 where they cross the light rail lines at Union Station, the 2 and 3 at Morse Road on the “A” line, and the 3 at Easton/Stelzer Road on the “E” line. A simple line linking the lines may be enough to indicate that a transfer can be made.

Apart from these thoughts, there’s just a couple of minor quibbles: some of the rounded edges on the localities don’t seem to nest well with the curves of the river (look at the north east corner of Franklinton, for example), the letter designation circles for the “A” line are a different blue to the line itself (C75 M33 Y1 K0 compared to C67 M35 Y2 K0), and the gaps at the directional arrows in the one-way sections of the streetcar routes area a little wide for my liking.

Our rating: Excellent. Well-considered and thought out, stylish and attractive. A couple of usability issues that can be easily corrected. Thanks for sharing your map with us, Michael. 4 stars!

4 Stars!

(Source: Michael’s website)