Official Map: Integrated Transit of Südtirol (Alto Adige), Italy
Sent my way by a reader known only as “mmmaps”, here’s a map of the transit system of the northern autonomous Italian province of Südtirol (South Tyrol in English, or Alto Adige in Italian). The system is mainly made up of buses (dark blue), but there’s also a backbone of rail services between the major cities (shown in light blue) and aerial cable-cars as well.
While the restrained colour palette (just blues and greys) looks quite nifty, the map’s usability is seriously hampered by this simplistic approach. Without coloured route lines, the map designers have had to denote separate routes by putting numbered boxes across each line to indicate where they go. And that makes actually using the map to work out how to get places a lot of really, really hard work.
For starters, the termini of routes aren’t indicated at all. A reader has to follow a desired route number along, checking at every bifurcation which way it goes (sometimes it goes more than one direction!). Eventually, there’s no more numbers to follow — so you have to assume that the service ended at the last town? Maybe. You have to work it out by yourself, hopefully with the aid of the individual route timetables and schedules that are available. However, this map gives a rotten overview of destinations, interchanges and routes for someone unfamiliar with the network. A user should always be able to trace any given route from one end to the other without having to make guesses!
If you think I’m being hard on the map, answer this simple question: which two cities does the 314 bus run between?
Our rating: Using a transit map really shouldn’t be this hard. One-and-a-half stars, and that’s because I like the Südtirol logo at the bottom left.
(Source: Official SII website)
Unofficial Map: Transit of Riga, Latvia by Viteks Bariševs
Transit Maps has been keeping an eye on this project for quite some time now: I reviewed an earlier version of this map way back in January 2012, noting that it held a lot of promise for the future.
At the time, Viteks was hopeful that he could get his map adopted as Riga’s official transit map. While that hasn’t quite happened yet, he’s definitely set himself up as an excellent alternative to the (pretty terrible) official maps. That’s right, the official website has to use three maps – one for each mode (bus, trolleybus, tram) – to show what Viteks has expertly put into one.
Having just had his map professionally printed, Viteks was kind enough to send me some samples for review. First off, this map reminds me why I will always love a map on paper… there’s just something about the way you can pore over it and absorb all the details fully that you just can’t replicate on a computer screen. A PDF of a complex network like this is all well and good, but you either have to view the whole map at a size which makes reading text hard, or you have to zoom in and lose the ability to relate the section you’re looking at to the system as a whole.
The print quality of the map is excellent, with good colour fidelity and registration throughout. The map folds down to a very compact size of just 8.5 x 17.5cm (3.3 x 6.9 inches) – a pocket map which can actually fit in a pocket without having to be folded over again! It unfolds to be around 51 x 35 cm (20 x 13.8 inches), which is big without being too big or unwieldy. The folds for the map also concertina nicely, so you could easily unfold it to just the portion that you need without opening it entirely.
The map itself has made great strides in legibility and information hierarchy since the 2012 version: the three transit modes are differentiated much better than before, and terminus stations are now clearly shown in white text in a black box (rather than with underlined text as before). While obviously a diagram, I think Viteks has done a good job of retaining spatial relationships between the different parts of the city, which an be helpful for orientation. The map also has an excellent city centre inset on the reverse of the main map (with some nifty little illustrations of the main points of interest), and a night bus map as well. Truly useful, well-considered information for all travellers!
A few thoughts for improvement: the map is probably at the absolute smallest size that it can be reproduced. While I can read the labels on it just fine, others with poorer eyesight may not fare so well.
Because the route lines are all so thin, the system that Viteks uses to distinguish between the three transportation modes – a solid coloured line for buses, a coloured line overlaid with a thinner white line for trolleybuses, and a coloured line overlaid with a thinner black line for trams – can be a little difficult to make out. The trolleybus lines effectively become two very thin coloured lines separated by an equally thin white one: depending on the colour of the line, this can be very difficult to discern. Similarly, if the route line colour for a tram service is relatively dark, the overlaid black line can be quite difficult to see. In the end, this doesn’t matter a huge amount, because Viteks has cleverly added a letter to the beginning of each route number that corresponds to the mode: A for autobus, E for trolleybus, and T for tram. The legend does point out that these prefixes aren’t actually shown on the vehicles, but perhaps this information could be made a little more prominent to prevent some poor tourist from standing around all day waiting for an “E15” to come.
In short, this is a fantastic effort to create something better than what’s officially available. This is obviously a labour of love and it shows in the attention to detail and quality of the work. Looking at the project website, it seems that lots of locations around Riga are now selling the map, so it would seem that Viteks’ hard work and perseverance is paying off.
Historical Map: Old Paris Metro Map Uncovered at Les Halles Station
A fantastic photo from Jean-Luc Raymond on Instagram of an old Metro map that’s just been revealed behind multiple layers of billboard advertising at Les Halles station. Definitely looks like it used to have a street grid layer which has faded away with age.
I’m not entirely sure of the vintage, although I’d say it can’t be from before 1979, as that’s when the RER C opened. It’s the thicker yellow line across the top of the photo with stations at Quai d’Orsay and St. Michel. The map’s typographical treatment — with names for interchange stations set in all caps Futura Bold — would also seem to point to that general era. Any further ideas on dating this?
you might find this interesting: we’ve recently released a project about the limited accessibility of public transport (subway + commuter trains) in New York, London and Hamburg. The results are maps with an interactive slider that let you explore how thinned out the transportation network get’s when you’re handicapped e.g.
here’s a mapgif-preview:
and here all the information about the project http://mappable.info/blog/2014/2/8/accessibility
Transit Maps says:
The depiction of physical accessibility on transit maps of is something I’ve touched on before — see this great 2007 map of the London Underground with all the inaccessible stations removed (Nov. 2011, 5 stars) — but this is a fantastic and intuitive way to show the difference between all stations and only the accessible ones.
You should definitely click through to the full blog entry about this project and see the full interactive maps that have been created for New York, Hamburg and London. If you’ve been inspired, they also give ideas and instructions on how to create a similar map for the transit in your city.
Official Map: Brussels Integrated Transit Map
According to my correspondents, Brussels has recently switched from a geographical transit map to this new diagrammatic map. As you can see by comparing the two images of the centre of the city above, a lot of streamlining and simplification has taken place. The first thing that strikes me is the way that many bus routes have either been removed or have been condensed or “collapsed” into a single route line with a common label, simplifying the map immensely. The place where this is really obvious is at Gare du Nord/Noordstation, which now only has six route numbers listed next to it, compared to thirty-six on the previous map!
Major interchanges are now denoted by an enclosing ring, suggesting that all stops at that interchange — be they bus, tram or Metro — are in close proximity to each other. The Paris Metro map uses a very similar device at interchanges between modes.
However, while the map is a huge improvement over the crowded mess of the previous geographical map, it’s certainly not perfect.
The labelling — which admittedly has to overcome the requirement of being bilingual — is a bit haphazard in its application, with some labels for one station overlapping that of another in parts. Major station labels waste a lot of space when there’s only one or two route numbers listed under the station’s name.
Each and every route line is outlined in black, regardless of its colour, which gives a very heavy, cumbersome feel to the map. Normally, only very light coloured routes (yellow or light blues, for example) need this treatment, so I’m not sure why it was deemed necessary here. Also, while the difference in line thickness between trams and buses seems obvious in the legend, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart on the actual map when multiple routes are butting up to each other (Hint: stops on bus routes are ever so slightly wider than the route line — way too subtle for easy mode differentiation!)
The icons for points of interest are all so very generic and bland.
Finally, the colours used on the map seem very simplistic and cartoon-like, stopping the map from having a harmonious, unified feel. Both the green used for parkland and the blue used for water are way too strong and vivid: they compete with the route lines for attention, becoming a distraction.
Our rating: Better than what came before, but still not great. Despite all the reworking, it’s still very cluttered and confusing. The new Ile-de-France Regional Rail map sets the standard for this type of map, and this falls well short. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official STIB website)
Having seen @transitmaps’ post with the Japanese travelcard reminded me to post the MetroMoney card I got in Tbilisi, Georgia. The drawings show different modes of transport available in the city (metro, bus, minibus (marshrutka)) and have absolutely no resemblance to the actual metro network, which consists of two lines.
Figuring out all the labels is not too easy – if you happen to speak Georgian, share them in the comments below. However, I did look at the large letters: Metromani and the top-centre smaller label: Gagarin square – which is not even a metro station. Dear readers, please do not use this card for orientation. I warned you.
Another transit map-themed fare card, this one from Tbilisi, the capital of the Caucasian country of Georgia. However, it’s important to note that — unlike the Japanese Passnet card — this is not a map at all, but stylised illustrations of a Metro train (centre), a bus (top left), and a mini bus (top right).
Official Map: Southern Vectis Bus Map, Isle of Wight, England
An attractively drawn map that bridges the gap between geographical representation and a diagram rather nicely. While the shape of the island is quite accurate (if simplified slightly), all the roads have been straightened out to remove unnecessary kinks and twists. The routes are clearly marked and major stops are shown efficiently. The map is also supported on-line by town maps for the destinations shown in larger type, so there’s more detail where it’s needed. There’s even some lovely icons for points of interest, such as Carisbrooke Castle, Osborne House and the famous steam railway.
No, the map doesn’t show every bus stop: but I’ve never really had a problem with that for bus route maps where it can generally be assumed that stops are fairly evenly spaced — although closer together in more urban areas, and farther apart in rural/outlying areas. The map gives a good idea about destinations that can be reached along each route: a timetable would then handle the fine detail.
About the only real problem I have with this map is its delivery method. While the map can be downloaded as a PDF from Southern Vectis’ website, this is actually a low-resolution JPG (complete with ugly compression artifacts) that has been resaved in PDF format from Photoshop. The map is really quite lovely, so it’s very disappointing to see that good work being shared in this manner. It degrades the crisp, clean look of the map and means that it is not able to be enlarged to any great degree without being pixelated. Nor is the text on the map searchable in any way, or accessible to vision-impaired users — being simply an image.
Sidenote: Interestingly, while “Vectis” has the ring of one of those fancy newfangled transit company names (much like “Arriva”), its use as the name for this bus company dates back to 1927. The name “Vectis” itself is much older, being the name that the ancient Romans gave to the island when they invaded around 43AD.
Our rating: Great map, poor delivery. Three stars.
(Source: Official Southern Vectis website)
Official Map: Île-de-France Regional Transit Map
Brought to my attention by readers Tony and Guillaume is this striking new regional transit map for the Île-de-France region that surrounds Paris.
It shows not only the Paris Métro (lines 1 through 14), but also the tramways (Lines T1 through T7), RER lines (lines A through E) and the Transilien commuter rail network (lines H, J, K, L, N, P, R and U). In addition to all this, it also manages to show a wide array of bus routes and indicate travel zones! That it can do all this while still looking quite lovely is definitely an achievement.
Issued by the Syndicat des Transports d’Ile de France (STIF) and designed by LatitudeCartagene, the map is starting to pop up at stations across Paris, replacing an older, more geographically-based map.
It’s interesting to note that while the map shows the entire Métro, it isn’t based on the official map of that network and has instead been drawn from scratch — a wise choice. It also uses Frutiger as the main typeface, rather than the RATP’s bespoke Parisine font. However, it does share the Métro map’s slightly muted pastel colour palette, which means that the few really bright colours like the blazing red of the RER “A” line really jump out.
The map uses an interesting mix of angles to allow all the routes to meet up with each other, as well as some lovely sweeping curves, especially the RER “C” line along the banks of the Seine. In general, the RER and Transilien lines have more flowing curves than the Métro, which works well to visually separate them. The bus routes are shown as straight lines with very tight curves when they change direction.
About the only fault with this map is the lack of a legend: the distinction between the RER lines (route letter in a circle) and Transilien lines (route letter in a square) isn’t immediately apparent, and I’m still not entirely sure why some bus routes are orange and others are blue (orange routes mainly serve central Paris, while blue routes seem to serve the outer areas or be express routes).
Our rating: Basically, I love this: a huge, complex network of interconnecting routes and transit modes simplified and rendered in a stylish, understandable way. Hopefully, it’s future-proofed to cope with the upcoming expansion of Métro and RER services. Four-and-a-half stars!
(Source: Official STIF vianavigo site — PDF download)
Historical Map: “Blue Guides Short Guide to Paris” Paris Métro Map, 1951
An excellent effort to portray the complexities of the Métro with just two colours. A wide array of different dashed lines allows 15 lines (the 14 Métro lines plus the Ligne de Sceaux) to be differentiated relatively easily. As a guide for tourists, the map wisely concentrates on the central part of Paris, leaving the stations further out to be listed in neat little call out boxes.
Paris Metro map from the inside cover of The Blue Guides Short Guide to Paris published by Ernest Benn Limited in 1951. Edited by L. Russell Muirhead.
Inside the book was a fold out map of Paris - although not attached it is presumably intended as part of the book.