Historical Concept Map: Circular Berlin U- and S-Bahn Map, c.1990
Circular transit diagrams are certainly all the rage at the moment. I’ve reviewed two different takes on London here and here, and Maxwell Roberts’ circular New York diagram is generating a lot of internet buzz at the moment.
That’s not to say that it’s a completely new and original concept, however. Harry Beck tried his hand at a circular Underground diagram in 1964, and Berlin’s Ringbahn was abstracted into a perfect circle as far back as 1931.
Also from Berlin, here’s another addition to the pantheon of circular diagrams, one that I haven’t seen before and I’m pretty excited by. Designed by the famed German typographer/designer Erik Spiekermann, these photos were taken at an exhibition of his work at the Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin in 2011.
Judging by the stations shown, the concept seems to be roughly contemporaneous with the work he did in the early 1990s to design the first post-reunification diagram for the BVG. At first glance, the concentric circles, arcs and spokes make a compelling visual image, but many of the routes have to jump around all over the place to accommodate this visual metaphor, weaving in and out to retain their correct relative position to other lines. Station spacing — a prime consideration in the design of a diagram — becomes very uneven as a result, especially along the outer edges of the map, where huge virtual gaps open up between stations.
The Spiekermann-designed diagram that was eventually used by the BVG was far more traditional than this, and still governs the visual language used by Berlin’s diagrams today, 20 years after its completion. What we see here is almost certainly a concept that was explored and then abandoned as unworkable or too radical a departure for public acceptance (I note that the second mock up has angled type for just one station label — something that Erik has always held as a mortal sin in transit diagram design).
However, as an insight into the design process and thinking that goes into making transit diagrams, I find pieces like this absolutely fascinating.
Absolutely superb U-Bahn line maps in Munich, Germany. Clean, sleek, minimal with information superbly delineated and defined.
Clockwise/Counter-Clockwise: the Berlin Ringbahn Map
That’s enough from Boston for a while… let’s head to Berlin to look at this odd little map. It shows the S41 and S42 S-Bahn lines, which travel clockwise and counter-clockwise, respectively, along the Ringbahn, a 37km (23 mile) loop around Berlin.
While the map is packed with information — interchanges with other S- and U-Bahn services, stations with transfers to Deutsche Bahn trains, and estimated travel times between major stations — it just feels a little messy and unfinished to me, and definitely at odds with the precise and minimalist design style one normally associates with German transit maps.
Historical Map: Berlin S-Bahn (c. 1955-1960) still at the ruined Siemensstadt station
What an amazing photo!
The Siemensbahn was part of Berlin’s S-Bahn network from 1929 (when it was built as a short spur line to allow workers to commute to and from the Siemens factories in the area) to 1980, when it was shut down after a railway workers’ strike. As seen on the map, the Siemensbahn is the short spur line just above and to the left of the large red area in the centre.
The map is located (or was, in 2008, when the photo was taken) at the Siemensstadt station, which now lies in ruins and largely forgotten. The original poster of Flickr dates it to around 1980, probably based largely on the time the station closed. However, I date it to somewhere around 1955 to 1960 for a few reasons.
Firstly, the map is pretty much hand-drawn and lettered. A map from 1980 would look more sophisticated, as this link shows.
Many of the outer lines are still steam-powered (cross-hatched lines are marked in the legend as “Mit Dampf…[torn]”).
While borders between West and East Berlin (as well as the Greater Berlin area) are shown, and there’s a clear colour differentiation between the two cities (blue for West Berlin, red for East), it’s still possible to travel between east and west. Each station is marked with both the time it takes to get there from Siemensstadt and the price… and these markings continue into East Berlin. Therefore, the map’s post-WWII, but before the Berlin Wall went up (1961).
Comparing this map from 1955 and this one from 1960 shows that the outer ring line around the northwest of the city was completed some time between these dates. This line is shown on this map, although it’s hard to see because of the damage to the map: this gives the best dating I can come up with without researching individual stations. Can anyone narrow it down even more?
Another point of interest is the East Berlin station of Stalinallee, where someone has crossed out Stalin’s name and replaced it with “Frankfurter”, a reference to its pre-war name: Große Frankfurter Straße. This grafitti could have been added at anytime in the decades since the map was first put up, but the “Stalinallee” name also helps date the map, as the street was renamed as Karl-Marx-Allee in 1961.
Submission: Hamburger Hochbahn Ceiling Map, 1915
Submitted by themallefitz, who says:
This is a transit map of the Hamburger Hochbahn (subway / elevated railway) from 1915. it was painted on the ceiling of the wagons.
Transit Maps says:
This. Is. So. Beautiful.
Historical Map: Isometric S-Bahn Map, Stuttgart, 2007
After all this time running this blog, only now do I find out that the incredible isometric Stuttgart U- and S-Bahn map (October 2011, 5 stars) has an S-Bahn-only sibling?
If anything, this is actually even better than that map: fewer route lines leads to more graphical simplicity. Like that map, however, it’s since been replaced with something disappointingly normal.
Submitted by Cedric Krummes, who says:
Shot of the Leipzig Transport Authority Map (Germany). I was waiting for the Number 9 back to the Hauptbahnhof where I would take the Number 15.
Notice the Circle: suggesting the ring road in the city centre but maybe also trying to be like the Moscow Metro - Leipzig WAS part of the German Democratic Republic after all…
Great photo of a well-worn map, Cedric. You can definitely see how this map benefits from being reproduced at a large size: as I commented in my review of this map (January 2012, 4 stars), this map is very detailed and information-dense and needs some time to absorb propoerly.
All Aboard the Orient Express!
Here’s an absolutely charming little map found on the inside of a French model train set box lid. I don’t have a definitive date for this, but it does have a lovely retro feel to it.
The map itself isn’t much help, as it’s pretty much a work of fiction: a weird combination of different parts of the Orient Express’s historical routes (see this diagram on Wikipedia) and a branch to Warsaw via Prague that was never part of the train’s itinerary.
Maybe, as simple artwork intended for a children’s toy, the designers were simply thinking that no one would notice any inaccuracies. Looks great, though!
(Source: japanese forms/Flickr)
Official Map: Bus System of Meiningen, Germany
Submitted by Heikki Salko, who says:
You keep mentioning how “there must be something worse out there.” Personally I like to think it will always hold true, but I’d still like to see your opinion on this official map from a small German town. Someone linked to it in a discussion about line numbering/naming systems, but I have to admit I didn’t quite have the courage to try figuring out that much detail…
As a related question, do you ever get the urge to just scribble a new map together in an hour and mail it to a transit agency since it’d still be better than their existing one? I know I do, and I’m hardly a professional.
Transit Maps says:
I think Heikki may have done it, folks. If any map deserves a rating of zero, it’s this one. Technically deficient, confusing to use and hideous to behold: this one’s got it all. And I can see why the route naming conventions were being discussed: here we have the A/B, the B/A, the B1, the C and the C1… clear as mud. Most of these names don’t even fit properly into their little label boxes on the map, making them almost impossible to read as well.
And if you foolishly assumed north was at the top of this map, you’d be wrong. That’s east. Well, kind of. The map is so hopelessly distorted — even for a diagrammatic map — that direction and the relative location of stops is almost totally random.
We also have white bus stops, blue stops and yellow stops, but no explanation of what that means, here or on the website. Some sort of zoning, maybe? Anyone’s guess!
Stop names regularly run into the stop marker, sometimes so badly that you can’t see the entire last letter of the name! The two zones — one for the city of Meiningen, the other for the area around the smaller village of Herpf — are badly drawn: a rough ellipse that clashes with stop labels, and a shonky polygon that’s drawn that way in order to avoid the text and logo at the top left of the map.
Our rating: Absolutely appalling and so at odds with the normal efficient German transit map style. The Deutsche Bahn logo (a German design classic) must be embarrassed to be on a map this bad. I’m going to do it, everyone — for the first time, a map gets a ZERO.
Source: Official MBB website
As to Heikki’s second question: All the time! However, it’s a matter of finding the time and prioritising projects for me. I have a full-time job and a two-year old son: “free time” seems to be a dwindling resource for me these days!
More Tariff Zone Maps: The Ugly Stepsisters of the Transit Map World
Yesterday’s post on Eastern Austria/Greater Vienna’s tariff zone map certainly attracted some attention: I’ve already received quite a few links to similar maps from different (mainly European) locations. Shown here are the tariff zone maps for Munich, Glasgow and Hamburg, all of which are bewildering in their own way.
As some commenters have pointed out to me, these maps seem to be a bit of a necessary evil: the transit agency needs to have some way of conveying their (often complex) fare structure to commuters, who require this information to buy weekly or monthly passes. The larger the system and the more modes of transportation used, the more complex and unwieldy the map becomes.
Because they’re only used by a subset of the total users of the system, these maps don’t always get the same “design love” that the main system map gets… leaving us with something that’s often visually unsatisfying and arcane in its actual usage. In this digital age, I think that a form on the transit agency’s website linked to a database of destinations would actually be a quicker, more user-friendly way for commuters to obtain this information. Enter your starting point, your destination, choose between alternate routes or services if there’s a choice, and you’re then presented with the cost of your pass, which perhaps you could even purchase on-line.