Official Map: Daytime Transport Services of Budapest, Hungary

In addition to the Metro/suburban rail only map that was introduced with the new Metro Line 4, there’s also this more comprehensive city map that adds tram, key bus routes, ferries and more to the mix. It’s more directly analogous to the old Budapest map (July 2012, 2.5 stars), and is also highly reminiscent of this Prague integrated transit map (August 2012, 4 stars).

Definitely aimed at tourists (the PDF file even has the word “turisztikai” in its file name) to give them a good idea of transit options within the central city, the map does a good job of that: the river and park areas work nicely to define the shape of the city and the Metro is given good hierarchical prominence. There’s even some nicely executed simple icons for points of interest around town.

Instead of the approach taken on the previous map, where each tram line was given its own colour, here they’re all represented by yellow. It’s a little odd that it’s the exact same colour as Metro Line 1, but the difference in stroke weight makes it immediately obvious which is which. Key bus routes are shown in blue, and the unique cogwheel railway (Line 60) is highlighted in magenta. For those who are curious, the “Children’s Railway" shown to the far left of the map is not necessarily a railway for children, it’s a railway operated by children (apart from adult supervision and the actual driver of the train).

The only real flaws with this map in my eyes are some overly fussy route lines for buses, particularly the 291 just north of Metro Line 2 on the west side of the river and the strangely jarring choice of Times New Roman for neighbourhood names. 

Our rating: Excellent overview of transportation options in Budapest. Looks good and is easy to follow. Four stars.

4 Stars!

Source: Official BKK website

Official Map: Budapest Metro and Suburban Rail, 2014

With the recent opening of Budapest’s Metro Line 4, there’s been a rethink behind the city’s transit map. The previous version (July 2012, 2.5 stars) tried to show everything – Metro, suburban rail, regional rail, tram and key bus routes – on one map, but it was all a bit of a mess. With so many thin, colour-coded lines (using a strangely limited palette), things became very difficult to understand.

Hence this new approach, where the services are split out into separate maps. This map just shows the Metro and suburban rail services within the city (arrows point towards more distant destinations). Connections to regional rail services are simply indicated by a railway station icon. Another map (which I’ll cover later) adds bus and tram services, but takes a different approach to the previous version.

As a simple Metro map, this isn’t half bad. It’s easy to follow, and the simplified treatment of the river gives some nice geographical context, dividing the city neatly into its “Buda” and “Pest” components. The closeness of the stations on Metro Line 1 makes it look somewhat like a dashed “under construction” line – a drawback of using station symbols that are the same colour as the route line they’re on, but it seems to work well elsewhere.

I do miss the old Metro logo: it was one of my favourites from around the world. The new one is functional enough, I guess, and matches the corresponding new suburban rail “H” nicely, but it just lacks the distinctively East European character of the previous one.

Our rating: Solid, clean and clear. Not amazing, but better than some. Three stars.

3 Stars

Source: Official BKK website

Official Map: Public Transport Network of Debrecen, Hungary

Sent my way via a comment left on the website regarding the woeful map of Szeged, Hungary (Sept. 2013, 0.5 stars), here’s another truly awful transit map from Hungary: this one from its second-largest city, Debrecen.

In short, it’s an absolute disaster.

Route lines branch off in any direction (no constraining angles to 45-degree increments for this bad boy!), while labels are jammed in wherever they can fit, at any old angle. The labelling is so bad, that the map has a large part of the legend at the bottom left devoted to defining abbreviations that are used in an attempt to shorten names to make them fit! At least none of the labels cut through route lines, but the means don’t justify the ends here.

Technically, even the curved parts of the route lines are actually short sections of straight paths that simulate a curve (badly), making me think that this has been put together in CAD software, rather than a design/illustration application.

The strangely subdued colour scheme (a lot of pastel pinks, purples and greys) doesn’t help matters either: there’s very little contrast between a lot of adjacent route lines, which makes following them difficult.

Almost apologetically, the text above the legend states: “Attention! Map not to scale.”

Our rating: An absolute eyesore. This style of map is fairly common for bus/tram networks in Europe, and can work when executed well (see Viteks Bariševs’ unofficial map of Riga, Latvia), but this is definitely not working at all. No stars.


(Source: Official DKV site — also an “interactive” Flash-based version of the same map, and an SVG download if you want to open it up in Illustrator for some laughs)


This is an aerial view of surface public transport routes in Budapest, Hungary – the idea came from the work of Taylor Gibson posted on

Following the general convention in Budapest, bus lines are blue, trams are yellow, trolleys are red, and suburban railways are shown in green. As for the direction of the image, the Danube flows approximately from the north (upper right corner) to the south (lower left corner). Elevation is shown with a vertical distortion factor of 2.0.

There are a few notable elements in the picture. First, there are three tram lines that go up the hills in the upper left corner – the middle one is actually a cog-wheel railway, now classified as a tram by BKK, the operator. Second, the two suburban railway lines going southward are not connected: there is about only 500 meter between the two, and while the connection has been planned for many years, there is no timeframe set for the completion. Third, notice that trolleybuses are only running on the Pest side of the city. While there used to be a line in Buda, it was destroyed in the second world war. New lines in Pest were opened in late forties and early fifities, then more were added in the 70’s and 80’s, mostly replacing old tram lines which ran in the narrow streets of Pest.

The extensive night bus system of the city is not shown in this image.

Nice work! The radial nature of transit here is immediately evident, and the lack of trolleybuses on the “Buda” side of the river is fascinating.

Submission - Official Map: Szeged, Hungary

Submitted by fuckyeahgmetro, who says:

Hi, this is the official map of SzKT, the company running trams and trolley buses in the Hungarian city Szeged. I think it is in a very good place to run for the worst transit map “designed” ever!


Transit Maps says:

I’ll certainly agree that this map is really quite atrocious. But it’s not even really close to the very worst transit maps out there.

It’s certainly a lazy, slipshod effort — looking like some bad Photoshop/MS Paint work superimposed on a fairly standard map of the city. The labelling is extremely poor, with type in many different sizes and at completely random angles to fit it all in. The symbols for stations are also pretty ugly, especially in the sections where three or more routes share the same track.

Despite all this, it’s still actually possible to work out what’s going on fairly easily — possibly only because it’s a small and basic system — and this is what saves it from joining the ranks of the absolute worst maps.

The other thing I note looking at this system is how well it would translate into a circular diagrammatic map, which seem to be all the rage these days. The orbital nature of the city’s streets and the “spokes” of the main routes would actually make this an appropriate design decision, instead of simply being a design affectation.

Our rating: Pretty darn bad, but not as bad as some. Half a star.

Half a Star

(Source: Official SzKT website)

Official Map: Rail and Tram Network, Budapest, Hungary

Budapest boasts the second oldest underground metro line in the world: its Line 1 (Yellow Line) dates from 1896 and was added the the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2002. Only the London Underground predates it. Wikipedia also claims (without attribution, unfortunately) that Budapest’s comprehensive tram service has the busiest “traditional city tram line” in the world where tram lines 4 and 6 combine, with the world’s longest passenger trams (54-metre long Siemens Combino units) running at 60 to 90 second intervals at peak time. Impressive stuff, but does the system map measure up? Yes and no.

Have we been there? No.

What we like: Comprehensive overview of services provided. The “interchange zone” boxes around complex modal interchanges work really well. Budapest’s Metro logo is a favourite of mine.

What we don’t like: Strangely muted and pastel-heavy colour palette reduces contrast between the multitude of lines. I feel like there’s a definite Paris Metro map vibe to this map, but the colour choices aren’t as appropriate.

Mode differentiation is poor - the Metro, suburban rail and passenger rail all use the same line weight for their route lines, as do trams and “selected bus routes”. Yet tram line 60, a cog-wheel tram (cool!), gets its own distinct route line style, with boxes for stations instead of dots. I feel this style could have been better used to differentiate between buses and trams.

Our rating: Comprehensive, but hard work to actually use. 2.5 stars.

2.5 Stars

(Source: Official BKV website)