Historical Map: “Opening Day” Washington, DC Metro Map, 1976
Directly related to yesterday’s post, here’s an even older map of the Washington, DC Metro — this one is from an informational pamphlet released for the March 29, 1976 opening of the first part of the system, and is clearly dated at he bottom right.
Inexplicably, the Red Line is a dark burgundy colour, while the Orange Line is shown as red, even though they’re both clearly labelled correctly in the legend. How a printing error of this magnitude occurred is beyond me: with four-colour printing, you’d have to add about 40 percent more magenta ink to turn orange into red, and turning red into burgundy requires the addition of a lot of black ink where absolutely none should exist. Totally bizarre!
In another difference from yesterday’s map, you can see that neither Dupont Circle or Gallery Place are open for business yet.
Finally, long time correspondent Matt Johnson — who knows more about the Washington Metro than I ever will — has sent in some interesting information regarding some of the alignments shown on these old maps. I noted yesterday that these old maps don’t have the distinctive kink in the Yellow/Green line near U Street — Matt tells me that’s because at this time there wasn’t planned to be one.
As shown, the plan was for the Green and Yellow Lines to continue directly north from 7th Street into Georgia Avenue (the northern extension of 7th Street) to Kansas Avenue and then on to the current alignment at Fort Totten. Later changes pushed the alignment across to 14th Street and then along New Hampshire Avenue to Fort Totten. And thus, a distinctive visual feature of the modern map was born (and here was I thinking that they put it in to accommodate the ridiculous length of U Street station’s current name!)
Matt also notes that the southern end of the Green Line was changed over time to something of a “hybrid” alignment. Originally, he says, the Green Line was to go to Rosecroft via Congress Heights. By the 1970s, that had changed, and the new plan was to send the line to Branch Avenue via Alabama Avenue, as shown on this map.
However, a lawsuit was brought that WMATA had not held public hearings in the DC area, and as a result a hybrid alignment was chosen. In DC, the line went via Congress Heights (as if it was going to Rosecroft). In Prince George’s the line headed for Branch Avenue. At the District Line, there’s a kink to connect the two different alignments.
Strangely, that kink only appeared on the official map with the recent Rush+ revision, even though it’s always physically been there!
(Source: later in the same Subchat.com thread from yesterday)
Historical Map: Washington, DC Metro Map, 1977
This is a Metro map from March, 1977 — about a year after the system first started carrying passengers. At first glance, it looks very similar to today’s modern map… but then you realise that the only section that’s actually in service is the Red Line between Dupont Circle and Rhode Island Avenue, denoted by black outlines around the station circles, rather than the plain white circles used for future stations.
The uncanny resemblance to today’s map comes about because the whole system shown here — up to and including the opening of the Green Line segment to Branch Avenue in 2001 — was planned for right from the start of the project. If you look closely, there are actually quite a few differences: the Blue and Yellow Lines south of Pentagon are reversed from today’s configuration, and a number of station names have changed from these initial plans. Bigger visual differences include the lack of the kink in the Yellow/Green line around Columbia Heights and a much greater sense of visual clarity: short station names (note that it’s only “U Street” here!) and no secondary information like cross streets, hospitals or timetable/routing callout boxes give the map room to breathe. While not quite the mimimalist classic that Massimo Vignelli’s New York Subway map is, this version of the map is definitely far more deserving of the “iconic” tag than its modern descendants.
Our rating: An unadulterated look at the far superior original concept. Four stars.
(Source: Subchat.com thread about the map: the thread originally dates the map to March 27, 1976, but later revises it to March 17, 1977 because of the stations that are shown as being open — Dupont Circle and Gallery Place stations opened after the rest of the Phase I Red Line stations)
Future Map: Washington, DC “Silver Line” Draft Map
Long time readers will be aware of my low opinion of the Washington DC Metro Rail map — here’s a fairly scathing review of the “Rush+” map (March 2012, 2.5 stars) to refresh your memory.
It looks like WMATA is preparing for the opening of the Silver Line and has put a draft version of a new map up on MindMixer for comments. According to the blurb there, the route lines are now thinner and station names are now treated more consistently. The other obvious visual change is the introduction of a new station symbol (one with thin “whisker” extensions) to accommodate the three routes that will now run across the middle of the map. Let’s discuss all of these in turn.
The route lines may be thinner, but only barely. Probably not enough to make any useful difference to the map. While the playful thickness of the route lines are very much an identifying feauture of the WMATA map, it’s now becoming a liability to its usefulness. The extra space required to accommodate the Silver Line through Foggy Bottom and Farragut West means that the six stations on the northwest leg of the Red Line inside the District have to be crammed into a ridiculously tight space — far tighter than anywhere else on the map. I always feel that a diagrammatic map like this has to strive for even and harmonious spacing across the entire map… and this map simply doesn’t do that well any more.
The new treatment of station names includes “consistent street abbreviations across the map”, which should be a good thing: it’s always better to choose either “Avenue” or “Ave” and stick with that choice across the whole map. However, “Hgts” is a visually awful abbreviation for “Heights” and is included for the sole purpose of making “Columbia Hgts” fit on one line without conflicting with the “Van Ness-UDC” label. “Ctr” is an equally terrible abbreviation for “Center”, and doesn’t actually seem to bring any real space-saving benefits to the map.
The new “whiskered” station symbol just feels forced and unnecessary to me. It introduces a third station symbol, even though hierarchically, it means exactly the same as the plain station circle that already exists. An elongated “pill” symbol with the same cap radius as the normal circle would work a lot better in my opinion. Or — narrow down the route lines until the normal circle symbol can touch all three.
At the moment, this map is only a work in progress, but I’m not exactly impressed by any of the new design decisions.
Mexico City Metro Linea 1 Strip Map
If you’re going to use icons for each of your stations, as Mexico City does, then why not make them nice and big and simply arrange them in the correct order?
More from Wikipedia on the iconography of the Mexico City Metro:
Each station is identified by a minimalist logo related to the name of the station or the area around it. This is because, at the time of the first line’s opening, the illiteracy rate was extremely high, so people found it easier to guide themselves with a system based on colors and visual signs. The design of the icons and the typography are a creation of Lance Wyman, who also designed the logotype for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games at Mexico City. The logos are not assigned at random; rather, they are designated by considering the surrounding area, such as:
The logos’ background colors reflect those of the line the station serves. Stations serving two or more lines show the respective colors of each line in diagonal stripes, as in Salto del Agua.
(Source: Universe’s universe/Flickr)
How the WMATA Rush+ Maps Are Printed
Many thanks to Matt Johnson for telling me about this amazing photoset on Flickr that details the process involved in printing the new Rush+ station maps for Washington, DC’s Metro system. Click through to see the whole set!
Even as an experienced graphic designer, I was amazed to see that the maps are screen printed - each colour on the map is printed one after the other, each using a separate screen with its own spot colour ink. With a map as complex as this, that means that there are a whopping twelve different colours to print! These being: river blue, park green, National Mall green, Blue Line, Orange Line, Yellow Line, Green Line, Red Line, Silver Line, District/County border grey, Beltway grey, and finally, black.
I would have thought with the advances in digital printing and stochastic (micro) screening, that these could be produced digitally in one step instead of twelve, but maybe these are special long-lasting UV inks that will withstand many years of use without fading - an important consideration for station maps! In any case, these photos are a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a process that many people may not even think about.
EDIT: A tweet from a Metro representative confirms that there are THIRTEEN colours used in the printing: 4 greys (Silver Line, Beltway grey, county border grey, and icon grey), 3 greens (parks, Mall, Green Line), 2 Blues (river, Blue Line), Black, Red, Yellow and Orange.