Fantasy Map: North American Metro Map by Mark Knoke
Obviously inspired by — and clearly credited as such — the brilliant xkcd “Subways of North America” map, here’s a quite staggeringly detailed map of pretty much every rail-based rapid transit system in North America, including future expansions and upcoming new systems like Honolulu’s HART elevated light rail. Like the xkcd map, all the systems link up at their termini to form one giant Metro map that spans the entire continent.
True, the map isn’t the most visually attractive piece — it’s very basic in its construction and has labels going just about everywhere, but the sheer level of effort required simply has to be appreciated. By my count, there are forty-seven (yes, 47!) separate systems represented on this map, from the New York subway to the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico and all points in between. Each and every station is labelled. For the most part, the systems adhere to their standard map layout, although obviously some tweaks have had to be made to make them join up.
While I haven’t checked every detail, I have noticed that the Tacoma Link light rail in Tacoma, Washington is missing. It’s part of Sound Transit’s network, although physically separate from the main Central Link line that runs from SeaTac Airport to downtown. The inclusion of the the much-maligned Detroit People Mover is interesting (is it really proper “rapid transit”?), and begs the question why the very similar Miami Metromover system isn’t also shown.
(Source: Mark Knoke/Flickr)
Fantasy Future Map: Los Angeles County Light Rail System from the Movie “Her”
I love it when I’m able to fulfill requests from readers. Here’s a note I got from an anonymous follower the other day:
The new movie “Her” is set in a futuristic LA with a very un-LA-like amount of public transport use and at one point includes a shot off to the side of the frame of a map showing a much, much bigger LA Metro rail network. Would love to see that on this site! Don’t suppose you have any connections in the movie business?
Not really, but luckily, the good people over at r/losangeles on Reddit have come to the rescue and posted this screenshot from the movie. By the looks of it, future LA has ripped up the entire current system and replaced it with a new one.
The map itself is a bit naff, with all sorts of weird angles in its lines (which also take some ridiculously circuitous routes to get where they’re going), angled text and strangely patterned background. There’s a definite Washington Metro map vibe to it with the thicker route lines and circular interchange station symbols — although the large red circles look more like the epicentre of a nuclear blast than a place to change trains. There’s also a station at the northern end of the “Orange Line” that seems to broadcast an awesome wi-fi signal.
I haven’t seen this intriguing-sounding film yet, but I’m guessing that this map is seen for a few fleeting seconds only and certainly isn’t meant to hold up to any in-depth scrutiny — it’s designed to set a mood, not define the transportation policy of a future Los Angeles.
For an interesting read about the movie’s portrayal of a public transit-oriented future in LA, see this Atlantic Cities article.
Historical Map: Pacific Electric Strip Map
Submitted by Sam Huddy, who says:
This is a strip map of the Santa Monica Air Line that appears on several station platforms along the Expo Line in Los Angeles. As far as I know, this idea is original to the Metro era. As a work of art, the stops are unlabeled, and typical of the PE, it’s unclear what makes some stops “major” or “minor.”
Transit Maps says:
This is actually a lovely little homage from the LA Metro: acknowledging what came before them (the Expo Line utilises much of the Air Line’s original right of way) and giving it due credit. Love it!
Historical note: the Santa Monica Airline was a Pacific Electric streetcar service that ran from downtown LA to Santa Monica from 1909 to 1953.
(Source: Photographed by Sam)
Official Future Map: Los Angeles Metro Rail
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency released a “under construction” map yesterday, showing all the lines that are planned for the near future: Expo Line Phase 2, Gold Line Foothill Extension, the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Purple Line Extension and the ambitious downtown Regional Connector.
Overall, the map fits quite well into the existing LA Metro design aesthetic, although the crowded downtown area is now starting to make the station labelling look a little cramped and messy. It also presents a much larger problem — pointed out to me by Sam Huddy — in that its depiction of the Regional Connector is seriously flawed.
As seen in the second picture above, the Connector will cross the Red and Purple Lines after the 7th Street/Metro Center station and have a stop at 2nd Place/Hope — on the west side of the existing Red/Purple tracks. However, the new map chooses to place the 2nd Place/Hope station on the east side of those tracks, and has the entire Connector parallel to them, instead of showing the crossings.
A lot of this comes down to the limited space available in this part of the map, and the Silver Line is already taking up the available space on the west side of the Red/Purple Lines. However, while this is a diagrammatic map, it’s still hugely important that stations are placed in the correct positions relative to each other. Really, the central part of the map should have been completely redesigned to accommodate the Connector in its correct position, rather than simply tacking it on to the existing map.
Once the Connector is completed, it seems likely that service patterns on Metro rail will change, with the Gold, Blue and Expo lines drastically reconfigured — so there’s a chance this somewhat lazy error will get fixed then.
(Source: LA Metro website — “Under Construction Map” link)
Historical Map: The City of Los Angeles Showing Railway Systems, 1906
Another amazing old map from the awesome Big Map Blog, showing the already-booming rail transit network that was found in Los Angeles in the early days of the 20th Century. Electric trolleys first ran in LA in 1877, but the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric and the “Yellow Cars” of the narrow-gauge Los Angeles Railway had only appeared a mere five years before this map was produced. Their lines are represented on the map in appropriate colours, along with those of other, less-remembered, railway companies.
Technically, the map is beautifully drawn, although there’s some strange issues with route lines extending past the visible area of the map and spilling over the lists of street names, the map’s legend and even completely bleeding off the edge of the page (see the detail view of the legend above for an example). It could be intentionally done, but it certainly looks a little messy.
From a production viewpoint, it seems as though the map was printed with five different inks: black for the street name legend and Los Angeles Pacific RR routes, yellow for the Los Angeles RR, red for the Pacific Electric, green for the Los Angeles Inter-Urban RR, and a dark blue for the Los Angeles & Redondo RR and the underlying linework of the map itself. Understandably, given the fairly primitive printing technology of the day, the registration of these colours is a little bit off in places.
Our rating: A beautiful look at the early days of mass transit in LA. Four stars!
(Source: the Big Map Blog)
Submission — Unofficial Historical Map: Los Angeles Pacific Electric Railway Diagram, 1917
Drawn and submitted by Sam Huddy, who says:
Pacific Electric: Challenge Accepted!
When I read your disappointment on the uselessness of that beautiful map of the Pacific Electric at its peak in 1917 (not 1920), I wondered if it was possible to create a simplified London Underground-style map. With over a hundred routes it seemed impossible, but after several attempts, this was my end result. Any further information is on the map itself.
Transit Maps says:
Basically, this is incredible. An absolute model of simplicity and clarity of information, and it’s all drawn by hand onto some graph paper!
Breaking the multitude of routes up simply by their final downtown destination — either 6th and Main or 4th and Hill — works very well, and the “local services” insets are perfect for a map of this colossal scale: local route information can be easily found by those who need it, but those routes don’t clog the main map up with tiny detail, either. Perhaps the location of the inset boxes could be called out on the main map to aid those unfamiliar with the area, but that’s a very minor quibble.
As an added bonus, Sam has even dated the original map more precisely than any other source that I’ve seen. “Circa 1920” is now definitively dated to 1917, because his research found that some of the shuttle lines shown on this map and the original were abandoned after then.
Our rating: I feel like I could take this sketch and turn it into final computer-generated artwork in less than a day, it’s that good. Astounding work! Four-and-a-half stars!
(Source: Sam Huddy — Check the map out BIG on Flickr to see all the details!)
Los Angeles Rail Maps
Great photo showing how the LA Metro maps are part of a larger, unified, wayfinding system. Consistency of typography and brand are key — note how the titles of each map are in the same location and typeface every time, as is the Metro logo: colour is the main differentiator of information.
Historical Map: Los Angeles Pacific Electric Network, 1925
A beautifully rendered (just look at those lovingly drawn mountain ranges!) old-school map of the famous “Red Car” network at its absolute zenith.
It was pretty much all downhill after this: real estate sales from land that had been opened up by the network (the real money that allowed the rail service to continue to run despite operating losses) began to decline and many rural services were converted to cheaper buses around this date.
In the 1930s, plans for an extensive “Motorway System” around Los Angeles were drawn up. Originally, rail tracks were planned for the median of these new freeways, but were quietly dropped without much protest. The convenient age of the automobile had arrived, and — despite a short renaissance during World War II — the Pacific Electric faded slowly away and ceased passenger operations in the early 1960s.
Compare to this awesome relief map of the same network from 1920 (October 2011, 4.5 stars).
Our rating: Lovely early 20th Century cartography. 4 stars.
LA Metro Red and Purple Lines Strip Map
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - the Los Angeles Metro system has one of the most coherent, unified transit agency corporate identities out there. It’s used intelligently and consistently across the entire system - from maps, station signage and onto their website and collateral. Distinctive without being extrovert, it displays information simply and effectively, and looks good while doing it.
Sneak Peek: Los Angeles
This project has been ruminating in my head for a while, but I’ve finally got going. Very early days, but the look is starting to come together. How is this project different to my previous Interstate and U.S Highway paps? You’ll see… think bigger.