Historical Map: Opening of the Los Angeles Metro Red Line, January 30, 1993
A very simple map showing the first segment of Los Angeles’ Red Line on its opening in January 1993. The Blue Line (part of which is also shown on this map) had opened three years earlier.
The map is mainly notable for the “RTD” logo that belonged to the southern California Regional Transit District, the immediate ancestor of today’s Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA, or more commonly, just “Metro”). In fact, the LACMTA was formed just a few months after this map was produced.
Historical Map: Comprehensive Rapid Transit Plan for the City and County of Los Angeles, 1925
This is one of the earliest plans commissioned by the City and County of Los Angeles. The consultants — Kelker, De Leuw and Co. of Chicago — were asked to create a plan to accommodate a future city population of three million.
Metro’s own history archive has this to say about the project:
The plan shows a number of proposed immediate and future subways: one across Hollywood to La Brea Boulevard, another from downtown to 7th Street, up Vermont Avenue, and across Third Street. It initially would have run to Larchmont Boulevard as subway with a future extension on elevated rail to Third Street and down Wilshire Boulevard to Beverly Hills and the ocean in Santa Monica. It also shows a subway from downtown across Pico Boulevard, initially to Rimpau Boulevard with a future extension to Venice Beach.
Solid lines on both the regional map and the urban map represent mass rapid transit routes recommended for immediate construction to relieve downtown congestion. Dotted lines predict future extensions that will be necessary to serve population increases. The plan recommended for immediate construction of 153 miles of subway, elevated rail, and street railways at a projected cost of $133,385,000. Strong opposition by the business community to planned sections of elevated rail, as well as voter reluctance to tax themselves to benefit the privately held Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway effectively shelved the plan.
The map itself is a superb example of cartography, complete with some lovely contour work on the mountains around the city and simply lovely hand-drawn typography — check out the loveliness of that “PACIFIC OCEAN” label.
The map does a lot with a limited colour palette, but it’s effective: existing rapid transit in black, proposed lines in red, and everything else in a pleasant (and visually recessive) gold. It’s worth noting that there aren’t any roads shown on this map, just the tracks of the two main streetcar companies, the Los Angeles Railway and the Pacific Electric Railway (see this contemporaneous map of that system).
Our rating: Gorgeous, and fun to compare against the actual existing Metrorail system. Four stars!
Source: LA Metro archive library (lots of other fun planning maps there!)
Unofficial Map: Los Angeles Metro for the “Analogue Guide: Los Angeles”
Submitted by Stefan, who says:
I thought I’d share the Los Angeles Metro map that we designed for the Analogue Guide Los Angeles.
We always include “alternative” transit maps in our guide books, such Eddie Jabbour’s KickMap or Mark Noad’s Tubemap. In Los Angeles, given the sheer lack of maps, we designed one in-house.
It would be great to hear your thoughts on it!
Transit Maps says:
Thanks for sharing, Stefan! This is quite a neat piece of work that would seem to suit your needs very well. The design definitely fits in with the clean, minimalist look of the guide book itself! I’m never too certain about using Futura Condensed on a transit map myself, but it seems to be doing a good job here.
While concentrating on the central/downtown part of the city is probably perfect for what you cover in the guide, I’d personally still like to see some indication of the final destinations of each line: either as arrows pointing off the edge of the map, or incorporated into the legend at the top left. I also would have identified the lines by name in the legend, as LA has that weird mix of colour-named and destination-named lines (Expo and — soon — Crenshaw).
However, I do like the way you’ve incorporated the dates for the future openings of the various lines: it helps bring context to what is still an evolving and developing system.
Really minor typo: it’s “Light Rail”, not “Lightrail”.
Overall, I really like this map: it places the system on top of just enough geographical clues (the street grid, coastline,river and neighbourhood names) to allow for easy orientation — which is what a guide book should be all about, right?
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.