Submission - Unofficial Unified BART/Muni Metro Map by Jamison Wieser

Submitted by Jamison, who says:

I don’t want to share this map as much as the concept behind it. 

San Francisco’s Muni Metro light-rail system and the regional BART heavy-rail system share a subway under Market Street and the five busiest rail stations in the Bay Area. They share a subway, but side-by-side the system maps with radically different designs that don’t share anything in common besides the names of the station.

There are 10 lines between the two agencies and between the two maps, 4 of the colors used are duplicated. Topping that off, neither actually refers to the lines by the color. Muni lines have a letter and name, like the N-Judah. BART refers to trains by their destination, which means figuring out where a Richmond train goes means finding Richmond and backtracking along the map. Nearly every time I fly back home I meet a first time visitor who’s confused when the train is announced as a “Pittsburg/BayPoint train” instead of a Yellow line train they expect from the map.

I didn’t want to rename lines so much as just group them into color coded categories based on which subway corridors they run through in Oakland and San Francisco.

It’s exactly how Boston represents branches of the Green.

Muni’s JKLMN lines through Market Street get merged into the “Orange line” and what we called a line before becomes a branch; so the N-Judah line becomes the N-Judah branch of the Orange line. I choose orange for a couple reasons including the fact that the San Francisco Giant’s ballpark sits along it and it was Muni’s brand color at the time the Metro subway opened. The T-Third Street will be running north-south through a new subway under construction to Chinatown and for all the cultural connections and branding reasons the T was given the color red: I just dropped the letter name. At least as long as there isn’t another branch of it.

I narrowed BART from 5 lines to 3 and with only two of the lines branching I didn’t over-complicate it. The Richmond Line, becomes the Richmond brand of the Green Line. I chose the colors here so the Oakland A’s would be served by the team colors green and yellow, and like Berkeley would be served by Cal’s team colors Yellow and Blue (OK, it’s a different, but…)

I’d like you know what you think of this idea?


Transit Maps says:

There’s a lot to be said for unified transit maps — people just want to know how to get from place to place, without the barriers put in place by two (or more) separate maps getting in their way. With the Clipper Card, the transit systems of the Bay Area are becoming increasingly integrated, so some sort of joint map makes great sense.

The main problem, as I think Jamison is discovering in his working map above, is the vastly differing scales of the two networks. BART is a vast commuter/regional rail network that spreads out across the entire Bay Area, while the Muni Metro is a much more compact streetcar/light rail network that’s contained entirely within the City of San Francisco.

However, the Muni network has substantially more stops than BART, spaced much closer together. This means that it’s almost impossible to show the two networks together on the same map and keep things looking cohesive. The same problem is evident in Portland (with the MAX light rail and the Portland Streetcar) and in Sydney (with the Sydney Trains network and the new Inner West light rail). The solution is to only label “important” Muni stations, leaving out most of the street-running stops, as seen on this Bay Area map that I’ve previously featured, and on this newer version of that map.

However, I think the simplification of the multiple routes to branches of coloured routes is very solid, and works well for me. Much the same as the Boston “T” has an underlying rationale behind its colour choices (the Red Line goes to Harvard, whose school colour is crimson, for example), so does Jamison’s vision for San Francisco. Having to ride the Orange Line to the ballpark to see the Giants is bound to annoy opposition fans no end — I love it! 


Going outbound

Forest Hill Station, Forest Hill

(Source: sanfranciscer)

Photo: Tactile Muni Metro Map, San Francisco

Maps in underground stations on the Muni light rail network in San Francisco have raised route designation letters and route lines, as well as braille labels for station names. Nice!

I know that it’s entirely happenstance*, but I really appreciate the fact that the M, K, and T lines appear next to each other on the map, making an “MKT” for Market Street.

*Historical aside: Muni streetcar letters were originally assigned alphabetically in the order they came into being, all the way from A to N. Letters then disappeared as many of the old streetcar lines were converted to numerical bus routes, leaving us with the strange assortment of letters we have now. The modern T Line breaks from this naming convention, as it simply refers to the road it mostly runs along, Third Street.

Source: jdaisy/Flickr

Photo: Coast to Coast

Lady with a NYC subway map umbrella looking at a Muni map in San Francisco. Great photo!

(Source: the N Judah Chronicles/Flickr)

Historical Map: San Francisco Muni Transit Routes, 1970

For a long period of time, the San Francisco Municipal Railway, (commonly shortened to just “Muni”) used pretty much exactly the same map in their brochures. It seems that each year, they’d simply make any amendments required — addition of new routes, deletion of old ones, etc. —  and then reprint the brochure/map in a new colour combination.

The earliest example I can find, from 1952, uses a sombre two-color palette of black and red, mostly tinted down to greys and pinks. However, by 1970, the map had evolved into this gloriously garish three-colour purple, yellow and black vision that suits the post-Summer of Love San Francisco perfectly.

The map shows all Muni streetcar, coach and cable car services, but with no visible mode differentiation — express services are shown with a dashed line. However, the map’s actually pretty clean and easy to follow: route termini are clearly shown by route numbers in large circles, and there’s enough smaller numbers along each route to allow you to follow them from one end to the other.

Also of note: basic fare is just 20 cents!

Our rating: Groovy, man! A psychedelic re-imagining of a long-serving and functional map. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: Eric Fischer/Flickr)

Historical Map: Bay Area Connections Map, 1981

Submitted by Alex Jonlin, who says:

I saw this at the Fremont BART Station a couple weeks ago. It’s labeled (in tiny print at the top) “September 1981.” I have no idea how it ended up staying for so long, but it’s interesting to see how the transit system has changed since then. I also like the concept of depicting long-distance rail and long-distance buses just about the same - it shows people that the Bay Area’s transit network extends beyond where just the BART and Caltrain go.


Transit Maps says:

Another fine entry in the “hopelessly out-of-date map” genre — 31 years and still counting!

This really is one of my favourite categories of transit maps. So much so, that I’ve introduced a new tag just for them: out of date. This applies to maps that are still located at active stops or vehicles only — maps in transit museums or used as movie/TV show props don’t count. Anyone got any examples from their local transit system?

  1. Camera: Nokia Lumia 920
  2. Aperture: f/2
  3. Exposure: 1/60th

Unofficial Map: San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit, 2011

This post comes about because of a Tumblr Mail (go, on ask me something!) from an anonymous follower, who says:

Any idea if a unified San Francisco transit map exists somewhere out there, perhaps a la the Portland one? SF has to have one of the more confusing transit systems in the country, what with Caltrain + BART + Muni + cable cars + the F line.”

As it happens, there are plenty of unofficial maps showing both just the City of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.

This one, from, is definitely one of the best. It shows BART, Muni Metro, the F line, Caltrain, and more. The only rail transit it doesn’t show are the historic cable cars (which surely don’t qualify as rapid transit, anyway) and interstate Amtrak trains, preferring to focus on the Amtrak California Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin services.

Extra handy features include an indication of stations with timed transfers between services and an awesome little diagram of how BART services change quite radically depending on the day of the week.

Technically, the map is extremely well drawn - there’s a lovely clean minimalism to the linework and the colour palette is gorgeous, especially in the background areas.

My one minor complaint is that the colours used to denote Muni Metro and Caltrain are very similar to each other. While the relative thicknesses of their service lines help distinguish them from each other, the services do touch and overlap in a couple of places. This problem seems like it could have been easily solved with a little more thought, but still barely detracts from the sheer quality of this piece.

Our rating: One of my favourite unofficial maps. Four-and-a-half stars.

4.5 Stars!

(Source: SF Cityscape - PDF)

San Francisco Muni Metro Sign, Church Station

(Source: Jean (tarkastad)/Flickr)