Official Map: Sydney CityRail Network Map
Here’s a map that has been requested quite a few times, but I’ve held off on until now. Having lived in Sydney most of my life, I think it’s difficult to be dispassionate about something I’m so familiar with… but here goes!
Have we been there? You know it!
What we like: Clear and easy to understand. Different types of services are denoted well, but in a nicely understated way: grey lines with coloured ticks that relate to the suburban lines they share track with for intercity routes works very well. Thinner, subordinate lines for country bus routes also share their colour with their related train route, carrying a nice “colour equals compass direction” theme through the whole map.
Comprehensive legend and a well-considered set of explanatory icons. The grid and corresponding list of stations is a nice usability touch for those less familiar with the system.
What we don’t like: Some terribly cramped station names, especially on the Illawarra Line between Arncliffe and Jannali. In fact, the unevenness of station name spacing throughout the whole map is one of its biggest flaws.
Part of this comes from having to show all CityRail services, all the way out to far-distant destinations. Goulburn (at the bottom left) is almost 200km (125 miles) from the centre of Sydney! Older CityRail maps concentrated solely on the suburban area of Sydney, with arrows and text indicating service to distant points, which gave the map more room to breathe. I’m not saying that a map like this one isn’t important, but it could be supplemented by a second map that deals with just the city.
The other main failing of the map is its attempt to place a diagrammatic representation of the network onto a “geographical” background. I’ll tell you now - Sydney’s coastline looks nothing like this. Everything is horribly distorted and the difference in style between angled diagram and “naturalistic” coast is jarring to my eye.
Our rating: Despite a couple of major problems, this map still manages to take a large, sprawling commuter and interurban rail system (plus buses and light rail!) and make it clearly understood. Clean design and nice colour choices help a lot (the Bankstown Line looks much better in orange than its old brown). Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: CityRail website)
Sydney Buses CBD Map, 2000
From the back of a Gregory’s Street Directory by the look of things, and very much in their house style. I’m not sure this map is actually helping things that much: Sydney’s labyrinthine network of streets is partially to blame, but the flow of arrows and lines could also be much clearer.
The strange decision to make the background black for the second half of the suburb list (to the right of the map) has the unfortunate side effect of making that half look like a list of night time services.
The other thing to note is that there is a ridiculous number of bus routes serving downtown Sydney.
(Source: Nick (kypros1992)/Flickr)
Historical Map: Sydney Rail Transport System, c. 1970-1976
Here’s another interesting planning map from Sydney, Australia, showing a vision for the future that never quite got there.
If you look to the far centre right of the map, you can see the planned Eastern Suburbs line… including a never-built extension from the (now current) end of the line at Bondi Junction to Kingsford. There’s also an extra station at Woollahra in the section that did finally get built.
It’s these details that allow me to date the map fairly accurately: it’s post-1970, as the distances are in kilometres, not miles, but before 1976, which is when the extension to Kingsford was scrapped.
Have we been there? A little early for my time in Sydney (we moved there from Armidale in 1979).
What we like: A fascinating glimpse of what might have been. Although I’m not sure it’s intended, the thickness of the route lines throughout the system seem to act as an indicator of service frequency - something that is being seen more on modern transit maps. The old NSW Rail “arrow of indecision” is a pretty awesome 1970s logo.
What we don’t like: Pretty rough and ready, with distances being pasted on wherever they would fit. Not really for general consumption.
Our rating: Of historical interest for the vision of the Eastern Suburbs line alone, but doesn’t look great. Two-and-a-half stars.
Historical Map: Sydney Suburban Rail Network, 1969
Here’s an interesting map from my hometown of Sydney, Australia from around 1969. Unusually, it doesn’t display different services as separate coloured route lines: everything is shown as one uniform orange line. It also displays the distance from Sydney Central station (in miles), and the elevation (in feet) of each station. Non-electrified lines are shown as dashed lines. These odd features lead me to believe that this is a map for internal NSW Railways use, and was never intended for use by the general public.
Our rating: Of historical interest, but pretty bland and bare-bones. 2 stars.
Metro Light Rail Network Map, Sydney
Can you call it a network map when it consists of one line and a soon-to-be defunct (and despised) monorail? A north pointer would really help here as well… West is at the bottom of the map.
(Source: Michael “Comeng301M” Coley/Flickr)