Unofficial Map: New York Regional Rail by Carter Green
To say I’m excited to share this map with you would be an understatement.
In August, I was contacted by Carter Green, a high school student who had been inspired by my maps (especially my map of French TGV routes) and had created his own of regional rail services in and around New York City. He asked whether I would mind taking a look at it, which I did. Immediately, I was impressed with the amazing quality of the cartography, but had a few suggestions which I thought Carter could implement. He took my ideas on board, and has now got back to me with the final version - and it’s beautiful.
Have we been there? My only experience with regional rail in the New York area is a NJ Transit train from Newark Airport to Penn Station.
What we like: A nicely unified design - the whole map gives off an elegant Art Deco feel (very appropriate for New York!), courtesy of the distinctive Neutraface type family and some nice little flourishes in arrowheads and the map’s north pointer.
The use of increasingly large circles for hub stations is something that could have looked terrible, but I think Carter has actually pulled it off very well - your eye is definitely drawn to them, and it quickly gives an idea of a station’s importance.
I absolutely adore the circular treatment of routes around Philadelphia, which is new to this version of the map.
Neat integration of New York Subway interchanges.
I wish I’d thought of Carter’s solution for stations where not every train stops - white dots linked by connecting lines, as seen on the red Metro-North routes into Connecticut.
What we don’t like: Some minor, minor things. The symbols for connecting services that aren’t the Subway aren’t as effective (just three-letter abbreviations and teeny tiny airport symbols for the AirTrain services).
The curves where a route line has to “step down” to remain next to other routes on the same corridor (on the Metro-North Waterbury branch, for example) could be smoother to fit better with the graceful curves seen throughout the rest of the map.
A couple of errors that can easily be fixed: the LIRR Belmont seasonal service is shown in the legend, but not its parent Greenport branch. “AirTrain” is misspelled as “AirTran” in the legend.
Our rating: Incredibly impressive work that shows a very complex network of services from many different agencies and makes it visually compelling and informative. Did I mention Carter is still in high school? Four-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Email correspondence with Carter Green)
Historical Map: PATH Map, New York and New Jersey, 1979
After all the diagrammatic maps we’ve featured so far, it’s nice to showcase something completely different - check out this awesome painted birds-eye view of PATH services between New Jersey and Manhattan from 1979. It also shows other rail services in New Jersey snaking off into the far distance, and even Lady Liberty standing guard over New York and the cutest little Staten Island ferry you ever did see.
Have we been there? Yes, but I haven’t caught a PATH train.
What we like: Just about everything! Attractive, historical, useful… this one’s got it all in spades.
What we don’t like: Not a lot!
Our rating: Fantastic! Its strangely distorted perspective reminds me of the famous 1976 New Yorker cover of the view of America from downtown Manhattan. Five stars!
Official Map: New Jersey Transit Rail System
This morning, an interesting tweet came across my desk: “NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein unveils new customer friendly rail system map at today’s board meeting” with a link to the new map. Always eager to check out a new transit map, I clicked through… and was incredibly underwhelmed by what I saw.
Far from being the paradigm of customer friendliness that was promised, this map comes across as sad, tired and amateur. It seems to have taken elements from many different transit maps and mashes them into one big mess. We have the thick route lines and giant circle transfer stations of Washington, DC Metro, icons for the lines similar to - but nowhere nearly as well executed - the Lisbon Metro, and different station symbols for each and every mode of transit.
Admittedly, this map faces some unusual challenges in that it shows a state-wide system, rather than just a smaller city. Because of this, some semblance of geography and distance between stations has to be shown. However, I feel that there has to be a better solution than this, where the light rail systems around Hoboken and Newark are crammed into a tiny space with miniscule station names, while vast amounts of space remain empty throughout the rest of the state.
The stylised geography also troubles me - what exactly happens to the Delaware River when it gets to Port Jervis? And why do we need to see the vast empty bottom part of the state, especially when it cuts an ugly swathe across the informational text at the base of the map.
Have we been there? Yes - I’ve caught the train from Newark Airport into New York Penn Station.
What we like: Ambitious scope, attempting to show all rail services in the state of New Jersey - NJ Transit, PATH, light rail systems, as well as an indication of connecting services in neighbouring states - MTA, SEPTA and stations serviced by Amtrak. This is the first real transit map I’ve seen with a QR code on it - I wonder what it does?
What we don’t like: Unfortunately, despite its best intentions, this map is hideous. Almost everything - from the icons and colours chosen for the main routes, to the typography, to the clumsy treatment of the geography, to the enormous circles used for transfer stations, even the spacing of the stations - looks amateur and poorly thought out. Suffers even more from having to include every logo of every separate transit agency.
Our rating: A hugely wasted opportunity to create something memorable and exciting. One-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official NJ Transit website - PDF)