Historical Map: Montreal Tramways Company, 1941

Here’s a very handsome map of transit in 1941 Montreal, provided by the Montreal Tramways Company, or La Compagnie des Tramways de Montreal. Despite the name, there’s also a healthy (and growing) number of bus routes on this map, shown in blue. 

Cleverly, the map rotates the city away from true north in order to fit everything onto the sheet of paper allocated, and the north pointer used is simply lovely, even including the company’s “MTC” monogram.

The map does a lot with just three colours, clearly differentiating between bus and tram services while highlighting regular services versus supplementary/rush hour ones with a minimum of fuss. The callout boxes for main stations are lovely, with the names contained within an ornate scroll at the top of the box.

My favourite part of the map, however, is how it effortlessly deals with the requirement to present information in both French and English. It even goes so far as to have one information box say “Index of/des Routes” while the other states “Index des/of Routes”, so that no-one feels that the other side got a better deal.

Finally, the roundel that the MTC uses for its logo looks awfully familiar...

Our rating: Quite lovely — clear and stylish. Four stars!

4 Stars!

(Source: Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec via Taras Grescoe)

Unofficial Map: Montreal Métro in the style of the London Tube Map

Here’s a fun little piece sent my way by Montreal-based designer Corey Landel: the Métro de Montréal redesigned in the style of the iconic London Underground map.

While it’s definitely a fun little homage, I do feel that Corey could have pushed a little harder to match the designs more closely and demonstrate a better understanding of the “Beckian” principles at play behind the design of the Tube map (in short, absolute simplification of route lines, even spacing of stations and eradication of any angles other than multiples of 45).

Because, if you’re going to create something “in the style of”, why not go the whole way?

A few thoughts, based on the concept that the idea is to get this map as close to the style of the Underground Map as possible:

Gill Sans as used here is an acceptable alternative to Johnston Sans, but there are also pretty decent free versions of Johnston to be found on the Internet. Worth it for the distinctive diamond-shaped tittles alone.

The zig-zagging route at each end of the Green Line on Corey’s map would never be present on the Underground Map. The jog between Verdun and Joilcoeur would be eliminated, while the whole eastern end would follow one straight path, with perhaps one change in direction to a vertical line for the last few stations if space restraints demanded it (as it looks like it might here).

On a similar note, the non-standard angles on the Yellow Line would also be verboten on the Underground Map. There’s really no reason why it just can’t be a straight horizontal line, except to conform to the underlying geography. Which brings me to my next point…

Treatment of rivers: On the Tube Map, the Thames is treated diagrammatically, the same as the route lines. The approach on Corey’s map pretty much mirrors that of the official Montreal map, with stylised/simplified geography underlying a diagrammatic representation of the lines.

The suburban trains shown on this map are analogous to the London Overground, so perhaps they could be treated in a similar way. However, this does create a colour clash with the Orange Line that doesn’t exist on the Tube map. A compromise could be to use the white-stroked line from the Underground map, but a different colour, like the lovely purple the official STM map used to have before the recent redesign.

Other general aesthetic differences include the lack of curves in the route lines as they change direction, the look of the standard station tick (there’s no curved cap on the Tube Map’s symbol) and the thickness of the black keyline around the interchange station symbols.

Pro Tip: The official London Tube Map PDF is not protected in any way and is fully openable and editable in Adobe Illustrator. Any aspiring transit map designer should really download a copy, open it up and see what makes it tick. I know that doing this aided my understanding of transit map design principles immensely.

Source: Corey Landel’s website, originally via Twitter

Submission - Official Map: Montreal Metro Route Direction Map

Submitted by Sean Hunt, who says:

A (sadly, slightly blurry) image of the Montreal Metro’s maps on the platform, displaying clearly which direction the line is going as well as the time to each station along the way.

——

Transit Maps says:

A nice, clear way to integrate travel information for a single line into a system-wide map. Reducing the width of the lines for the other routes instantly raises the designated route (here, the Blue Line towards Snowdon) higher in the information hierarchy. The current station and the final destination are repeated in text form above and below the map for extra emphasis and the direction of travel is indicated with a Great Big Arrow. Just in case you haven’t grasped things yet, there’s a big magenta “You Are Here” starburst on the current station, which might just be taking things a little too far, in my opinion.

Montréal Métro Map Weirdness
Submitted by Steve Rohde, who’s noticed an odd little optical illusion in the Montréal Métro map…
Steve says: One little annoyance that didn’t get fixed in this update is an illusion that causes the subway route width appear to vary.  Compare the following two Orange Line segments:
Côte-Vertu to Snowden
Snowden to Lionel-Groulx
Segment 1 looks thinner than segment 2, probably due to the difference in station density.
—

Transit Maps says: Cannot unsee! Now my eye will forever be drawn to that part of the map…

Montréal Métro Map Weirdness

Submitted by Steve Rohde, who’s noticed an odd little optical illusion in the Montréal Métro map…

Steve says: One little annoyance that didn’t get fixed in this update is an illusion that causes the subway route width appear to vary.  Compare the following two Orange Line segments:

  1. Côte-Vertu to Snowden
  2. Snowden to Lionel-Groulx

Segment 1 looks thinner than segment 2, probably due to the difference in station density.


Transit Maps says: Cannot unsee! Now my eye will forever be drawn to that part of the map…
Matt Johnson sends these photos of great ads that use a subway map theme that he saw in the Montreal Metro on a recent trip. The interesting thing here is that these aren’t created by an ad agency riffing off the subway map theme, but are produced by the transit agency (the Société de transport de Montréal or STM) themselves, as informational ads regarding public transport and upcoming popular events.
The ads have a nice consistent design look that ties in well with other elements of the STM’s corporate identity. The four colours of the Metro map are integrated nicely, although the one thing the ads do is make the Metro map itself look a little dowdy and old-fashioned in comparison! While the rest of the STM’s look has moved on, the map is still firmly rooted in the past. Matt Johnson sends these photos of great ads that use a subway map theme that he saw in the Montreal Metro on a recent trip. The interesting thing here is that these aren’t created by an ad agency riffing off the subway map theme, but are produced by the transit agency (the Société de transport de Montréal or STM) themselves, as informational ads regarding public transport and upcoming popular events.
The ads have a nice consistent design look that ties in well with other elements of the STM’s corporate identity. The four colours of the Metro map are integrated nicely, although the one thing the ads do is make the Metro map itself look a little dowdy and old-fashioned in comparison! While the rest of the STM’s look has moved on, the map is still firmly rooted in the past.

Matt Johnson sends these photos of great ads that use a subway map theme that he saw in the Montreal Metro on a recent trip. The interesting thing here is that these aren’t created by an ad agency riffing off the subway map theme, but are produced by the transit agency (the Société de transport de Montréal or STM) themselves, as informational ads regarding public transport and upcoming popular events.

The ads have a nice consistent design look that ties in well with other elements of the STM’s corporate identity. The four colours of the Metro map are integrated nicely, although the one thing the ads do is make the Metro map itself look a little dowdy and old-fashioned in comparison! While the rest of the STM’s look has moved on, the map is still firmly rooted in the past.

Official Map: Bus Routes of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada

This map was nominated by Tumblr user Tevi as the worst transit map ever. While I don’t agree, as the map is at least competently drawn, it does have some serious shortcomings, not the least of which is knowing how much detail is too much.

Have we been there? No

What we like: The blue background behind the map is a refreshing change from white or neutral grey, and the north pointer is quite lovely (north pointers are often very generic and boring, so it’s good to see a nice one).

What we don’t like: The first infuriating thing: the lack of a legend or key that explains what the different styles of route lines represent. Why do some have a white dotted line in the middle? Why are some dashed? It was only after 20 minutes of study that I realised that the dotted route lines correspond to Minibus and Taxibus services. I’m still not entirely sure what the dashed lines represent. Peak-hour only?

To my mind, there’s too much unnecessary route detail on the map. Do users of the map really need to see the separate entry and exit ramps that the buses use to access or leave the freeway in order to get to their destination? It just adds extra visual clutter to the map and could be simplified.

The rainbow circle of routes around the Université de Sherbrooke really needs some work, and the less said about the inset of the city centre, the better - it barely shows any more detail than the main map and seems to be very confused. I still can’t work out the exact placement of the Dépot station…

Our rating: At first glance, looks quite good, but has some fatal usability flaws that make it very difficult to use. Two stars.

2 Stars

(Source: Official STS website)

Official Map: Métro de Montréal, Québec, Canada

Requested by pomme-poire-peche

Montréal’s Metro map instantly stands out from the crowd  by virtue of its black background - a feature only rarely seen in transit maps. Although the idea of a subway serving Montréal was first tabled in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until 1966 that it finally opened.

Have we been there? No.

What we like: Graphically bold and clean. Black background and subdued colour for the waterways really allow the thick, colourful route lines to stand out. Really like the “coloured square” effect for interchange stations between the Métro and the commuter rail lines. The geography shown, while still based in reality, is abstract enough to work well with the bold route lines.

What we don’t like: I’m not a fan of the small caps type treatment for station names – it breaks up the names and looks awkward when placed in the coloured boxes at the ends of the lines. The north pointer and legend look unfortunately generic, while the placement of the elevator symbols is abysmal (pomme-poire-peche asked me to ignore these, as they apparently aren’t there on the maps in stations, but they’re kind of hard not to notice!). Some of the curves and angles on the commuter rail lines seem poorly chosen or drawn.

Our rating: I love it when a map is so distinctive that it couldn’t possibly be from anywhere else in the world than the city it represents - and this is definitely all Montréal’s. A few minor flaws detract from the overall quality, but this is better than the average map. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

(Source: Official STM website)