Unofficial Future Map: Singapore MRT/LRT by Bernie Ng

Submitted by Bernie, who says:

Hello Cameron,

I saw your recent post regarding future Singapore MRT/LRT maps and thought I’d throw mine into the ring. The Singapore MRT has long been one of my fave metro systems around the world. I like the concept of destination numbers and station numbers - I believe it is one of the first, if not the first, to use this concept (do let me know if that’s not quite right).  My approach for this map is to incorporate the station number into the station marker itself to avoid some of the clutter associated placing the station name AND the number alongside the station marker.  Also, I really wanted the Circle Line to be a circle, so I have adopted a few distortions to make that happen. Finally, I tried to incorporate geography of Singapore in a stylistic manner to further reinforce the circle motif.  I know this does not quite meet the professional standards I often see on this blog (this is drawn using Microsoft Visio), but let me know what you think all the same!

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Transit Maps says:

I don’t know, Bernie — this looks pretty darn nice from what I can see!

The temptation to make any line called the “Circle Line” live up to its name is almost always too hard to resist! Sometimes the result can be a little forced or contrived, but I think you’ve done a nice job here — for the most part, the stations are spaced out pretty nicely. I particularly like the way you’ve managed to keep the purple North East Line perfectly straight while heading entirely in the direction its name implies.

Integrating the station code into the station marker is a good idea that removes clutter — reader Xavier Fung pointed out that the new official map does this as well — and the insets for the LRT systems also work well in simplifying the main map as well as providing greater detail for these services than the official map can. I also really like the stylish shell-like shape that the island of Singapore takes on: stylised but recognisable!

My few quibbles — the graduated grey background could be seen as representing fare zones. As Singapore uses a distance-based fare system, not a zonal one, this could cause a lot of unnecessary confusion. I also find the grey a little drab and overpowering — it seems to make the other colours used on the map a little duller as well.

Finally: Visio? Not my tool of choice, and you’re probably pushing it to the absolute limit of its capabilities, but this does look really, really good.

Our rating: Strong visual concept, nicely executed, a couple of well-thought out innovations. Colours could be brighter and more evocative of Singapore. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

P.S. See another excellent unofficial redesign of the Singapore MRT map here.

Unofficial Map: Singapore MRT by Andrew Smithers

As promised, here’s an unofficial map of Singapore’s rail transit that takes the future extensions and integrates them far more effectively and attractively than the official future map. This map was created by Andrew Smithers, who runs the quite excellent Project Mapping website — well worth losing a few hours to all the maps he has over there!

Immediately, you can see how design is used to simplify and clarify the routes — the Thomson Line becomes a north-south axis for the map, while the new Downtown Line now describes a perfect diamond-shaped loop. This motif is echoed beautifully by the larger loop of the yellow Circle Line — which visually lives up to its name far more here than on the official map — and even by little double-crossover between the Downtown and North East lines at the bottom centre of the map. Repetition of design themes in a transit map is a lovely thing, and it really helps to hold a map together thematically.

That’s not to say that everything is perfect, however. The station codes — used to help non-English speakers buy tickets and navigate the system — are just as problematic here as they are on the official map. Andrew has opted to place them on the opposite side of the route line to the station name; while it works well in the less-crowded parts of the map, it can get a little messy in places, especially where the Downtown Line runs close to the North East and Circle Lines in the densest part of the map (just to the right of centre).

Our rating: A lovely example of how repeated design elements can thematically tie a map together. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: Via email discussion with Andrew) 

Future Map: Singapore MRT with Future Extensions

I reviewed the official Singapore MRT map back in January 2012, and was generally in favour of it (giving it four stars). So it’s interesting to look at this version of the map, which includes extensions that are currently under construction or in the final stages of planning. There are two entirely new lines — the blue Downtown Line and the brown Thomson Line, as well as an eastern extension to the green East-West Line. There’s also a new light rail loop being added to the far north-eastern sector of the city.

The problem with this map is that the new lines have simply been overlaid on top of the existing older version, and they then have to take some very strange and visually unattractive routes to “join the dots” where they interchange with existing stations. The dashed “under construction” lines also align poorly with station ticks, leaving some of them floating in space between dashes. Finally, the downtown area is also becoming a little tangled and cramped because of all the new additions.

This map still does a very good job, and is still a very competently executed piece. However, some more thought about how to restructure it so that the new lines could be better integrated would definitely have been welcome.

As it happens, I have an unofficial map that definitely does consider how to incorporate the new lines in a more thoughtful manner… but you’ll have to wait for my next post to see it!

Our rating: The original map provides a solid base, but the new additions really aren’t integrated with much thought. A downgrade to three stars.

3 Stars

(Source: Singapore Land Transport Authority website)

Official Map: Singapore MRT

Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system only opened in 1987, but has expanded greatly since then and now boasts 90 stations and almost 150 kilometres of lines. It is supplemented by the LRT, which is not a true light rail system, but is more like an automated people mover that serves the high density apartment blocks prevalent in land-poor Singapore. In earlier versions of the map, I believe that the stylised “S” logo in the background formed a rough analogy to the shape of the island of Singapore itself - with the addition of new lines, this doesn’t hold as true as before (with much of the North East Line now extending well into the “ocean”), but it’s still a distinctive graphic device to tie the map together.

Have we been there? No.

What we like: Spacious, clean, elegant layout. Distinctive sans serif typeface gives a unique look to the map - for once, Helvetica is nowhere to be seen.

What we don’t like: I’m not sure why the alphanumeric codes for each of the stations has to be included on the map (something to do with ticketing? Can anyone from Singapore enlighten me on this?), but they do end up adding a lot of visual clutter to an otherwise clean map, especially when a station has multiple codes. The two LRT loops in the north east of the map are too close to each other, making type from one run into the other. It looks like it could have been possible to space them a bit further apart by extending the main North East Line just a little further out.

Our rating: A confident, distinctive map that boasts its own look. While obviously bearing a London Underground map influence, it has moved beyond its inspiration to create something new and fresh. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: Official SMRT website)