Unofficial Map: Sydney Rail Network (Trains and Light Rail) by Ben Luke
Submitted by Ben, who says:
This is my version of the Sydney Trains map. I was inspired to try designing my own version after the introduction of the new official map which I found to be rather uninspiring. I have been learning Illustrator in the process, so thanks to your excellent blog for all the tips and tutorials.
I have used a realistic background layer which is distorted to fit around the map but maintains a sense of geographic familiarity (I’m a map geek so this is important to me!). My aim was to capture the essence of Sydney with its rich interplay between land and water without being to distracting. I have also decided to include the light rail system, which the new official map has dropped, as I’ve always been fan of multi mode maps. Other than that I just tried to keep things as simple and straight as possible.
Transit Maps says:
There’s a lot to like in Ben’s reinterpretation of the Sydney Trains map. His use of 30/60-degree angles actually helps a lot in some of the traditionally crowded parts of the map – the Illawarra Line south of Arncliffe and the North Shore Line, in particular. The reorientation of the main trunk line out to Blacktown as one long straight line on a 30-degree angle also works surprisingly well, countering the diagrammatic enlargement of the CBD nicely. There are places where the 30-degree lines look a bit awkward next to the 45-degree labels (Flemington to Granville, for example), but I can see why Ben’s taken this approach.
I also really like the “Intercity” labels that Ben has used to indicate the direction of longer-distance trains: it integrates the branding of the service more effectively than the official map, although adding some key destinations along each line might be a good idea for users unfamiliar with the system: Blue Mountains Line – to Katoomba and Lithgow works better than just the line name for me. A little more “breathing room” at the top and bottom of the map would also be welcomed, as the labels are pushed up pretty tight to the edge at the moment.
I do feel that the spacing of the stations in the western part of the map is a little big compared to other parts of the map: there’s nice, even, tight spacing up to Blacktown, then a giant gap to Doonside or Marayong, and much bigger spacing between all the stations from there on out.
I’ve gone on record as saying that I’m not the greatest fan of diagrammatic maps on geographic backgrounds – but if you’re going to do it, do it well. Ben’s done it very well here – it looks far less distorted and cartoony that the previous Sydney rail map.
Ben’s integrated the light rail system into his map – although he’s inexplicably changed it to blue from its official deep red – and has come across a pretty big problem. The sydney train network is vast and sprawling, covering huge distances in every direction – while the light rail line is much denser, with stations spaced much closer together. It’s very difficult to coherently place these two very different systems on the same map, although Ben’s put in a manful effort here. I’d probably be in favour of showing the light rail (because I like a good multi-modal map too!), but only labelling major terminus stations. Dots or ticks to indicate the number of other stations could be retained. A separate map could then be used to show the light rail system in detail, without having to show all of Greater Sydney on the same map.
Our rating: Some excellent ideas that improve on the official map in some aspects. Spacing of stations could be a little more even/harmonious, but it’s really a great effort. Three stars.
Submission - Unofficial Map: Sydney Trains Aerial Image
Submitted by thatlattesipper.
Sydney Trains routes (complete with new “T-line” branding) for the north and west of the city overlaid on a Google Earth image.
If nothing else, this map reminds us of how staggeringly huge Greater Sydney really is. It’s 20 kilometres in a straight line from the dot representing Central Station at the lower left to Hornsby (just off the right of the map), and over 30km from Central to Prospect Reservoir, the large body of water just glimpsed at the centre top of the map. And this view doesn’t even show the entire southern half of the city (it’s another 20km from Central south to Waterfall) or Western Sydney from Prospect out to Emu Plains.
Some perspective: Greater Sydney has a population of around 4.6 million and an area of 12,100 square km (a population density of just 380 people per square km). The five boroughs of New York City have a population of 8.3 million in just 786 square km (or approximately 10,600 people per square km!)
[GIF] Comparison between my Sydney Trains map and the official one
Just for the heck of it. Post about project here.
My Reworking of the New Sydney Trains Map
Okay, I couldn’t help myself: I just had to redraw this thing to illustrate all the points I talked about earlier — correcting the obvious errors I discovered in my technical review, and also addressing the general thoughts of my initial post.
So here it is: not a redesign, but a reworking of the design concept while working within the established principles of the official map. If you’re just starting out with designing transit maps, this is always a fun exercise: opening up a PDF file in Illustrator, pulling it apart and putting it back together again to see how it works. I reworked this over just two days, probably spending about 8-10 hours on it in total.
My objectives with this map were to clean up and simplify. To achieve this, I completely redrew everything apart from the header, footer and legend. I did this so I could guarantee consistency throughout: I drew it, so I knew it was what I wanted, basically.
There’s only two major changes to the map, both of which help a lot, I feel. Firstly, I’ve removed the line names from the terminus stations on the map, leaving only the “T-number” designator. The T-numbers are explained clearly in the legend: I feel that repeating them on the map is superfluous and takes up way too much space. This change also allowed me to place the T-numbers more consistently and away from the route lines, instead of butted right up to them, as they sometimes were (especially at Epping and Hornsby).
The second change is the straightening of the T3 Bankstown Line, which makes it much easier to follow, in my opinion. Changes in direction in a route line should always be kept to a minimum, and the twisty path that the original map takes just didn’t make much sense to me.
After that, much of my work was just respacing stations for a more even effect throughout the map: see the Lidcombe detail comparison above for a good example: Granville, Clyde, Auburn and Lidcombe are far more evenly spaced, despite their differing text sizes and boldness. One effect of the respacing is that only one station name — the unavoidable Olympic Park — cuts through another route line: Sydenham and Flemington now sit away from nearby lines.
I also paid huge attention to curves throughout the map: all curves are now consistently sized with an equal radius (no curve is longer than it is wide). Stations don’t sit on a curve anywhere on the map: the closest they come is on the point that marks the start of a curve. The city comparison detail image above shows how this affects the station markers at Redfern, Central and Town Hall. Because none of the dots are on a curved part of the line, they can be placed perfectly evenly across the routes.
The other thing I’ve done with curves is to ensure that joins between lines always have a curve on them: no line joins straight onto another one. On the city detail image, you can see this where the Bankstown Line heads north to Town Hall, and where the Airport Line heads south to Green Square. This kind of information is subtle but important, as it makes it absolutely explicit which direction the line travels once it joins onto the other one.
Finally, the wireframe comparison image shows how clean my artwork is: no extraneous points in the middle of a straight line and two-point curves: simple, clean and — most importantly — easy to edit later.
Things that could still be addressed: I’d love to be able to get a T3 icon next to Lidcombe, and I’m still not convinced that the T1/T5 lines need to change direction between Parramatta and Blacktown — it might be nice for the T5 line to continue in a straight 45-degree line from Harris Park all the way to Schofields, with the T1 branching off from Blacktown to Emu Plains.
(Source: Original Official map PDF from this page)
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Better? Worse? The same?
Technical Review: New Sydney Trains Network Map
It seems that the draft Sydney Trains map that I posted about the other day is the real thing: printed timetables featuring it have been seen and scanned. So, I started looking at it again in order to write a proper review, when I started to notice a lot of little technical things that — as a designer — I found jarring and inconsistent.
I opened the PDF file in Adobe Illustrator and began to poke around. I thought it might be interesting — and perhaps instructive for designers who are interested in making their own transit maps — to show you what I found.
First, apologies for the four separate images: it’s an attempt to get around Tumblr’s maximum 1280px width for pictures. For reference, lets call then NW, NE, SW and SE.
My biggest problem with the map, and what I noticed first, is the wildly inconsistent positioning of labels. The one that really caught my eye was Lindfield on the North Shore Line on the NE map: it’s waaay out of place. St Marys on the Western Line (NW map) is also pretty bad. But, really, almost every label is poorly placed.
To show just how poor, I created cyan guides that are offset a small distance out from the route lines: this seemed to me to be about the right distance away for optimum placement of station labels. Then, for each orientation of label, I created an L-shaped magenta guide that shows both the baseline and the correct alignment (left or right) for the type. I then copy-and-pasted these guides to almost all the labels on the map, being sure to always keep them in the same position relative to each station maker.
As you can see, things are pretty horrific. It’s pretty obvious that there’s no common baseline for labels relative to their stations, nor are they a consistent distance away from the route lines. It’s almost as if each label has been placed individually and then nudged into position, rather than setting up a master set of label positions and applying them as required. Illustrator’s Duplicate function (Command/Control-D) makes this kind of thing so simple: place once, copy elements the required distance to place the next station, then Duplicate, Duplicate, Duplicate until all the stations are quickly and consistently placed.
It can be seen on the North Shore Line (NE map) that even the station dots are inconsistently placed — I’ve put a magenta dot over the top of any station that wasn’t where I expected it to be if things were placed mathematically. Possibly the worst culprits here are Merrylands, Guildford and Yennora stations at the bottom of the NW map: Guildford’s dots aren’t even at the correct angle to each other, and the label placement is completely different for each station. The huge gap between Yennora and Fairfield stations is also pretty ugly: it definitely should be possible to evenly and smoothly space the stations all the way down from Merrylands to Campbelltown.
Some route lines aren’t actually constrained to 45-degree angles: the worst offender is the East Hllls line from Riverwood to Holsworthy (SW map); others are also shown with an overprinting magenta line.
The distance between parallel route lines is inconsistent across the map: this is shown with a little measuring line. The black lines show my base measurement, while the blue lines show inconsistently spaced gaps, which may also be inconsistently spaced with each other! Again, spacing between elements can be controlled easily in Illustrator by entering precise values into the Move dialog box, so this type of thing is very frustrating to see.
The under construction South West Rail Link route is drawn differently to the North West Rail Link: it has no curves where it changes direction and the angled part of the line is too thick. I’ve rotated and overlaid the NW Link on top of the SW Link in cyan to illustrate the difference.
Why is the Macquarie University (NE map) station label set in bold “Interchange” text, but has no interchange ring around the station marker?
Finally, the nesting of curves where parallel routes change direction is very poor throughout the map. Look especially at the City Circle, where huge gaps open up between the route lines at the 90-degree corners. The corners on the orange Bankstown line there aren’t even a consistent radius, being much wider than they are tall.
You know, I really want to like this map. I don’t have any huge attachment to the old one, even though it’s competent enough. Sydney has regularly changed the look of its system map, so we certainly don’t have the same attachment to it that London has to its Tube Map, for example.
This new map is nicely simplified and streamlined, properly full of promise for the new timetabled services. It’s even looks quite friendly and cheerful! However, as a designer, I find it very difficult to look past glaring technical errors like the ones that litter this map, and now I can’t help but see them every darn time I look it.
NOTE: The PDF I edited is slightly older than the one now posted on the Sydney Trains website, but almost every error I talk about is still present in this final version. North Strathfield’s label no longer intersects the T7 Olympic Park line, which is an improvement of sorts.
Official Map: Sydney T7 Olympic Park Line
Glad they had a whole page to fit this super complex and confusing line map on…
Future Map? Possible Sydney Trains Network Map for October 20th Timetable Changes
Sent my way by Nick Stylianou — who runs an excellent blog on transportation issues in Sydney — this is supposedly the new Sydney Trains system map that will be released concurrently with a whole slew of timetable changes on October 20th.
I’ll reserve my judgement until I see the final map — this may be a working draft with final amendments still to be made — but there are certainly some radical changes from the current map (Sep. 2012, 3.5 stars), not the least of which are the rebranding of lines as “T” numbers and the abolition of the Northern Line and Inner West lines as separate entities. It certainly feels weird to look at a Sydney train map without a Red Line: I spent much of my youth travelling from Epping for school and design college!
As a result, almost half the map is now dominated by one route colour: the yellow T1 line now has five separate terminus stations! Meanwhile, the tiny little Carlingford line still gets to be blue. I also feel that the terminating stations throughout the map could be referenced simply with their “T-number” designation, rather than redundantly repeating the entire line name. Inconsistently, this approach is abandoned where there’s no space — Olympic Park only gets a “T7”, and Lidcombe has no “T3” at all.
I’m not a fan of the twists that the T3 Bankstown Line has to take between Dulwich Hill and Birrong, and while I appreciate the effort taken to stylise the harbour and coastline, I feel it could be more elegantly done to match the rest of the map better.
On the positive side, the removal of intercity services gives the map much more room to breathe, and spacing of stations on the T4 Illawarra Line is now much more consistent with the rest of the map. Future works have been integrated into the map, so it’ll be able to grow with the system.
Other notes: the Metro light rail line has been removed from the map (not sure if that’s good or bad), and Homebush station is now being shown as a spur of the main T2 line… something to do with service patterns from there?
I’ll be watching for the final map with interest, that’s for sure!
Unofficial Map: “Platform 2” Sydney Trains Map Stainless Steel Table by Savage Design
Very shiny representation of the inner part of Sydney’s rail network. Design-wise, it doesn’t stray too far from the look of the official map (Sept. 2012, 3.5 stars), although I’m not quite sure why the route line that represents the peak-only East Hills services heading up through Sydenham suddenly turns northwards before it reaches Redfern. The labels for Circular Quay and St. James stations could also be much better aligned with their respective ticks.
Technically, there should also be a second tick mark at Newtown, Ashfield, Croydon, Homebush and Flemington stations, as they all serve the South Line as well as the Bankstown line. Their non-inclusion probably stems from technical or structural reasons here, however, so I’ll let it slide.
Would probably look great in one of those super-white, extra-minimalistic houses, although it looks like a bugger to keep clean,
See other posts about transit map-related furniture here.
From the Field - Sydney Trains Indicator Board “Line Map”
Taken at Eastwood station this morning on the way into the city.
The scrolling list of stations on the screen is presented as a simplified line map of the route (in this case, the Northern Line), even down to the correct colour for the route, and an indication of which stations interchange with other routes by use of an interchange lozenge instead of a regular station tick mark.
This style of indicator board is not standard across the Sydney rail network (downtown, they’re simply a scrolling list of station names in white type on a blue background), but it’s a surprisingly attractive and informative presentation of useful information.