Historical Map: TriMet Bus and MAX Routes, Portland, Oregon (early 1990s)

Certainly no later than 1998 as the MAX light rail only consists of the original Westside route (later to be the Blue Line).

Of note is the continued use of the service zone icons – fish, rain, snow, beaver, leaf, rose and deer – that defined Portland’s downtown transit mall for decades. I’ve featured them before on this map from 1978, but it’s on this map where their main failing comes to the fore. Because each icon is colour-coded, each respective service area just becomes a tangled web of lines, all represented by the same colour. Cross-town routes like the 75, – which have their own colour – just go to show how much easier a route is to follow when it contrasts against nearby routes, rather than matching them exactly.

Also a little odd: not naming any of the MAX stations on the map, and labelling regular frequency bus lines against very similarly-colured background boxes, which makes the route numbers a little difficult to discern.

All in all, an interesting look at the earlier days of MAX and the later days of the service area icons. It’s also fun to see which routes have survived to the current day and which have disappeared or been combined into one route (for example, the Fish-1 and Leaf-35 have become the modern day Greeley-Macadam 35).

Our rating: A nice piece of transit history from my adopted city, if a little imperfect. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

Source: Screaming Ape/Flickr

Historical Map: TriMet Bus System Map, Portland, Oregon, 1978

Not much use for route planning: this map was really made just to show how the routes that ran into the city centre were grouped into geographic regions and denoted by a colour and an icon. While stops along the transit mall are now marked with boring old letters, back then these cheery and oh-so-1970s symbols guided you to the bus stop you needed. Also very 1970s: the tightly-kerned Avant Garde typeface.

(Source: TriMet’s “How We Roll” blog)

Updated: Aerial Photo Transit Map of Portland, Oregon — Now with Bus Routes!

Taylor Gibson’s aerial photo map of Portland’s rail and streetcar routes is one of the most popular posts ever on Transit Maps, so I thought I’d pass on this update to it, which now shows the bus network as well. The colours used match the official TriMet system map, although Taylor hasn’t shown peak hour-only services like the 51 up through Council Crest.

What this view really shows to effect is Portland’s grid-like bus network, which you can read more about (and learn why it’s so good) on Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit blog.

(Source: Submitted by Taylor to the Transit Maps Facebook page)

Submission - Unofficial Map: Portland, Oregon Rail Network by Taylor Gibson

When Taylor sent through his aerial photo map of Portland the other day, he also submitted this very interesting isometric map of the city’s rail network (MAX, WES and streetcar). Tyler is a self-proclaimed “total newbie at making transit maps”, but this is definitely a pretty solid effort.

Highly reminiscent of this isometric map of Stuttgart (Oct 2011, 5 stars), the 30-degree-angled route lines allow station labels to be set horizontally without clashing with each other, even in the congested downtown area. The only real problem area is the almost unavoidable mess created by the four separate “Pioneer Square” stations right in the middle of the map. I’ve noticed that these have been consolidated into one “mega-station” on TriMet’s new in-car maps, and that’s definitely a cleaner, more sensible approach to the problem in my eyes.

I also see a little influence from my own map of Portland’s rail system: both in the layout of the legend, and the fact that Taylor has decided to show the new MAX line to Milwaulkie as an extension of the Yellow Line, rather than the commonly expected “Orange Line”.

I do have a few minor criticisms: text in general is a little small and hard to read, although I can see how larger text would cause layout problems (perhaps a condensed typeface could solve this), and there are a couple of confusing label clashes: the parking symbol for Gateway TC is right on top of the station marker for Parkrose/Sumner TC, for example. It’s also a little sad to see the streetcar relegated to thin unlabelled lines, but the space limitations of the map almost demand this treatment.

Still, for a “newbie”, this is pretty darn awesome. Great work, Taylor!

Submission - Aerial Photo Transit Map of Portland, Oregon

Submitted to the Transit Maps Facebook page by Taylor Gibson. While nowhere near as complex as the New York system featured previously, it’s still an interesting look at a successful rail transit system.

For those unfamiliar with Portland, the thicker lines (Yellow, Green, Blue and Red — shown here as pink for visual clarity, I think) are the MAX light rail, while the thinner aqua and lime green lines are the Portland Streetcar, which has recently expanded to the eastern side of the Willamette River (the top half of this photo).

Eventually, the aqua “Loop” streetcar line will cross back over to the western side of the Willamette at the extreme right of this photo via the new transit-only bridge that is currently being constructed. The bridge will also carry buses, pedestrians, cyclists and the new Orange MAX line.

(Photo Source: DubbaG/Wikipedia — Creative Commons License)  

Official Map: Portland MAX Horizontal Strip Map

The newest rolling stock used on Portland’s MAX light rail (Siemens S70 cars, known as “Type 4”) has enough room above the doors to display a horizontal version of the system map. Types 1 through 3 don’t have this space, and instead display an unwieldy portrait-oriented version of the map that bears little resemblance to geographical reality.

Interestingly, this map is not the same as the official system map found on TriMet’s website or ticket machines (despite sharing the same orientation and very similar proportions) but instead is yet another completely different layout. Wisely, the information on the map has been simplified down to the essentials — route lines and stations. Even the WES Commuter Rail has been omitted: there’s simply a note at the Beaverton Transit Center station noting that transfers to the weekday rush-hour only service can be made.

However, the map is also arguably the most geographically accurate version that TriMet has made: the Red and Blue lines take a big detour southwards from Sunset TC to Beaverton TC on the west side, just like in real life. Similarly, the Blue Line’s realignment from alongside I-84 to E Burnside St after Gateway TC makes an appearance. Even the slight changes in direction at either end of the Blue Line are reminiscent of actual geography.

Finally, of particular interest to me is the map’s striking use of 30- and 60-degree angles. Hmmmm, where have I seen that before?


  1. Camera: iPhone 5
  2. Aperture: f/2.4
  3. Exposure: 1/120th
  4. Focal Length: 4mm

Unofficial Map: Portland MAX Light Rail — Super Mario 3 Style

Here’s the latest “Mario Map” from the incredibly prolific Dave Delisle (seriously, how much cool stuff can one guy pump out?). This one is of my home town of Portland, Oregon, and Dave actually enlisted my help in checking the accuracy of the route layouts and the spelling of the station names. Considering the ridiculous length of some of the station names in the system and the limitations of the 8-bit art style, Dave’s done a great job at fitting everything together in a very plausible and attractive manner.

Of course, in true Portlandia style, Dave has literally “put a bird on it” — there’s also a non-birdified version over on his website if you don’t get the joke. Also of note is Dave’s playful take on the TriMet logo, and the fact that our princess seems to be stuck out at Expo Center, the poor thing.

(Source: Dave’s website — posters are for sale!)

Reporting live from the streets of Portland, Oregon, where I’ve just noticed a new map on the ticket machine at my downtown stop. These are being rolled out in preparation for the abolition of the Free Rail Zone (and ALL fare zones!) on September 1st, and I have to say that the removal of the old multi-colored zone rings is a great improvement.

The poor old streetcar still gets short shrift (now being a grey squiggle instead of its previous brown squiggle), even with the imminent opening of the Eastside loop.

UPDATE: Portland MAX In-Car Map

Just as I post about the in-car maps on Portland, Oregon’s MAX trains, I notice that TriMet has just released a new version (pardon the bad cell phone photo; I was getting off the train as I snapped it!).

The new map has two important changes from the previous one: JELD-WEN Field is correctly named (instead of the old PGE Park - showing exactly why commercial names on transit maps are a Bad Idea), and the South PSU stations are shown as opening later this year.

Although the map initially looks quite similar, there have been a lot of little tweaks and amendments. The route lines now have a thin gap between them, whereas they butted up to each other before. Stations are now denoted by a small white circle contained wholly within the route line, which works better than the big black-edged dots that made every station look like a transit station; although now perhaps there’s not enough emphasis on important stations.

I really miss the line that joins the Rose Quarter TC and Interstate/Rose Quarter stations - that one-block walking transfer is a hugely important part of the MAX system, and needs to be shown.

Not a big fan of the way that the Green Line has to cross over the Red and Blue to head south after Gateway, but the only other alternative is to cross the Green Line under the Red and Blue as the lines leave downtown (as I did on my Unified Rail Map of Portland), which may not be so practical on a map like this.

Overall, I think this map is a step in the right direction from the previous one, but it’s still not fantastic.

  1. Camera: iPhone 4
  2. Aperture: f/2.8
  3. Exposure: 1/120th
  4. Focal Length: 3mm