Historical Map: The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, 1956
A simply gorgeous mid-1950s map of the AT&SF’s passenger routes, taken from a promotional brochure produced in conjunction with Disneyland, which is shown prominently to the right of the map.
The brochure was ostensibly an introduction to the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland, then only a year old. Understandably, the AT&SF — who had basically bankrolled construction of the 5/8th scale railroad — were keen to get some return in their investment. As a result, much of the brochure is actually given over to advertising their “new and modern” rail services.
The whole brochure opens out to display this fantastic map, where Texas and Oklahoma are represented by scratchily drawn cattle, oil derricks and chemical plants, while the Grand Canyon becomes a large hole in the ground that a careless Native American is about to walk into. On top of these charming little drawings is a simplified route map of the AT&SF’s lines, stretching from San Francisco to Chicago.
Our rating: Gorgeous 1950s design sensibilities, although definitely more an advertisement than a practical, useful map. Four stars.
(Source: Vintage Disneyland Tickets website)
Historical Photo: Detroit Department of Street Railways (DSR) Coach and Car Stop Locator, c. 1955
An interesting twist on the old push-button interactive transit map. Instead of pressing a button to map out your route, here you press a button to find out where in Detroit’s downtown area to board your bus or streetcar. Although difficult to make out, the text along the bottom of the map seems to read: “To locate your loading zone, press button on your line.” I’m not entirely sure how successful this innovation was, as everyone in the photo seems to have an air of confusion about them.
(Source: WSU Virtual Motor City Collection)
Unofficial Maps: Other Salt Lake City Rail Transit Maps
A selection of alternate maps for Salt Lake City that I’ve received as submissions or that I’ve found on the Internet. The first two maps — by thatlattesipper and scsj, respectively — were sent to me in the aftermath of Friday’s review of the UTA’s latest absymal effort, and must therefore have only had a few hours of work put into them.
Scsj’s map was actually produced by an online transit map generator in less than three hours and also includes the “MAX” bus rapid transit line. While it runs into problems because the stations from Meadowbrook to Courthouse run at a 45-degree angle instead of conforming to Salt Lake City’s street grid, the very fact that a free online tool can produce a more competent map in three hours than a sizeable transit agency can in six months is damning in the extreme.
The third map is by cranialdetritus and is possibly the nicest-looking of the bunch. The inclusion of the Free Fare Zone is a very welcome touch. Routes should be designated by their official numbers, however (701 = Blue Line, etc.).
The fourth is taken from Wikipedia’s page about the UTA, and is theonly map not to currently show the new streetcar line.. It’s not actually that great a map, but I would still venture that it’s better than the real thing.
The fifth map was featured a while back on Transit Maps (December 2012, 3.5 stars), and is also streets ahead of the official map.
So, that’s five completely unofficial maps that outshine the real thing, and I bet there’s more out there as well. Sad, really…
Official Map: Salt Lake City Rail Transit for Opening of New “S Line”
Submitted by the eagle-eyed Garrett Smith, who says:
I must say I am not overly impressed with UTA’s revision of their rail map—which will begin to be posted in trains once UTA’s first streetcar, the S Line, opens. Yes, it certainly is better than before. Removing addresses from the map did wonders for improving legibility. But that’s about it. Call me old fashioned, but shouldn’t the lines below the station names roughly correspond to the length of the word? And why doesn’t N. Temple Bridge/Guadalupe receive a callout box when it also is a transfer station involving TRAX, FrontRunner, and local bus service?
Transit Maps says:
And here we are: hardly worth the wait, really. Tiny baby steps have been taken by removing the street addresses of the stations, but almost all the previous faults are still present. The labelling of stations remains an awful, convoluted mess and the giant callout boxes at transfer stations are still completely unnecessary. Downtown is a disgrace, with eight stations crammed into the tiniest of spaces: so small that most of those stations have to have a smaller station dot to compensate. Meanwhile, the new “S Line” streetcar, which is only 2.1 miles long, stretches luxuriously off to the right side of the map, way larger in scale than it should ever be.
And your brand-new, awesome streetcar gets to be the “gray” line? How exciting.
This map needs to be crumpled up, thrown away and never used as a template again. Seriously, who at the UTA actually approves this? Who actually says, “Wow! That looks great! Let’s print some signs and put it on the website!”
Start from scratch. Abandon the pseudo-geographical layout that actually has no consistent scale. Take a diagrammatic approach and expand the downtown area (so we can read the station names!) while compressing the outlying ones. Make the FrontRunner follow a completely straight path from end to end — a compositional vertical axis for the rest of the map. Ditch the freakin’ terrible compass rose. Anything but this.
(Source: Official UTA website)
Historical Map: The Burlington Route (Chicago to San Francisco), 1879
Here’s a beautiful map from the glory days of American railroading, showing the route from Chicago to San Francisco via Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. Amtrak’s modern-day California Zephyr still calls at many of the same locations between Chicago and Omaha to the east and from Elko to Oakland in the west, but takes a different route through the middle, using Colorado instead of Wyoming.
Although presented as one continuous route, the journey is actually made up of smaller sections owned by multiple railroad companies: the section from Chicago to Omaha is the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, then Union Pacific to Sacramento and the Western Pacific the rest of the way. Many other railroads have track that connects to and branches off this main trunk route — Southern Pacific, Central Pacific, Utah Central & Southern, Utah & Northern, Central Railroad of Iowa… the list seems endless!
The map itself is packed full of information: the population of towns, connecting rail and stagecoach services, the distance from either Chicago or San Francisco, the elevation of the railroad (cleverly shown as a green profile line below the map), and even the terrain type and major industries and land uses along the way — “heavy timber”, “gold and silver mines”, “elegant farms”, etc. Poor Stockton, CA is noted for its “insane asylum” (see detail image above). As the blurb at the bottom of the map proclaims, “Armed with this Guide, the passenger needs no further information.”
About the only thing that lets this map down is the low quality printing. There’s a lot of poorly registered colours, which slightly spoil the flamboyant and stylish look of the map. The design certainly asks a lot of a late-19th century (pre-offset lithography) printing press!
Our rating: A superb piece of American railroading ephemera, only slightly spoiled by poor printing. Four-and-a-half stars!
(Source: The Big Map Blog)
Historical Map: New York IRT Sytem Baseball Season Opening Map, 1923
A simple little map from “The Elevated Express” gazette showing the convenience of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company’s services to “all three parks” — Ebbets Field (Brooklyn Dodgers), Polo Grounds (New York Giants) and Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees).
The last stadium is of particular interest as this is the year that it opened — the first game at Yankee Stadium was held April 18th, 1923 against the Boston Red Sox. According to the New York Evening Telegram, “everything smelled of … fresh paint, fresh plaster and fresh grass.”
Historical Map: Boston Rapid Transit Map in Type 6 Mock-up Carriage, c. 1968
Here’s a variant Boston MBTA map I’ve never seen before: a version with 60-degree angled lines, instead of 45 degrees. Apart from that, it looks very much like the standard late-1960s/early 1970s Cambridge 7 spider map, although there’s some weird inconsistencies like the Green Line “A” Watertown branch (closed 1968) and Quincy Center (opened 1971) on the same map.
Here’s the interesting part. This map lives in the one and only mock-up of an MBTA “Type 6” train carriage at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. This wooden mock-up was created in 1968 by MBTA engineers to allow stakeholders and the public to judge the design’s layout and comfort, but the carriage was eventually deemed too expensive to produce. The MBTA ended up procuring the (incredibly unreliable) Boeing-Vertol LRTs instead. So… this map may actually be as unique as the mock-up that houses it: the only one of its kind. If anyone knows anything more about this variant, I’d love to hear about it!
Official Map: Port Authority of Allegheny County Full System Map
While researching yesterday’s post about Pittsburgh’s light rail map, I came across this, the full system map — showing light rail, BRT (busways) and buses — produced by the Port Authority of Allegheny County and available on their website.
That’s right: the map image has been sliced up into multiple .png files and placed into an HTML table. A table with a staggering fifty-one separate cells. It’s like a time warp back to 1996 or something.
To view the map in more detail, you have to click on one of those cells and a (slightly) enlarged version of that tiny slice of the county comes up for further viewing, as seen in the second picture above. A list of routes that runs through that section also comes up: you can click again to view individual maps and schedules for that line. To see where a route goes outside your current tiny square, you have to close the pop-up and then click on an adjacent area.
Of course, you can also click an area of the map which has no routes shown at all, just to view that wide open nothingness in greater detail (third picture). Useful!
Is this really the best way for customers to view a system map, one tiny little square at a time? It’s almost impossible to follow a route from one end to the other or even really make sense of the map at all (it’s not legible at the overview size). A downloadable PDF of this map with embedded hyperlinks to further route information (linking back to the website) would be a far better way to distribute this information, but that’s not even an option: this clunky, antiquated “Web 1.0” interface is the only way this system map can be accessed.
Submission - Official Map: Pittsburgh Light Rail System Map
Submitted by Dan Daly, who says:
Here is the Pittsburgh light rail map. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. In my opinion it is kinda useless not because of it’s design but because it only covers the light rail. Very little of the urban part of the city is actually covered in this map. If the busways were fully included with station names and the links to the T stops it would be much more useful for someone trying to find their way around the city.
Transit Maps says:
It seems a little unfair to me to single out this one particular light rail map for not showing other transit modes when there are plenty of other maps that do exactly the same thing — my own city of Portland, Oregon makes no reference to bus services on its MAX light rail map. Generally, an overall system map will include all modes of transit — a light rail map like this is then also offered to show this particular mode in full detail without the clutter of the other modes.
So while I can’t really find fault with the scope of this map, I certainly can with the execution. It’s another example of the frustratingly average transit map design seen throughout much of the United States — uninspired typography, dull, unexciting colour choices and poor/strange informational hierarchy.
I especially take issue with the way that stations with high-level platforms are given so much more visual prominence over low-level platforms, with both a bigger station marker and larger, bolder labelling. While it’s good to know whether you’re boarding on the level or via stairs (the light rail trains in Pittsburgh have two front doors, one at each level), it doesn’t justify giving one type of station so much more visual emphasis over the other. Apart from the different platform heights, there’s no difference between these stations — the larger, bolder type should really be reserved for interchange or terminus stations only.
The other thing I’ve long disliked about this map is the weird jog that the Red Line takes through Fallowfield station, which “breaks” the line into two segments at that point. For the longest time, I thought this meant that riders had to change trains here or something, but it just seems to be an unnecessary design element casing that confusion.
The inclusion of busways on this map seem like a complete afterthought: only one busway actually interfaces with the light rail (and even this isn’t made clear with the stations closer to downtown), and the minuscule green route line shown for the West Busway just seems insultingly pathetic.
Our rating: Relentlessly mediocre. Two stars.
Historical Map: San Francisco Muni Transit Routes, 1970
For a long period of time, the San Francisco Municipal Railway, (commonly shortened to just “Muni”) used pretty much exactly the same map in their brochures. It seems that each year, they’d simply make any amendments required — addition of new routes, deletion of old ones, etc. — and then reprint the brochure/map in a new colour combination.
The earliest example I can find, from 1952, uses a sombre two-color palette of black and red, mostly tinted down to greys and pinks. However, by 1970, the map had evolved into this gloriously garish three-colour purple, yellow and black vision that suits the post-Summer of Love San Francisco perfectly.
The map shows all Muni streetcar, coach and cable car services, but with no visible mode differentiation — express services are shown with a dashed line. However, the map’s actually pretty clean and easy to follow: route termini are clearly shown by route numbers in large circles, and there’s enough smaller numbers along each route to allow you to follow them from one end to the other.
Also of note: basic fare is just 20 cents!
Our rating: Groovy, man! A psychedelic re-imagining of a long-serving and functional map. Four stars.
(Source: Eric Fischer/Flickr)