Submission - Unofficial Maps: Redesigned Metro Maps of the World
Submitted by Jug Cerovic, who says:
I completed a set of new schematic metro maps of 12 cities using a common standard. I have tried to make easy to read, memorize and use maps but at the same time pleasant looking. Crowded centers are enlarged and specific features such as ring lines highlighted.
You can see all the maps here.
Transit Maps says:
You all know that I love an ambitious transit mapping project, and this is up there with the most ambitious I’ve seen. Jug has taken twelve of the most iconic metro maps out there — New York, Mexico City, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo — and redesigned them all using a standardised design style, font (looks like DIN) and square format.
Despite the common language, the maps still manage to look unique to their city: no easy feat! Jug has managed to impart a very stylish feel to the maps by the use of large, sweeping curves instead of tight angles. There’s some nice information hierarchy too, with Metro/Subway/U-Bahn lines getting full, bright colours while commuter rail/S-Bahn lines are rendered in muted pastel colours.
I would say that some of the maps are more successful than others (Moscow falls a bit flat for me, while New York is incredibly dense and crowded), but this is still an outstanding example of strong unifying design principles applied well across a wide variety of different transit maps.
You should definitely head over to the project website to view and compare all twelve maps; there’s also prints for sale!
Submission - Historical Map: Chicago Regional Transportation Authority, 1977
Submitted by Dennis McClendon, who has previously submitted material related to transit mapping in Chicago that I’ve featured on the site.
This map is a real beauty, and I definitely appreciate Dennis’ ability to talk about the technical aspects of cartography in the days before computers. We take computer-aided design almost completely for granted today — but map-making was a laborious, manually performed task back then, where a scalpel, a light box and rubylith film were vital parts of a cartographer’s arsenal.
I’m just old enough as a designer to have come in at the very end of this manual era of printing. My very first task in a real design studio was to cut up 48 pasteboards to mount the artwork for 24 double-sided leaflets on. I then marked up each and every board on an overlay with the colour specs for every element and instructions for stripping in photos from colour transparencies, or “trannies” (yes, really):
Tranny X - enlarge to 143%, crop as shown. Strip to keyline, delete keyline.
For every photo on every page.
But enough reminiscing about the olden days: on to Dennis’ thoughts on this fantastic map:
Because I’m hard at work on its modern successor, I thought you might be interested in a very curious and striking printed map from the 1970s: the famous black Chicago RTA map, first published in 1977.
This was the Chicago area’s first full-color transit map, a splashy beginning for the newly created Regional Transportation Authority that voters had approved to take over the region’s failing transit agencies and private companies. The colors used for the Chicago Transit Authority rail lines would—mostly by happenstance—be chosen 20 years later as the actual names for those lines (brown got swapped with purple for the line serving Northwestern University, whose school colors are purple and white). Transit history geeks will understand the A and B symbols on the rapid transit stations as relating to Chicago’s skip-stop service (ended in 1995) during which alternating trains stopped only at A or B stations.
The system map exhibits several traits long associated with Chicago transit maps, such as the curving corners, dots at terminals, and bare route numbers next to the lines. There are reminders of the era, like the Souvenir Bold Italic typeface used for points of interest. The map was designed by Rand McNally, and the folklore is that they were hungry for the work. The same oil crisis that had boosted interest in public transit had made free gas station maps unnecessary, and that was a big part of Rand’s business. But the main design question is: why black? Printing a rich black generally requires two passes, or at least an underlayer of cyan.
The official explanation for the black is that it was a clever way to deal with misregistration of thin colored lines. Undoubtedly there’s a lot of truth in that. In those days of Scribecoat and photomechanical production, cartographers had to worry a lot about trapping and misregistration. So a close look at the thin blue and tan bus lines will reveal that a one point line has been photographically “spread” into a 1.4 point line that is behind a 1 point gap in the black (black is printed last in four-color printing). The method wasn’t always totally successful, and there are tiny white gaps around some of the point-of-interest names. But an ordinary 1 point tan line would have been difficult to print, since it would be composed of a 20 percent dot each of cyan and magenta, and a 30 percent dot of yellow—all of which would need to line up exactly. None of the colors would so dominate that the other colors could be “choked” to a narrower line that wouldn’t peek out.
Some of the printing details can be seen in the enlargement. The rich black seems to be 100% black over 40% cyan. The ocher-olive (not the most pleasing color, even in the earth-tone 1970s) looks to be about 60% black over 60% yellow. A similar combination of cyan and black produces a handsome steely blue for the downtown inset.
A very curious design feature is that bus lines are never allowed to intersect. Instead one line is always broken where another crosses it. Some of this was worked out by folks who knew the system well, and buses on overpasses, or buses making a 90-degree turn, are always shown on top of crossing lines. The others were randomized like a basket weave. The reason for this design choice isn’t obvious to me; it may be that it reinforces where lines turn a corner and where they continue straight. There doesn’t seem to have been a production rationale: at least one perfect uninterrupted crossing (Kimball and Peterson) is shown, apparently by mistake. The idea of color-coding bus lines by which rapid transit line they feed wasn’t a success. Lots of crosstown lines reach four different lines along their lengths, and many crosstown bus riders aren’t headed to a rapid transit line at all.
But back to the main question, why black? I never saw another example anywhere of a black transit map—except for Métro inset maps on Montreal’s maps in the 1980s, which were so obviously reproduced directly from the artwork used for panels inside the cars that they even include the warning not to interfere with the functioning of the doors.
I think the real reason was marketing. The RTA was a new agency that saw the value of graphic design to tie together the region’s disparate transit assets and build public support for them. The maps, the signage typefaces, even the livery on locomotive, railcars, and buses was what we would today call “branding.” So while there may have been a good production justification for the striking black RTA map, I think the bigger reason was how cool it looked. Indeed, I had a copy hanging on my wall when I was in grad school a thousand miles away, never dreaming that 30 years later I’d be the designer trusted to make a new RTA system map useful and attractive.
I talked about Sound Transit’s station icons in this review of the Link map that’s found in ST’s timetable book back in December 2012. Like you, I’m not particularly impressed by them. I think they’re overly detailed and they reproduce terribly at small sizes. They’re even kind of hard to make out on the strip maps on trains — becoming vague, blobby shapes — which is really not a good thing for an icon.
It’s kind of funny that in the questionnaire you reference above, Sound Transit uses Lance Wyman’s gorgeous Mexico City Metro icons as a point of reference, because they’re the absolute opposite of the Seattle icons — bold and simple, with each one being immediately visually distinctive from another.
However, icons are here to stay, as they’re mandated by Washington state law. From RCW 81.112.190 - Requirements for Signage:
The signage [for any light-rail system in Washington state] must also use distinguishing symbols or pictograms developed by the authority as a means to identify stations and may identify points of interest along the corridor for persons who use languages that are not Roman-alphabet based.
Seeing as Seattle is stuck with icons, you might as well try and get the best ones you can. If you like in Seattle and have an opinion, then you should take the survey — here’s a proper link to it.
Unofficial Map: Los Angeles Metro for the “Analogue Guide: Los Angeles”
Submitted by Stefan, who says:
I thought I’d share the Los Angeles Metro map that we designed for the Analogue Guide Los Angeles.
We always include “alternative” transit maps in our guide books, such Eddie Jabbour’s KickMap or Mark Noad’s Tubemap. In Los Angeles, given the sheer lack of maps, we designed one in-house.
It would be great to hear your thoughts on it!
Transit Maps says:
Thanks for sharing, Stefan! This is quite a neat piece of work that would seem to suit your needs very well. The design definitely fits in with the clean, minimalist look of the guide book itself! I’m never too certain about using Futura Condensed on a transit map myself, but it seems to be doing a good job here.
While concentrating on the central/downtown part of the city is probably perfect for what you cover in the guide, I’d personally still like to see some indication of the final destinations of each line: either as arrows pointing off the edge of the map, or incorporated into the legend at the top left. I also would have identified the lines by name in the legend, as LA has that weird mix of colour-named and destination-named lines (Expo and — soon — Crenshaw).
However, I do like the way you’ve incorporated the dates for the future openings of the various lines: it helps bring context to what is still an evolving and developing system.
Really minor typo: it’s “Light Rail”, not “Lightrail”.
Overall, I really like this map: it places the system on top of just enough geographical clues (the street grid, coastline,river and neighbourhood names) to allow for easy orientation — which is what a guide book should be all about, right?
Official Map: Boston MBTA Government Center Station Closure Bypass
Submitted by Lawrence, who says:
As you’ve probably heard, the MBTA is about to close Government Center at the end of service tomorrow for a 2 year reconstruction. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the detour maps the T created and have put in stations. To me (a self-confessed transit geek), they seem adequate, but all of my friends find them very confusing. This leads to a broader question: how should transit agencies map and market necessary detours like this? What could be done to improve this? Thanks!
Transit Maps says:
Lawrence, I think you’re being extremely generous when you say that this is an “adequate” map. For me, it takes a pretty simple concept and obfuscates it with so much confusing and unnecessary information that it becomes difficult to decipher.
The idea behind the map is to show riders alternative ways to change between the Green and Blue Lines while Government Center (the natural interchange between these lines) is closed for the next two years. The MBTA’s own project webpage says this, which actually sums things up pretty succinctly:
The recommended path of travel for Green Line customers desiring access to the Blue Line is to travel to Haymarket Station and transfer to the Orange Line toward Forest Hills (southbound). Customers should transfer at State Station for Blue Line connections.
The recommended path of travel for Blue Line customers desiring access to the Green Line is to travel to State and transfer to the Orange Line toward Oak Grove (northbound). Customers should then transfer at Haymarket for Green Line connections.
It’s not exactly convenient — requiring two connections instead of the previous one — but the concept is pretty easy to understand: transfer at Haymarket and State.
You can also walk pretty easily between Park Street and State to achieve a Blue/Green transfer (I’d suggest it would actually take far less time to do this than to transfer trains twice), but the MBTA isn’t doing you any favours if you do. Unless you have an unlimited weekly or monthly pass, you’ll have to pay again to re-enter the system, which doesn’t really seem very fair in the circumstances. An act of good faith from the MBTA might be to allow out-of-system transfers at Park Street and State for the duration of the project (within a reasonable time frame, of course).
So, now that we know what the map is trying to convey, let’s see how it does.
My first — and biggest — problem with the map is the seemingly random way that it depicts the subway lines: all the lines that leave the central map area are ghosted back, except the Blue Line. Why is it shown differently? Why are any of them ghosted back at all? Ghosting a route line back like that can imply that service on that line is suspended or otherwise not operating, which is not true for any of these lines.
It’s particularly confusing for the Blue Line between State and Bowdoin, because it makes it look like all Blue Line services terminate at State. In fact, trains will continue to run through Government Center (without stopping) to Bowdoin, which will operate full-time during this project, instead of its normal limited operating hours.
The other big problem: the repetition of the station “T” icons to show secondary entrances to stations. For someone unfamiliar with Boston (hello, tourists!) these could reasonably be confused for actual, separate stations (which don’t really exist).
The entrance to State station at the Old South Meeting House is the worst offender: the denoted walking path from Park Street leads directly to a labelled “T” marker that’s almost exactly halfway between Downtown Crossing and State — looks like a station to me! The only indication for the uninitiated that this is an entrance to State is that the ring around the “T” shares that station’s blue and orange colour-coding. To my mind, the walking path should continue all the way to State through the marker. And of course, replacing the entrance “T” markers with their own, unique icon would remove any chance for confusion. An icon should never represent two separate, unrelated things!
The arrows used to represent the possible alternate routes do a solid — if unspectacular — job, but they’re surrounded by so much visual confusion that it’s hard to trust what they’re saying. It’s actually kind of frightening that two paragraphs of text on the MBTA website can do a better job of explaining the bypass than this map can — a visual medium should really be able to explain this so much more clearly than a text-based or verbal solution ever could.
In conjunction with the project webpage, which is actually pretty comprehensive, this map is just about tolerable. But for someone coming across it in a station with no other knowledge of the project — it’s awfully hard work.
(Source: MBTA Project webpage)
Official/Future Map: Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Strip Map (now with added Green Line!)
Submitted by Nathan Bakken, who says:
Hi, I am an Urban Studies major at UMN, and while riding the Blue line today I noticed the new transit map for our light rail system. thought i would share.
Transit Maps says:
Looks like the Twin Cities’ Metro Transit is gearing up for the opening of the new Green Line light rail nice and early! The line — which will link the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul — doesn’t open until June 14, but here’s a strip map ready to go on a train already. By the looks of it, the “Green Line Opens June 14, 1014” text is on a sticker that can simply be removed from the map at the appropriate time.
The map itself does just about everything you could expect from an above-door strip map that has to show the entire system: it clearly labels the stations (using type only set at one, consistent angle: well done), delineates the two downtown cores with a minimum of fuss and even gives estimates of the time taken to travel between stations. I’d like the interchange to the Northstar commuter rail service at the Target Field station to be given a little more prominence, but that’s really about my only complaint.
Our rating: Simple, clean, clear — what maps of this type should strive to be! It’ll be interesting to see how this map evolves further when the Green and Red Line extensions come into play, though. Three-and-a-half stars.
Historical Photo: Streetcars on an Inclined Railway, Cincinnati, 1904
Not a map, but included because this is possibly the strangest piece of transit infrastructure I’ve ever seen. Discovered while researching the post about Cincinnati’s abandoned subway, this photo shows what happened when that city’s streetcars met the steep hills surrounding the downtown area.
At this time, the streetcars were used in conjunction with four of Cincinnati’s five inclined railways: the Mount Adams Incline, Mount Auburn Incline, Bellevue Incline, and the Fairview Incline. The cars would be driven onto the platform, which was level and was equipped with rails and (in most cases) overhead trolley wires. The platform, riding on its own rails, would then be pulled up the hill by the cable, carrying the streetcar. Upon reaching the top, the streetcar could simply be driven off the platform onto the standard track along city streets. The 1872-opened Mount Adams Incline began carrying horsecars in 1877, and it was later strengthened for use by electric streetcars, which were much heavier.
More information on the inclines here.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Historical Map: Proposed Cincinnati Rapid Transit System with Subway, c.1912
And here’s where Cincinnati’s long, troubled history with public transit began…
This map shows early route plans for a proposed rapid transit system, roughly corresponding to the modern Alternatives Analysis process. By 1917, a modification of Scheme IV as shown here was chosen and put to a public vote to procure $6 million worth of bonds for construction. The vote passed convincingly, but the United States had entered World War I just eleven days previously — and the federal government had forbidden the issuance of bonds for capital works programs.
The project was put on hold.
When the war ended, estimated construction costs had more than doubled. Work began, but by the time money ran out in 1927, only a short 7-mile section had been dug or graded, and no actual track had been laid. The emergence of the automobile in the intervening years contributed to the project’s final downfall. Despite attempts to restart the project in the 1930s and 1940s, it remains uncompleted.
Four underground stations still remain in the short stretch of completed tunnel, while three at-grade stations were demolished in the 1960s when Interstate 75 was constructed. In the 1950s, a water main was laid through the tunnel, simply because it was already there and obviated the need for expensive tunneling. The original bond was finally paid off in 1966 at a total price of $13,019,982.45 — a lot of money for nothing.
More recently, the tunnels were proposed to be used as an integral part of the MetroMoves transit plan that was convincingly voted down in 2002.
Cincinnati’s transit woes continue to this day with the drawn-out and controversial Cincinnati Streetcar project, which has finally started construction.
Read more about the Cincinnati Subway here.
Unofficial Future Map: Metro Denver Rapid Transit by Steve Boland
Long-time readers will know that I’m not a huge fan of Denver’s current light rail map (April 2013, 2 stars). And it seems that I’m not the only one, as Steve Boland of San Francisco Cityscape has turned his hand to designing a new map. We’ve featured his excellent Bay Area Rapid Transit map previously (Feb. 2013, 4.5 stars).
His Denver map includes all the FasTracks extensions — light rail along I-225 through Aurora, BRT lanes on US 36 to Boulder and new commuter rail lines to all points north, including a line out to Denver International Airport (finally!). Interestingly, he’s chosen to color-code the services by corridor, rather than by route designation, which actually works quite nicely and simplifies the map in the dense downtown core. The map also makes the peak-hour only nature of the “C” and “F” light rail routes visually obvious on the map by adding a white stroke to their route line: a nice usability touch.
Technically, the map is infinitely better drawn than the official one: no wobbly route lines here! I do miss the sweeping arc that the light rail lines make from Auraria West around to Union Station — I always felt that if it was drawn better, it could be the defining visual “hook” of the official map — but the squared off look does fit in well with the overall aesthetics of this map.
Personally, I find the kink in the “G” line at Aurora a little visually distracting in such a clean diagram, but Steve tells me he really wanted to show how the line leaves the I-225 corridor at that point. As he consistently labels all the main roads that transit travels along on the map, this is probably a fair point.
An oddity: without knowing how all the new lines will fit into RTD’s fare structure, the map has to constrain that information to the currently existing parts of the system — which actually highlights the new parts rather nicely.
Our rating: That’s much better! Clean, crisp, functional informational design that builds excitement for the future of transit in Denver. Four stars.
(Source: sfcityscape website — GIF)
An old Boston T map peeks out from underneath the broken remnants of a recent edition, somewhere along the Orange Line in May 2013. It’s interesting to see that while the two maps occupy the same physical space, their use of it is much different. The older, simpler map fills up its space with bold lines and large type, while the modern map is more geographically based and complex — with the addition of bus routes and the Silver Line — and the type on it is correspondingly smaller.
(Source: Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council - MAPC/Flickr - Photographer: Jessie Partridge)