Photo: A Washington DC Metro strip map that’s just bound to cause confusion…
Here’s an example of an overly designed strip map that’s gone horribly wrong. This photo was taken by Bryan Rodda, who notes that the sign makes it appear that Foggy Bottom-GWU is the name of the main interchange station between the Silver, Blue and Orange Lines in the center of the photo.
Anyone who knows the DC Metro system will know that the station in question is actually Rosslyn, but the map makes this horribly ambiguous. The problem stems from the fact that all the station names are offset from their markers up and along a 45-degree axis. It seems a reasonable thing to do in theory, but what it has actually done is position most of the labels almost directly above the next station marker to the right, where it can reasonably be confused as belonging to that marker.
Good design should not create confusion or make things unnecessarily ambiguous for the end user — it should always simplify and clarify: something this map absolutely fails to do.
(Source: Bryan Rodda/Twitter)
Weird: The Maryland Transit Administration’s Version of the DC Metro Map
Not only is the map out of date (no Rush+, no indication of the Silver Line at all), but the MTA has simply encased the official DC map in their own branding shell and then covered it in hideous and distracting callout boxes denoting their own commuter bus services. Yes, it performs a service, but — dear God! — is it ever ugly.
There should be a law against this kind of thing.
(Source: Maryland Transit Administration’s transit maps web page)
Fantasy Map: New York Subway Map in the Style of Washington DC’s Metro Map by Chris Whong
Yes, it only shows Manhattan and The Bronx with small parts of Brooklyn and Queens, but this is still a pretty awesome mash-up. Aesthetically, it’s a dead ringer for the Washington, DC Metro map — big, fat route lines, the “double ring” interchange stations, green areas for parkland, etc. Nice work from Chris to mimic this style so closely!
While the map looks great, it really also shows how unsuited the bold, simplistic approach taken by the DC diagram is to a complex transit system like New York’s. Vital information that New Yorkers depend upon for daily travel is simply nowhere to be found: the distinction between local and express stations, for example, or any indication of those hugely important free transfers between certain stations.
A few little errors that I see on a quick scan: the “A” and “L” lines are missing their terminus letter designation markers, and 42nd St/Port Authority has no station marker at all.
In the end, Chris probably made this because it seemed like a fun thing to do, and it’s certainly that and more. But it’s also very interesting to see that what works for one city doesn’t always work for another!
(Source: Chris Whong’s website)
Submission: New Washington, DC Metro Strip Map at Pentagon City
Submitted by Peter Dovak, who says:
Spotted a new schematic installed at Pentagon City Metro station in Washington this week. I’m not sure if this is experimental or what, but I’ve never seen such detailed line info at a station here before. Not a huge fan of the execution, though, the labels are awful skewed!
Transit Maps says:
In the limited space allowed here, angled station labels are pretty much the only workable option. It’s actually not dissimilar to the established framework used for line maps on the New York Subway (and many other cities), although they usually only show the one route, not four. The white pointer lines passing through the Orange Line to join station dots to names are not ideal, but are again a product of the space limitations.
Even though you can only catch Yellow and Blue Line trains from this platform, the map also shows the Green and Orange Lines. In principle, this is fair enough — the lines share physical track and stations for much of what is shown on this map, although this is what also leads to such a complex and convoluted looking map.
However, I personally believe that a strip map like this should only show stations that can be reached directly with trains that serve the station the sign is at: in this case, that’s just Blue and Yellow Line trains. Transfers to other lines could be shown as the Red Line is here: with a small coloured dot. While I believe it is possible to transfer to the Orange and Green lines at any of the stations they share with the Blue or Yellow Lines, it’s really preferable to do so only at the major interchange stations, and the placement of transfer dots should reflect this.
Introducing the level of complexity that this strip map has leads people to expect that it shows everything they need to navigate their way around the system (in effect, competing with the actual system map). However, the information shown here is incomplete: there’s absolutely no reference on this map to the Green Line’s leg from L’Enfant Plaza to Southern Avenue, nor the Orange Line’s leg from Rosslyn to Vienna. According to this map, they simply don’t exist. Yet the branch of the Orange Line to New Carrollton (which doesn’t share any track with the Blue Line) is shown in full detail.
Finally, if this approach is continued into the future, then the whole map is just going to have to be redone when the Silver Line is opened, further increasing the complexity.
Historical Map: Washington, DC Metro Map, 1981
Enough of all this talk about the new DC Metro map; here’s another old one for you — and this one’s a bit of an oddity. An inspection of the southern leg of the Green Line shows that the terminus was then planned to be at Rosecroft, not Branch Avenue. The preceding station shown, St. Barnabas Road, was also never constructed
The photos of the map were sent to me by Mark Greenwald, who says that these maps were on trains for less than a year — presumably because of the numerous legal issues surrounding the eventual routing of the Green Line, which you can read more about on Wikipedia.
Another oddity — Union Station is still labelled as “Union Station - Visitor Center” long after the ill-fated National Visitor Center closed its doors in 1978.
P.S. This is Transit Maps' 700th post — that's a lotta maps!
Photo — Worst. Bus Map. Ever.
(Source: Chester Beltowski/Flickr)
want to temporarily decorate a big white wall? consider a tape mural! here’s a map of the dc metro system that i made out of electrical tape, painter’s tape, and paint chips on the wall of my dorm room last year.
Super sweet, low budget, awesome looking transit map-themed wall art. I especially like the use of paint chips to represent the rivers. Love it!
Update: Washington, DC Metro Map Final Draft Version
Yes, I post a lot about the DC Metro Map, but it’s not often we get to see the process of developing a transit map as publicly as this, or in such immense detail. I find it fascinating to see the decisions that are made, the different iterations the map goes through, and what is kept and what gets discarded.
Pretty much the only thing up for discussion on this final draft is the shape of the station indicators when there are three route lines present: “whiskers” or “capsule”. I’ve deftly added a “whisker” indicator into the detail part of the map above for easy comparison.
To my mind, the elongated capsule shape is more successful, and is a logical extension of the normal circle shape used to indicate a station. I’d like to see the capsule extend out a little further into the Blue and Orange lines: it barely grazes them at the moment, and isn’t consistent with the amount of overlap you can see when a circle station overlaps two lines, like at Pentagon City — half the circle is on blue, half is on yellow. Similarly, when the symbol is over three lines, half the circle should be on orange and half on blue, joined by the straight edges of the capsule over the Silver Line.
Speaking of the Silver Line, the decision to move it between the Blue and Orange lines is to be applauded. Previous drafts had it sitting above the Orange Line, which necessitated a very clumsy crossover between the Stadium-Armory and Benning Road stations. Having the crossover at East Falls Church instead is visually simpler and cleaner.
Apparently the route lines are now also “24% thinner” than before: looks like Lance Wyman is very grudgingly giving in to the fact that the playfully thick lines of the original map are no longer suitable for this modern version.
Also, there’s parkland shown along the Anacostia River… that’s a first!
Another step in the right direction, I think. Slowly and surely, this map is getting there…
(Source: Plan It Metro website)
Historical Map: “Opening Day” Washington, DC Metro Map, 1976
Directly related to yesterday’s post, here’s an even older map of the Washington, DC Metro — this one is from an informational pamphlet released for the March 29, 1976 opening of the first part of the system, and is clearly dated at he bottom right.
Inexplicably, the Red Line is a dark burgundy colour, while the Orange Line is shown as red, even though they’re both clearly labelled correctly in the legend. How a printing error of this magnitude occurred is beyond me: with four-colour printing, you’d have to add about 40 percent more magenta ink to turn orange into red, and turning red into burgundy requires the addition of a lot of black ink where absolutely none should exist. Totally bizarre!
In another difference from yesterday’s map, you can see that neither Dupont Circle or Gallery Place are open for business yet.
Finally, long time correspondent Matt Johnson — who knows more about the Washington Metro than I ever will — has sent in some interesting information regarding some of the alignments shown on these old maps. I noted yesterday that these old maps don’t have the distinctive kink in the Yellow/Green line near U Street — Matt tells me that’s because at this time there wasn’t planned to be one.
As shown, the plan was for the Green and Yellow Lines to continue directly north from 7th Street into Georgia Avenue (the northern extension of 7th Street) to Kansas Avenue and then on to the current alignment at Fort Totten. Later changes pushed the alignment across to 14th Street and then along New Hampshire Avenue to Fort Totten. And thus, a distinctive visual feature of the modern map was born (and here was I thinking that they put it in to accommodate the ridiculous length of U Street station’s current name!)
Matt also notes that the southern end of the Green Line was changed over time to something of a “hybrid” alignment. Originally, he says, the Green Line was to go to Rosecroft via Congress Heights. By the 1970s, that had changed, and the new plan was to send the line to Branch Avenue via Alabama Avenue, as shown on this map.
However, a lawsuit was brought that WMATA had not held public hearings in the DC area, and as a result a hybrid alignment was chosen. In DC, the line went via Congress Heights (as if it was going to Rosecroft). In Prince George’s the line headed for Branch Avenue. At the District Line, there’s a kink to connect the two different alignments.
Strangely, that kink only appeared on the official map with the recent Rush+ revision, even though it’s always physically been there!
(Source: later in the same Subchat.com thread from yesterday)