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)
Historical Map: Washington, DC Metro Map, 1977
This is a Metro map from March, 1977 — about a year after the system first started carrying passengers. At first glance, it looks very similar to today’s modern map… but then you realise that the only section that’s actually in service is the Red Line between Dupont Circle and Rhode Island Avenue, denoted by black outlines around the station circles, rather than the plain white circles used for future stations.
The uncanny resemblance to today’s map comes about because the whole system shown here — up to and including the opening of the Green Line segment to Branch Avenue in 2001 — was planned for right from the start of the project. If you look closely, there are actually quite a few differences: the Blue and Yellow Lines south of Pentagon are reversed from today’s configuration, and a number of station names have changed from these initial plans. Bigger visual differences include the lack of the kink in the Yellow/Green line around Columbia Heights and a much greater sense of visual clarity: short station names (note that it’s only “U Street” here!) and no secondary information like cross streets, hospitals or timetable/routing callout boxes give the map room to breathe. While not quite the mimimalist classic that Massimo Vignelli’s New York Subway map is, this version of the map is definitely far more deserving of the “iconic” tag than its modern descendants.
Our rating: An unadulterated look at the far superior original concept. Four stars.
(Source: Subchat.com thread about the map: the thread originally dates the map to March 27, 1976, but later revises it to March 17, 1977 because of the stations that are shown as being open — Dupont Circle and Gallery Place stations opened after the rest of the Phase I Red Line stations)
Fantasy Map: Subways of North America by xkcd
My Twitter feed and my Tumblr inbox are both absolutely overflowing with references to this map from the “xkcd’ web comic, so here’s a post about it!
xkcd has always been a comic for geeks, and has a long history of awesome map-related work — my favourites include this Lord of the Rings movie narrative map, and the particularly carto-nerdy discussion of map projections — so it’s nice to see the strip’s attention turn to this particular facet of cartography. Randall Munroe’s typically wry sense of humour can be seen in a lot of the labels on the map: “graveyard for passengers killed by closing doors”, the “Green Line extension to Canada” from Boston, and the inclusion of the infamous Springfield Monorail from The Simpsons. It’s definitely worth exploring in great detail — my favourite is probably the inclusion of the idiosyncratic and once-futuristic Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit system at West Virginia University as the connection between Washington, DC and Atlanta.
A lot of people are already having issues with Randall’s definition of a “subway”, which he defines thusly:
For the pedantic rail enthusiasts, the definition of a subway used here is, with some caveats, “a network containing high capacity grade-separated passenger rail transit lines which run frequently, serve an urban core, and are underground or elevated for at least part of their downtown route.” For the rest of you, the definition is “an underground train in a city.”
If we’re going to be pedantic, then there are some strange omissions — Seattle’s Central Link light rail (grade-separated, frequent, serves the city and runs underground through the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel) just off the top of my head. I feel sure many people could think of others!
What the map does show well, even in its cartoon-like execution, is the complete dominance of New York’s subway system (the mouseover tooltip for the comic states that about one in three North American subway stops are in NYC). Randall has remained quite faithful to the actual official system maps for each component city, so New York ends up taking up a huge portion of the map.
But, despite the undeniable brilliance of this map, I know I’ve seen very similar pieces before this. This more serious map of almost exactly the same thing was featured on the Beyond DC blog last month, and this awesome piece by Bill Rankin from 2006 which shows all North American metro systems (a far more inclusive phrase than “subway systems”) at the same scale is also highly reminiscent of this piece. In the end though, it’s infused with enough wacky “xkcd-ness” to make it take on a life of its own.
Future Map: Washington, DC “Silver Line” Draft Map
Long time readers will be aware of my low opinion of the Washington DC Metro Rail map — here’s a fairly scathing review of the “Rush+” map (March 2012, 2.5 stars) to refresh your memory.
It looks like WMATA is preparing for the opening of the Silver Line and has put a draft version of a new map up on MindMixer for comments. According to the blurb there, the route lines are now thinner and station names are now treated more consistently. The other obvious visual change is the introduction of a new station symbol (one with thin “whisker” extensions) to accommodate the three routes that will now run across the middle of the map. Let’s discuss all of these in turn.
The route lines may be thinner, but only barely. Probably not enough to make any useful difference to the map. While the playful thickness of the route lines are very much an identifying feauture of the WMATA map, it’s now becoming a liability to its usefulness. The extra space required to accommodate the Silver Line through Foggy Bottom and Farragut West means that the six stations on the northwest leg of the Red Line inside the District have to be crammed into a ridiculously tight space — far tighter than anywhere else on the map. I always feel that a diagrammatic map like this has to strive for even and harmonious spacing across the entire map… and this map simply doesn’t do that well any more.
The new treatment of station names includes “consistent street abbreviations across the map”, which should be a good thing: it’s always better to choose either “Avenue” or “Ave” and stick with that choice across the whole map. However, “Hgts” is a visually awful abbreviation for “Heights” and is included for the sole purpose of making “Columbia Hgts” fit on one line without conflicting with the “Van Ness-UDC” label. “Ctr” is an equally terrible abbreviation for “Center”, and doesn’t actually seem to bring any real space-saving benefits to the map.
The new “whiskered” station symbol just feels forced and unnecessary to me. It introduces a third station symbol, even though hierarchically, it means exactly the same as the plain station circle that already exists. An elongated “pill” symbol with the same cap radius as the normal circle would work a lot better in my opinion. Or — narrow down the route lines until the normal circle symbol can touch all three.
At the moment, this map is only a work in progress, but I’m not exactly impressed by any of the new design decisions.
Fully Playable Ms. Pacman Game Based on the Washington, DC Metro Map
This is what you get when you trawl the internet late at night…easily one of the strangest things I’ve come across on the Web lately. You can actually play this map as if it was a game of Ms. Pacman — note the bow in her hair and Cindy Crawford-like beauty spot, just like the original game. Instructions on how to play are here. (Hint: it’s much easier to use the R O Y G B keys to move between route lines than to try and navigate with the arrow keys.)
You can also check out the author’s time-scaled interactive map of the DC Metro while you’re there.
(Source: MV Jantzen website)
Direction in a Blur of Confusion
Great motion blur photo from the Washington, DC Metro.
It’s that time once again, where I recap the top ten most-viewed posts for the last four months, as well as an all-time list from Transit Maps’ inception back in October 2011. Without further ado, here’s the list for posts viewed between September 1st — December 31st, 2012:
10. Official Map: Key Bus Routes in Central London (link)
9. Official Map: TransLink Bus and Rail Network, Brisbane, Australia (link)
8. Historical Map: West Berlin U-Bahn Map, 1977 (link)
7. Historical Map: Old Metropolitan Line Map (link)
6. Unofficial Map: New York Regional Rail by Carter Green (link)
5. Official Map: Boston MBTA Rapid Transit/Key Bus Routes Map (link)
4. My Unofficial Boston MBTA Map Green Line Preview (link)
3. Official Map: Copenhagen S-Tog Map (link)
2. Official Map: Rail and Tram Network, Budapest, Hungary (link)
1. Unofficial Map: Transportation of Walt Disney World Resort, Florida (link)
And now the all-time list, dating back to October 2011. Change in position from the last all-time list is shown in [square brackets].
10. Official Map: Key Bus Routes in Central London (link) [NEW]
9. Official Map: Washington D.C. Metro “Rush+” System Map (link) 
8. Historical Maps: Berlin S- and U-Bahn Maps, 1910-1936 (link) 
7. Fantasy Map: Chicago El Overlaid On New York City (link) 
6. My Unofficial Boston MBTA Map Green Line Preview (link) [NEW]
5. Official Map: Rail and Tram Network, Budapest, Hungary (link) [NEW]
4. Official Map: Copenhagen S-Tog Map (link) 
3. Unofficial Map: Transportation of Walt Disney World Resort, Florida (link) [NEW]
2. Official Map: Boston MBTA Rapid Transit/Key Bus Routes Map (link) 
1. Historical Maps: Man-Made Philadelphia, 1972 (link) 
Bus Maps Can Be So Hard To Read…
Ha! Love the way the cracks under the remnants of the map seem to form their own roads and streets. Great title for this photo, too.
Fantasy Map: DC Subway Map from “Leverage”
Just good enough to pass for the real thing when fleetingly seen in the background of a TV show.
The map uses real DC Metro station names, but they’re all in the wrong places. The “corporate identity” uses the colours from the old TriMet livery… which is kind of neat, seeing as the show is filmed in Portland, TriMet’s base of operations.
In the show, I believe that the Washington Park MAX station (the only underground station in the system) stands in for DC Metro stations.
We Are Here
The Washington DC Metro two map system at work.