Official Map: Integrated Transit of Südtirol (Alto Adige), Italy

Sent my way by a reader known only as “mmmaps”, here’s a map of the transit system of the northern autonomous Italian province of Südtirol (South Tyrol in English, or Alto Adige in Italian). The system is mainly made up of buses (dark blue), but there’s also a backbone of rail services between the major cities (shown in light blue) and aerial cable-cars as well.

While the restrained colour palette (just blues and greys) looks quite nifty, the map’s usability is seriously hampered by this simplistic approach. Without coloured route lines, the map designers have had to denote separate routes by putting numbered boxes across each line to indicate where they go. And that makes actually using the map to work out how to get places a lot of really, really hard work.

For starters, the termini of routes aren’t indicated at all. A reader has to follow a desired route number along, checking at every bifurcation which way it goes (sometimes it goes more than one direction!). Eventually, there’s no more numbers to follow — so you have to assume that the service ended at the last town? Maybe. You have to work it out by yourself, hopefully with the aid of the individual route timetables and schedules that are available. However, this map gives a rotten overview of destinations, interchanges and routes for someone unfamiliar with the network. A user should always be able to trace any given route from one end to the other without having to make guesses!

If you think I’m being hard on the map, answer this simple question: which two cities does the 314 bus run between?

Our rating: Using a transit map really shouldn’t be this hard. One-and-a-half stars, and that’s because I like the Südtirol logo at the bottom left.

1.5 Stars

(Source: Official SII website)


Rail Transit of Portland, Oregon

Transit diagram of Portland, Oregon that shows the MAX light rail and the Portland Streetcar as one integrated service, rather than relegating the Streetcar to a tiny squiggle behind the MAX lines downtown. Click through to view the diagram large, or read the full story behind its design on my blog.

Future Map: Rail Transit of Portland, Oregon, 2015

My own work, so modesty prevents me from giving this a score or critique. However, I’d love to hear what people think! Prints of this diagram are for sale at my Society6 store.

Historical Map: Stuttgart VVS Map, circa 2000

Without a doubt, this has to be one of my favourite transit maps ever. As far as I know, this isometric approach is unique and it is staggeringly effective. Everything is beautifully labelled, and lovely icons highlight important sites like the zoo, museums and sports stadiums. Unfortunately, this stunning map has since been replaced by a far more conventional diagram - a great loss in my opinion.

Have we been there? I’ve changed trains at the Hauptbahnhof, but have never ventured into the city itself.

What we like: The clever three-dimensional representation of the Hauptbahnhof, complete with corner tower, does a lot to complete the illusion of dimensionality. The isometric layout is a clever way of allowing all the type to be set horizontally without hitting route lines. Subtly different line weights for the S-Bahn and U-Bahn work really well.

What we don’t like: The isometric effect is so effective and convincing that the one and only horizontal line - the R31 across the top of the diagram - looks strangely out of place.

Our rating: Undeniably brilliant. 5 stars.

5 Stars!

(Source: Stuttgart City Information Site)

Official Map: Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

A transit diagram exhibiting many of the “standard” features of a German transit map: clean design, rectangles for interchange stations that increase in size according to the number of lines that pass through them, and an absence of curves on route lines. A few features set it apart from other similar maps, including the angled type used throughout, set in a slightly odd choice of Futura Condensed - not always the most legible typeface at smaller sizes. The coloured lines representing the tram routes stand out well from the grey bus routes, and some care has been taken to make all the routes easy to follow.

Have we been there? Yes, backpacking in 2003. One tram driver went completely out of his way to help me - yelling out his window that his tram was the right one to get to the youth hostel, holding the tram so I could run across the road and get on, then stopping at the VAG information centre so he could go and get me a map and information on fares. Amazing!

What we like: Showing route numbers in the route line it represents works very effectively and helps in following the route from beginning to end. Excellent disabled access symbology.

What we don’t like: Labels set at multiple different angles, making reading more difficult. The huge red swoosh that the VAG logo is placed in is ugly and overpowering.

Our rating: A solid three-and-a-half. Nothing spectacular, but a good example of German design.

3.5 Stars

(Source: VAG website)

Official Map: Barcelona Metro, 2011

An attractive and easy to follow map with a few unusual features. At first glance, it appears to be a diagrammatic map in the form of the London Underground Diagram, but it’s actually overlaid on a simplified, but accurate street grid, allowing easy reference to the features of the city. Especially prominent is the Avenue Diagonal - a major feature of the city emphasized by excellent design. It also cleverly rotates the map to fit the available space (note that north is not to the top of the page), instead using the coastline as the major reference point. Finally, it shows every form of rail transport used in the city - Metro, tram, commuter rail, funicular and cable car.

Have we been there? Yes

What we like: clean design, integration of all services, markers for multi-line stations give at least some indication of length of walk between lines (the walk between the two furtherest platforms at Passeig de Gracia is looooong!)

What we don’t like: No indication of how ridiculously steep the walk from Leseps or Vallarca stations to Parc Guell is.

Our Rating: 4.5 stars!

4.5 Stars!

Original source: Official Barcelona Metro site