Official Map: San Francisco Bay Area Regional Transit Map
Submitted by Reed Wagner, who says:
This map appears to be part of a greater “wayfinding” campaign by the SF Bay Area MTC - it appears at major Caltrain, Muni and BART stations and presumably is elsewhere (I took this picture at Caltrain 4th & King. In comparison to the maps made by SF Cityscape like this (external link: PDF), it seems that the official MTC map is falling short in every regard other than information overload in a messy form.
Transit Maps says:
It’s pretty difficult to disagree with Reed’s summary of this map: it is messy, cluttered and difficult to decipher. It’s a little unfair to compare it to the excellent SF Cityscape map (which only shows rail transit and thus becomes less cluttered instantly), but this is still pretty poor work. The main failings, in my opinion:
It’s neither a map or a diagram, and suffers from this hybrid approach. Cities and towns are in (or close to) their correct geographical location, but are simply connected with straight lines between them, creating a lot of very unattractive angles throughout the map.
The ugly and unnecessary feathered shading behind the route lines to denote (very approximate) urban limits. Use a label for each major city: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, etc, then let the station names do the rest of the work. This map has enough problems with colour already (see next point) without introducing more!
Finally, the legend of the map indicates that there are 38 (yes, 38!) different transit agencies or services shown on the map, and the only visual difference between them is the colour of their route line. It’s too much work for colour to do alone, and certainly isn’t very colour-blind friendly! Some attempt at differentiating modes (BART, commuter rail, bus, Amtrak, etc.) by using something like different stroke widths would allow less colours to be used overall (as the same colours could then be used more than once), while also adding an extra dimension of useful information to the map.
Our rating: More hindrance than help — the information as shown takes way too long to be interpreted by the reader, which isn’t very useful at a crowded railway station! One-and-a-half stars.
Unofficial Map: Dallas-Fort Worth Rail Transit by Gabe Tiberius Columbo
I’ve been frustrated with the Dallas rail map for a while, and decided to make a comprehensive diagram of Dallas-Fort Worth rail trainsit.
Transit Maps says:
Simply put, this is a beautiful diagrammatic map and is far more visually attractive than the official DART map (August 2012, 3 stars). There’s a very elegant, restrained feeling to this: from the subtle grey background and typography to some excellent, slightly unusual colour choices for the route lines that work really nicely together. The way the Green and Orange lines interact with the Red and Blue is exactly what I wanted to see in the official map, and this treatment looks so much cleaner.
One could make a case for the inclusion of a few geographical features or major highways to give a better sense of scale and location, but — purely for route finding — the map doesn’t really need them, in my opinion.
The map’s not totally perfect: I don’t see a need for the smaller type for station names on the TRE and A-Train services: the thinner route lines already differentiate them from the main DART services, and the smaller type is somewhat harder to read. By the time we get down to the Amtrak routes and the M-Line Trolley, the type is almost ridiculously small.
There’s also a typo in the legend that references the “Fort Worth Transportaion Authority”.
Our rating: Excellent work that takes a completely different approach to the official map and does it very well. Four stars.
Fantasy Map: United States High Speed Rail System
Submitted by thethingtobomb, who says:
Obviously this potential US High Speed rail system has some layout problems, but the map itself is intriguing. What’s your opinion?
Transit Maps says:
The problem with this map is that it’s based on incredibly optimistic projections of HSR in the United States (I believe the technical term for this is a “pipe dream”). Back in 2009, there was a big push for high-speed rail and it seemed that everyone was getting behind it — hence, all the routes shown here.
Cue the economic downturn and suddenly things don’t look so rosy. HSR is expensive.
Of everything shown here, only the incredibly controversial California High Speed Rail is getting anywhere near construction. If I remember right, Florida explicitly rejected Federal grant money for HSR there, and I know for a fact there’s almost no funding in Oregon.
Of current routes, only the Northeast Corridor is taking baby steps towards becoming a true high-speed corridor: the Acela Express barely qualifies at its highest speed, and there’s plenty of sections of track where it has to operate at slower speeds.
In short, HSR has a long way to go before acceptance and implementation in the United States, meaning maps like this remain strictly in the “fantasy” category.
Design-wise, the map is functional enough, although the font used is pretty ghastly, in my opinion.
Unofficial Map: San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit, 2011
This post comes about because of a Tumblr Mail (go, on ask me something!) from an anonymous follower, who says:
“Any idea if a unified San Francisco transit map exists somewhere out there, perhaps a la the Portland one? SF has to have one of the more confusing transit systems in the country, what with Caltrain + BART + Muni + cable cars + the F line.”
As it happens, there are plenty of unofficial maps showing both just the City of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.
This one, from sfcityscape.com, is definitely one of the best. It shows BART, Muni Metro, the F line, Caltrain, and more. The only rail transit it doesn’t show are the historic cable cars (which surely don’t qualify as rapid transit, anyway) and interstate Amtrak trains, preferring to focus on the Amtrak California Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin services.
Extra handy features include an indication of stations with timed transfers between services and an awesome little diagram of how BART services change quite radically depending on the day of the week.
Technically, the map is extremely well drawn - there’s a lovely clean minimalism to the linework and the colour palette is gorgeous, especially in the background areas.
My one minor complaint is that the colours used to denote Muni Metro and Caltrain are very similar to each other. While the relative thicknesses of their service lines help distinguish them from each other, the services do touch and overlap in a couple of places. This problem seems like it could have been easily solved with a little more thought, but still barely detracts from the sheer quality of this piece.
Our rating: One of my favourite unofficial maps. Four-and-a-half stars.
(Source: SF Cityscape - PDF)
Unofficial Map: Amtrak Passenger Rail Routes, 2010
Related to the last post about the Amtrak Super High-Speed Northeast Corridor, here’s a personal project of mine from 2010 showing all of Amtrak’s train routes in the style of a subway map. Amtrak’s own map (PDF link) doesn’t break out the actual routes in any way, nor does it show all stations due to geographic limitations, which makes journey planning quite difficult in my opinion.
The two things my map really highlight are the incredible dominance of the Northeast Corridor in terms of service, and just how much of a hub Chicago is: 16 Amtrak routes terminate there! It also shows the paucity of high-speed rail in America. Just one route - the Acela along the Northeast corridor - even somewhat approaches that definition.
One day, I’d like to rework this map with all the Amtrak Thruways (connecting bus and rail services) shown as well. One day…
Leaving aside the politics and cost for a minute, this is actually a pretty darn nice map. Attractive and informational. Drawing the “Super Express” and “Express” routes as dead straight lines definitely emphasises the idea of speed and direct connections between points. Long Island looks a little weird, though…