Wow — a huge stream of new visitors from MetaFilter today. Welcome to you all: I hope you enjoy the site! If you’re looking for something specific, the best way to find things is by searching Tumblr tags.
Copy and paste the URL syntax above and add what you’re after to the end of it. If it’s a multi-word search term, use hyphens between the words (e.g., “New York” would become “new-york”). I tag city names, states, countries, mode of travel and more pretty comprehensively: this page gives some good tags to start out with. Give it a try!
I’m also on Twitter @transitmap
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 January 1st — April 30th, 2012:
10. Official Map: Key Bus Routes in Central London (link)
9. Design the Boston MBTA Map — For FREE! (link)
8. Historical Map: West Berlin U-Bahn Map, 1977 (link)
7. Future Map: Washington, DC “Silver Line” Draft Map (link)
6. Official Map: Boston MBTA Rapid Transit/Key Bus Routes Map (link)
5. My Unofficial Boston MBTA Map Green Line Preview (link)
4. Official Map: Copenhagen S-Tog Map (link)
3. Official Map: Rail and Tram Network, Budapest, Hungary (link)
2. Unofficial Map: “Guerrilla” Moscow Metro Map (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: Washington D.C. Metro “Rush+” System Map (link) 
9. Official Map: Key Bus Routes in Central London (link) 
8. Historical Map: West Berlin U-Bahn Map, 1977 (link) [NEW]
7. My Unofficial Boston MBTA Map Green Line Preview (link) 
6. Unofficial Map: “Guerrilla” Moscow Metro Map (link) [NEW]
5. Official Map: Copenhagen S-Tog Map (link) 
4. Official Map: Rail and Tram Network, Budapest, Hungary (link) 
3. Official Map: Boston MBTA Rapid Transit/Key Bus Routes Map (link) 
2. Historical Maps: Man-Made Philadelphia, 1972 (link) 
1. Unofficial Map: Transportation of Walt Disney World Resort, Florida (link) 
A new number one, at last! Seems like there’s a lot of people who really want to know how to get around Walt Disney World! I’m at a bit of a loss to explain the sustained popularity of my posts about Copenhagen and Budapest, however.
Whoa — this landmark caught me totally by surprise, no time to make a cute graphic, sorry. A lot of new followers recently — thanks to each and every one of you! Also up to 880 Twitter followers (@transitmap), and 391 likes over on the Facebook page.
I also have a heap of submissions that you’ve sent in that I promise I’ll get too really soon: thanks for your patience!
For those of who you missed it, Transit Maps did a quick little Q&A over the weekend with the amazing Spanish design magazine and blog, Yorokobu. (Seriously, go take a look, even if you don’t speak Spanish. Totally inspiring!)
Anyway, for those of you that don’t speak Spanish (like me) and can’t/won’t use a web translation service, here’s my original answers to their questions in English. It may differ slightly to what was published because of editing, but it’s substantially the same.
Q. When did your fascination for metro maps begin?
My love of transit maps really began on my first visit to London in 1997. As a graphic designer, I was fascinated to see just how deeply embedded in the fabric of the city the map was: it was known and loved by just about everyone, and I certainly found it useful for navigating around an unfamiliar city. I bought a book from the London Transport Museum about it, “Mr. Beck’s Diagram”, and immersed myself in it. The history behind the Tube Map is quite fascinating, and it is amazing to see how it has evolved with the growing system, but still stayed true to its origins.
After that, I began dabbling with making my own maps, and have picked up quite a bit of attention over the internet for them in recent years, especially for my maps of the U.S. Interstate System and U.S. Highway system in the style of a metro map.
Q. Give me your three favourite transit maps…
The London Underground map (an easy choice) — the forefather of almost every transit map in the world. If I had to pick one absolute favourite version of it, I’d have to go with this unpublished Harry Beck version from 1961 that shows the then-planned Victoria line as a beautifully straight line.
Massimo Vignelli’s 1970s New York Subway Diagram is another beautiful piece of design, although I actually prefer the modern revival as seen on the MTA Weekender site. It’s still got the clean, minimalist look of the original, but the modern route line colours work a lot better. It’s the epitome of paring back unnecessary information to only show what’s really important: where to get on, where to transfer, and where to get off.
My third favourite map is a bit of an oddball — the S- and U-Bahn map from Stuttgart in around 2000. It’s presented isometrically, which is something I’ve never seen anywhere else, and it works very effectively. I’ve always had a soft spot for this one — details like the subtle three-dimensionality on the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) really make this something out of the ordinary.
In Spain, an honourable mention to the Barcelona Metro map (especially in conjunction with the excellent wayfinding system at the stations), but I’m not such a huge fan of Madrid’s recent strictly rectangular map.
Q. What elements do they have to have to be successful?
A good transit map has to give the end user (the transit rider) the information they need to get from Point A to Point B, and it needs to do it quickly and effectively. Information hierarchy is paramount — the most important information (such as station names and route information) always needs to stand out clearly. Supporting information (connecting bus routes or hours of operation, for example) should be lower in the hierarchy — it’s there if you need it, but it shouldn’t distract from the main focus of the map.
Consideration for colour-blind users is important as well: there should always be good contrast between route lines that run closely together, so that they can be easily distinguished and followed by all users.
And if it can be beautiful as well, that’s just the icing on the cake!
Q. Are there any maps that stand out as not working or doing their job properly?
Plenty! Many smaller transit agencies don’t have much of a budget for map development, and try to produce their own maps internally without the specialist design knowledge it takes to create a truly useful and attractive map.
Others are simply reaching the end of their useful lifespan — I believe that the Washington, DC Metro map’s distinctive “fat” route lines are now unsustainable with the upcoming addition of the new Silver Line route — or are guilty of trying to cram too much information into a single map: the current New York subway map is a good example of this: there are callout boxes and extraneous text covering just about every pit of spare space on that map.
Q. What projects have you been involved in around transit urbanism?
I work as a graphic designer for a multinational civil engineering firm, so I get to see the “behind the scenes” look at the origination of a lot of transit-oriented projects. We do a lot of work with light rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit (BRT), so it’s fascinating to see the thought processes behind this type of work. Making my own transit maps is something I do on the side, although I feel my design is better informed because of the work I do in my day job. Recently, I also helped with the beta testing of Kick Map’s new London Underground iPhone app, which was an awesome thing to be involved with. Their “hybrid” style of mapping — diagrammatic, but with a healthy nod to the actual geography of the area being mapped — works very well on a device with a small screen like the iPhone.
Q. Is it possible to make a living from something so niche as this?
Absolutely! There are multiple companies here in the U.S. who do nothing but design transit maps and wayfinding systems, and some of them do fantastic work as well.
Q. Who do you consider the God of transit map design?
Harry Beck — the original designer of the London Underground map. While he certainly didn’t develop the idea of a diagrammatic transit map in complete isolation (there is similar contemporary work by other designers both in England and Germany), his work did popularise what we now consider to be the template for almost every transit map. Of modern transit map designers, Massimo Vignelli (NY subway) and Erik Spiekermann’s (Berlin’s post-reunification S- and U-Bahn map) importance cannot be denied. Spiekermann’s continued work with typefaces optimised for transit and wayfinding purposes increases his importance to designers.
Q. How do you convince someone that designing a map like this is incredibly complex?
The simple answer to is ask them to start designing one and see how well they do. Once you start explaining all the variables and objectives and how they all have to balance out to create a useful, aesthetically-pleasing final piece, people get the idea pretty quickly. Part of running the Transit Maps blog is definitely the “education” aspect of it. Not all transit maps are created equal, and I present my opinions (no matter how brutal they might be) so that readers can start for make their own informed decisions about how graphic design affects their lives every day.
Q. Do you often dream of redesigning certain transit maps?
All the time! I’ve already produced some very popular unofficial redesigns of the Washington, DC Metro map, Boston’s “T” map, and that of my home town, Portland, Oregon. The Washington, DC map won the readers’ vote (and came second in the juried voting) in a contest on the Greater Greater Washington website a couple of years ago. I keep my eyes out for other maps that could use a redesign…
Q. Are 2D maps the most effective or do you think we will be seeing more interactive transit maps in the future?
I think we’re already starting to see a shift away from paper to digital. New York’s just about to install interactive map kiosks at a number od subway stations, Paris already has them, and smart phone/iPad map applications (like Kick Map NY and London) are becoming more popular and useful every day. Personally, I love the feel of a printed map in my hands, but digital definitely seems to be the way of the future.
All things considered, I’m pretty darn proud of this little Tumblr and the community that has built up around it. If you’ve enjoyed Transit Maps this year, consider nominating it for the Shorty Awards “Tumblr of the Year” Special Award. I stand a snowflake’s chance in hell of winning it, of course, but what the hey!
I actually just came across this one the other day, and have been compulsively working my way through it - amazing stuff.
For those who don’t know what we’re talking about, there’s a “Search by Tags” link to the left of the content on the site that takes you to a page where I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the most common tags used on the site - you can click on each tag to be taken to all the posts that contain that tag.
You can also just click here to go to the page - handy for those who always browse the blog through Tumblr’s dashboard and never see the link.