Submitted by gartenriese, who says:
I found this on a wooden toy station from Brio. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to look up what transit network this is supposed to resemble.
Transit Maps says:
Well, this is just adorable. I doubt that it represents any real world transit system, but it looks like it has both trains and buses!
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.
(Source: Official SII website)
Unofficial Map: Transit of Riga, Latvia by Viteks Bariševs
Transit Maps has been keeping an eye on this project for quite some time now: I reviewed an earlier version of this map way back in January 2012, noting that it held a lot of promise for the future.
At the time, Viteks was hopeful that he could get his map adopted as Riga’s official transit map. While that hasn’t quite happened yet, he’s definitely set himself up as an excellent alternative to the (pretty terrible) official maps. That’s right, the official website has to use three maps – one for each mode (bus, trolleybus, tram) – to show what Viteks has expertly put into one.
Having just had his map professionally printed, Viteks was kind enough to send me some samples for review. First off, this map reminds me why I will always love a map on paper… there’s just something about the way you can pore over it and absorb all the details fully that you just can’t replicate on a computer screen. A PDF of a complex network like this is all well and good, but you either have to view the whole map at a size which makes reading text hard, or you have to zoom in and lose the ability to relate the section you’re looking at to the system as a whole.
The print quality of the map is excellent, with good colour fidelity and registration throughout. The map folds down to a very compact size of just 8.5 x 17.5cm (3.3 x 6.9 inches) – a pocket map which can actually fit in a pocket without having to be folded over again! It unfolds to be around 51 x 35 cm (20 x 13.8 inches), which is big without being too big or unwieldy. The folds for the map also concertina nicely, so you could easily unfold it to just the portion that you need without opening it entirely.
The map itself has made great strides in legibility and information hierarchy since the 2012 version: the three transit modes are differentiated much better than before, and terminus stations are now clearly shown in white text in a black box (rather than with underlined text as before). While obviously a diagram, I think Viteks has done a good job of retaining spatial relationships between the different parts of the city, which an be helpful for orientation. The map also has an excellent city centre inset on the reverse of the main map (with some nifty little illustrations of the main points of interest), and a night bus map as well. Truly useful, well-considered information for all travellers!
A few thoughts for improvement: the map is probably at the absolute smallest size that it can be reproduced. While I can read the labels on it just fine, others with poorer eyesight may not fare so well.
Because the route lines are all so thin, the system that Viteks uses to distinguish between the three transportation modes – a solid coloured line for buses, a coloured line overlaid with a thinner white line for trolleybuses, and a coloured line overlaid with a thinner black line for trams – can be a little difficult to make out. The trolleybus lines effectively become two very thin coloured lines separated by an equally thin white one: depending on the colour of the line, this can be very difficult to discern. Similarly, if the route line colour for a tram service is relatively dark, the overlaid black line can be quite difficult to see. In the end, this doesn’t matter a huge amount, because Viteks has cleverly added a letter to the beginning of each route number that corresponds to the mode: A for autobus, E for trolleybus, and T for tram. The legend does point out that these prefixes aren’t actually shown on the vehicles, but perhaps this information could be made a little more prominent to prevent some poor tourist from standing around all day waiting for an “E15” to come.
In short, this is a fantastic effort to create something better than what’s officially available. This is obviously a labour of love and it shows in the attention to detail and quality of the work. Looking at the project website, it seems that lots of locations around Riga are now selling the map, so it would seem that Viteks’ hard work and perseverance is paying off.
Official Map: Bus Network of Brownsville, Texas
A strong entry into the Transit Maps Hall of Shame from Brownsville, Texas, with this map that depicts the Brownsville Urban System (or “BUS” — I see what they did there).
Where to start with this awfulness? Probably with the graduated blue background that causes visual dissonance (that shimmering edge when colours clash horribly) with just about everything else on the map, especially the red street name labels! It also makes the underlying grey road network almost impossible to make out.
How about the myriad different dashes, dots, and line thicknesses used to denote the different routes? Because so many different line types are used, the Brownsville city limits (also depicted with a dashed line) end up looking like another route that encircles the city!
The inset that shows the location of stops at “NSTS” is absolutely impossible to make out. There’s an enormous and ugly compass rose that dominates the entire map and a whole other north pointer, just in case. There’s some absolutely appalling typography across the entire map. There’s a very precise scale (1:19,500) that would only apply if you printed the map out at its full 30” x 36” poster size, but also a warning that the “map is not to scale”. I could go on, but I won’t.
Our rating: If I actually had an icon for negative stars, I’d probably use it. Zero.
(Source: Official Brownsville Metro site)
Official Maps: Transportation at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
A few requests for these very topical maps, so here goes!
The XXII Winter Games are now in full swing, but how do spectators get around? The Games are divided into two very distinct zones: the Olympic Park down by the Black Sea in Sochi itself for all the indoor sports; and the Mountain Zone, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) up into the Caucasus Mountains, where all the sports that actually require snow are held. Access to the Olympic venues by private transportation is strictly limited, so the Games’ transportation network is absolutely vital to moving people around. Buses and trains shuttle spectators between the suburbs of Sochi (a long, narrow strip city wedged between the Black Sea and the mountains behind it) where they are staying to the Olympic venues. Once in the Mountain Zone, more buses or ski resort aerial cable-cars take spectators to the different venues. Or — perhaps optimistically — there are also walking paths up the side of the mountains!
The maps themselves are pretty bare bones and angular, although this does at least work well with the general design aesthetic of the games. There’s only single route line for each transit mode, so you have to refer to the route number boxes at each station to work out which trains travel between the places you want to go. It’s not an overly complex system, so it’s not that difficult, but something a little more intuitive might have been nice.
Our rating: Probably getting away with the absolute bare minimum of effort and detail required. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official Sochi Olympics website)
Official Map: Brussels Integrated Transit Map
According to my correspondents, Brussels has recently switched from a geographical transit map to this new diagrammatic map. As you can see by comparing the two images of the centre of the city above, a lot of streamlining and simplification has taken place. The first thing that strikes me is the way that many bus routes have either been removed or have been condensed or “collapsed” into a single route line with a common label, simplifying the map immensely. The place where this is really obvious is at Gare du Nord/Noordstation, which now only has six route numbers listed next to it, compared to thirty-six on the previous map!
Major interchanges are now denoted by an enclosing ring, suggesting that all stops at that interchange — be they bus, tram or Metro — are in close proximity to each other. The Paris Metro map uses a very similar device at interchanges between modes.
However, while the map is a huge improvement over the crowded mess of the previous geographical map, it’s certainly not perfect.
The labelling — which admittedly has to overcome the requirement of being bilingual — is a bit haphazard in its application, with some labels for one station overlapping that of another in parts. Major station labels waste a lot of space when there’s only one or two route numbers listed under the station’s name.
Each and every route line is outlined in black, regardless of its colour, which gives a very heavy, cumbersome feel to the map. Normally, only very light coloured routes (yellow or light blues, for example) need this treatment, so I’m not sure why it was deemed necessary here. Also, while the difference in line thickness between trams and buses seems obvious in the legend, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart on the actual map when multiple routes are butting up to each other (Hint: stops on bus routes are ever so slightly wider than the route line — way too subtle for easy mode differentiation!)
The icons for points of interest are all so very generic and bland.
Finally, the colours used on the map seem very simplistic and cartoon-like, stopping the map from having a harmonious, unified feel. Both the green used for parkland and the blue used for water are way too strong and vivid: they compete with the route lines for attention, becoming a distraction.
Our rating: Better than what came before, but still not great. Despite all the reworking, it’s still very cluttered and confusing. The new Ile-de-France Regional Rail map sets the standard for this type of map, and this falls well short. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official STIB website)
Dubai Integrated Transport Network
System Map Design Proposal
A few months ago, Matt Forrest (Carticulate Maps) asked me to redesign Dubai’s system map as part of a larger proposal Matt was working on at the time. Here is what we did:
Seriously beautiful work here from Kyril Negoda, who made this great future map of transit in Minneapolis/St. Paul (May 2013, 5 stars). It’s a great example of how a well-designed transit map can simplify and clarify important information while still retaining enough geographical context to orient users.
I definitely recommend clicking through to Kyril’s Tumblr to read more about the process and rationale behind this lovely map, as well as comparisons between it and the clumsy, cluttered official map.
Having seen @transitmaps’ post with the Japanese travelcard reminded me to post the MetroMoney card I got in Tbilisi, Georgia. The drawings show different modes of transport available in the city (metro, bus, minibus (marshrutka)) and have absolutely no resemblance to the actual metro network, which consists of two lines.
Figuring out all the labels is not too easy – if you happen to speak Georgian, share them in the comments below. However, I did look at the large letters: Metromani and the top-centre smaller label: Gagarin square – which is not even a metro station. Dear readers, please do not use this card for orientation. I warned you.
Another transit map-themed fare card, this one from Tbilisi, the capital of the Caucasian country of Georgia. However, it’s important to note that — unlike the Japanese Passnet card — this is not a map at all, but stylised illustrations of a Metro train (centre), a bus (top left), and a mini bus (top right).
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)
Official Map: Southern Vectis Bus Map, Isle of Wight, England
An attractively drawn map that bridges the gap between geographical representation and a diagram rather nicely. While the shape of the island is quite accurate (if simplified slightly), all the roads have been straightened out to remove unnecessary kinks and twists. The routes are clearly marked and major stops are shown efficiently. The map is also supported on-line by town maps for the destinations shown in larger type, so there’s more detail where it’s needed. There’s even some lovely icons for points of interest, such as Carisbrooke Castle, Osborne House and the famous steam railway.
No, the map doesn’t show every bus stop: but I’ve never really had a problem with that for bus route maps where it can generally be assumed that stops are fairly evenly spaced — although closer together in more urban areas, and farther apart in rural/outlying areas. The map gives a good idea about destinations that can be reached along each route: a timetable would then handle the fine detail.
About the only real problem I have with this map is its delivery method. While the map can be downloaded as a PDF from Southern Vectis’ website, this is actually a low-resolution JPG (complete with ugly compression artifacts) that has been resaved in PDF format from Photoshop. The map is really quite lovely, so it’s very disappointing to see that good work being shared in this manner. It degrades the crisp, clean look of the map and means that it is not able to be enlarged to any great degree without being pixelated. Nor is the text on the map searchable in any way, or accessible to vision-impaired users — being simply an image.
Sidenote: Interestingly, while “Vectis” has the ring of one of those fancy newfangled transit company names (much like “Arriva”), its use as the name for this bus company dates back to 1927. The name “Vectis” itself is much older, being the name that the ancient Romans gave to the island when they invaded around 43AD.
Our rating: Great map, poor delivery. Three stars.
(Source: Official Southern Vectis website)