Historical Map: SCRTD Tourist Bus Pass Brochure Map, 1980

When is a bus map not a bus map? When it doesn’t really show any routes at all, that’s when. While this cheerfully cartoonish map might show destinations and label some major roads with bus route numbers, I think that anyone — let alone tourists new to LA! — would find it very difficult to actually navigate their way anywhere using only this map. It just about works as an introduction to the region and the bargain tourist pass rates ($1 per day for unlimited bus rides — sweet!), but that’s about it.

Source: Metro Transportation Library and Archive/Flickr

Video: Hyperlapse of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel

No map to be seen, but plenty of transit! Here’s a short Hyperlapse video that I made this week of peak-hour traffic in the transit tunnel underneath 3rd Avenue in Seattle, Washington. This is about 7 minutes of real time condensed into 30-odd seconds of high-speed footage.

The tunnel is one of only two combined light rail/bus tunnels in the United States and the only one with stations: the other is the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel in Pittsburgh.

Submission – Official Map: Bus Network of Nuuk, Greenland
Submitted by sperwing, who says:
Legends are pretty important parts of maps. Especially if you do things differently than other maps. It is certainly a unique decision that every bus stop is only for one direction. Defining that direction only by the side of the label however is just poor design. (no arrows!)
——
Transit Maps says:
This is definitely one of the most unique transit maps I’ve seen, in that it requires you to use both the timetable for a given line and the map to work out where the bus actually goes.
Every bus stop on the map has a number assigned to it, and the timetable then lists those numbers in the order that each route stops at them. In the example shown above, Route 1 starts at stop number 26, then calls at 23, 24, 18, 1, 47, etc. In effect, it’s like a giant game of connect the dots, except the dots aren’t even always in sequential order. Following the route described in the timetable on the map can be a bit confusing, because you’ll often have to skip over a number of stops before the next listed number. The ones you skipped are either used by the bus on its return journey, or aren’t actually served by that line at all.
It seems as though some routes go clockwise, while others go anti-clockwise, so I can see why the designers haven’t used arrows to indicate directions… unless the arrows were properly integrated into each and every station to indicate which direction they served, things could get very messy indeed. 
As it is, the system is small enough – Nuuk only has 15,000 inhabitants, and the bus company only employs 24 people – that the unusual methods employed by this map are tolerable enough. It’s a little annoying that you’d have to flip from page to page (the map is on one side of the sheet, the timetables on the other) in actual use, but I feel you’d get the hang of things fairly quickly.
The map itself looks pretty nifty – a nicely stylised diagrammatic map – although I’m not entirely sure of the meaning of the circles at certain points along the way. They don’t always seem to line up with the bus stops, but instead seem to just indicate intersections where bus routes diverge. Some of the labelling is a bit strange, and the spacing between some of the route lines is a bit variable, but overall I quite like the way it looks.
Our rating: A nice looking map, but with an incredibly esoteric and quirky route finding system that simply wouldn’t work with a more complex network. Interesting to see something so removed from the normal way of doing things (having just said that arrows are the only way to indicate route directionality). Two-and-a-half stars.

Source: Nuup Bussii website Submission – Official Map: Bus Network of Nuuk, Greenland
Submitted by sperwing, who says:
Legends are pretty important parts of maps. Especially if you do things differently than other maps. It is certainly a unique decision that every bus stop is only for one direction. Defining that direction only by the side of the label however is just poor design. (no arrows!)
——
Transit Maps says:
This is definitely one of the most unique transit maps I’ve seen, in that it requires you to use both the timetable for a given line and the map to work out where the bus actually goes.
Every bus stop on the map has a number assigned to it, and the timetable then lists those numbers in the order that each route stops at them. In the example shown above, Route 1 starts at stop number 26, then calls at 23, 24, 18, 1, 47, etc. In effect, it’s like a giant game of connect the dots, except the dots aren’t even always in sequential order. Following the route described in the timetable on the map can be a bit confusing, because you’ll often have to skip over a number of stops before the next listed number. The ones you skipped are either used by the bus on its return journey, or aren’t actually served by that line at all.
It seems as though some routes go clockwise, while others go anti-clockwise, so I can see why the designers haven’t used arrows to indicate directions… unless the arrows were properly integrated into each and every station to indicate which direction they served, things could get very messy indeed. 
As it is, the system is small enough – Nuuk only has 15,000 inhabitants, and the bus company only employs 24 people – that the unusual methods employed by this map are tolerable enough. It’s a little annoying that you’d have to flip from page to page (the map is on one side of the sheet, the timetables on the other) in actual use, but I feel you’d get the hang of things fairly quickly.
The map itself looks pretty nifty – a nicely stylised diagrammatic map – although I’m not entirely sure of the meaning of the circles at certain points along the way. They don’t always seem to line up with the bus stops, but instead seem to just indicate intersections where bus routes diverge. Some of the labelling is a bit strange, and the spacing between some of the route lines is a bit variable, but overall I quite like the way it looks.
Our rating: A nice looking map, but with an incredibly esoteric and quirky route finding system that simply wouldn’t work with a more complex network. Interesting to see something so removed from the normal way of doing things (having just said that arrows are the only way to indicate route directionality). Two-and-a-half stars.

Source: Nuup Bussii website

Submission – Official Map: Bus Network of Nuuk, Greenland

Submitted by sperwing, who says:

Legends are pretty important parts of maps. Especially if you do things differently than other maps. It is certainly a unique decision that every bus stop is only for one direction. Defining that direction only by the side of the label however is just poor design. (no arrows!)

——

Transit Maps says:

This is definitely one of the most unique transit maps I’ve seen, in that it requires you to use both the timetable for a given line and the map to work out where the bus actually goes.

Every bus stop on the map has a number assigned to it, and the timetable then lists those numbers in the order that each route stops at them. In the example shown above, Route 1 starts at stop number 26, then calls at 23, 24, 18, 1, 47, etc. In effect, it’s like a giant game of connect the dots, except the dots aren’t even always in sequential order. Following the route described in the timetable on the map can be a bit confusing, because you’ll often have to skip over a number of stops before the next listed number. The ones you skipped are either used by the bus on its return journey, or aren’t actually served by that line at all.

It seems as though some routes go clockwise, while others go anti-clockwise, so I can see why the designers haven’t used arrows to indicate directions… unless the arrows were properly integrated into each and every station to indicate which direction they served, things could get very messy indeed. 

As it is, the system is small enough – Nuuk only has 15,000 inhabitants, and the bus company only employs 24 people – that the unusual methods employed by this map are tolerable enough. It’s a little annoying that you’d have to flip from page to page (the map is on one side of the sheet, the timetables on the other) in actual use, but I feel you’d get the hang of things fairly quickly.

The map itself looks pretty nifty – a nicely stylised diagrammatic map – although I’m not entirely sure of the meaning of the circles at certain points along the way. They don’t always seem to line up with the bus stops, but instead seem to just indicate intersections where bus routes diverge. Some of the labelling is a bit strange, and the spacing between some of the route lines is a bit variable, but overall I quite like the way it looks.

Our rating: A nice looking map, but with an incredibly esoteric and quirky route finding system that simply wouldn’t work with a more complex network. Interesting to see something so removed from the normal way of doing things (having just said that arrows are the only way to indicate route directionality). Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

Source: Nuup Bussii website

Submission - Historical Map: Bus and Trolley-bus Routes in Vilnius, Lithuania, 1968

Submitted by creatures-alive.

A striking transit network map from Soviet Vilnius in the late 1960s. The stark, angular route lines are softened a bit by the wide lazy curves of the city’s rivers, but this is still pretty severe, minimalist, almost abstract design. Also of note is the map’s title and legend, set in five different languages — Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, German and English.

Source: Vilniaus Katalogas website

Historical Map: Chapel Hill Transit Bus Map, 1974

Celebrating their 40th year of service today — August 1, 2014. Here’s their original service map showing eight routes: four city buses (solid lines), two UNC Campus buses (long dashed lines) and two Park/Ride express services to the airport lot and the mall lot (short dashes). The use of the different dashes allow the different types of services to be shown effectively with a limited (and cheap to print!) two-colour palette. There’s also some very fashionable — for 1974 — Eurostile typesetting as well.

Source: CHT Director Brian M Litchfield’s Twitter account

Official Map: Transfort Bus Map, Fort Collins, Colorado

Submitted by zmapper, who says:

This is the official bus system map for Fort Collins, Colorado. Of interest is the new north-south MAX BRT route, shown in lime green. 

What appears to be a straightforward, vanilla transit map has some substantial flaws. The map doesn’t note that the 30-series and 90-series routes only operate when the state university and public schools are in session, respectively, or that the Green and Gold routes only operate Friday and Saturday nights from 10:30 pm to 2:30 am, when the rest of the system has stopped operating. Additionally, the alignment of Route 12 between Mason and Stamford poses a challenge for the map designer; eastbound, the route turns left on College, loops counter-clockwise on Foothills, Swallow and Mason before resuming an easterly path; westbound, the route turns right on Mason and loops clockwise on Swallow and Stamford before doubling back on itself along Horsetooth. The map makes an attempt to display where Route 12 operates, but doesn’t clearly show how.

——

Transit Maps says:

You know, this map really doesn’t look too bad at all: nice clean linework, sensible colour choices (especially the nice muted tones for the background compared to the route lines), and simple little icons. I probably would have liked to see more emphasis on the MAX route – I mean, what’s the point of a shiny new BRT service if you can’t show it off to people properly?

I also think that double-headed arrows showing that buses travel in both directions along a route is redundant: bi-directional travel is always inherently implied in a transit map unless a single-headed arrow explicitly depicts one-way traffic.

Where this map really falls down is the lack of a coherent legend. This map is downloadable in this exact form from the Transfort website, with no extra explanatory text at all, and it’s probably not unreasonable to think that it is also posted in bus stops around the city. So why doesn’t it tell me what the heck MAX, FLEX, GREEN, GOLD and HORN actually are? As zmapper points out, the Green and Gold lines only run at night on Fridays and Saturdays, which you might think would be a Really Important Thing to tell people. Instead, the perfunctory legend shows some sort of dotted line to indicate “multiple routes”, but this type of line doesn’t actually occur anywhere on the map. 

Yes, the information about all the routes is available on the Web, but not everyone has access to that at all times, and some minor edits to the map could make things so much clearer for all users, especially visitors to Fort Collins.

Our rating: Looks good, but let down by some major information deficiencies. Two stars.

2 Stars

Source: Official Transfort website

P.S. Enough with the transit systems called MAX: this is at least the sixth one I can think of!

Photo: Incheon Airport Bus Map

As a functional map, this is pretty much useless, as it just looks like giant balls of yarn are unravelling across Incheon and Seoul.

Source: leonardo.bonanni/Flickr

Isaac Fischer writes:

Hi Cameron! I just wanted to thank you for your review of my map for the New Mexico Park and Ride system (July 2014, 3 stars). I thought I should let you know that I have contacted Park and Ride and they are considering adopting my map in place of their regular one. (I made the edits you suggested and also produced a miniature version that will more easily fit into their timetable.) I’ll let you know if they end up adopting the map.

One other thing that might interest you: I make all my maps in OmniGraffle, which is available for both Mac and iPad (but not for Windows or Linux machines). I wasn’t sure if you were aware of OmniGraffle’s potential for designing transit maps, but it is remarkably effective (I designed the Park and Ride map in about two hours). I never understood Illustrator or Inkscape; OmniGraffle is much more user-friendly. If you’re interested, I’d suggest checking it out.

——

Transit Maps says:

That’s very interesting news, Isaac! Hopefully they can see the value in a good system map and not only adopt it, but also pay you an amount that reflects that value for your work.

I’m aware of OmniGraffle, but I would have a couple of qualms about using it for professional map-making work.

Firstly, it’s not industry-standard software, which limits the ability to share work with other designers who don’t have the application, and it also prevents you from learning the Adobe Illustrator techniques and skills that would be required in a real-world job.

Secondly, I’m not sure of its ability to create proper four-colour process (CMYK) or spot-colour output files, which would be an absolute deal-breaker in a print production environment. Later conversion from RGB to CMYK could cause unwanted and unexpected colour shifts, especially with blacks and RGB colours that are brighter than can be printed in the limited CMYK gamut (greens and blues are especially susceptible to this). To be fair, I’ve seen conflicting reports on whether or not OmniGraffle can export a CMYK output file, so it may be capable of this.

In short, if you’d like to experiment with transit mapping for fun or as a hobby, then OmniGraffle looks like a cheap, easy to use solution. Isaac has certainly proved that quality work can be created in it. However, if you’re looking for a career in mapping, then there’s no way around it: learn Adobe Illustrator and learn it well.

Thanks also to “Bklynfatpants”, who left a comment on the site noting that it wasn’t necessarily fair to compare Isaac’s complete map with the tiny schematic that Park and Ride uses in their schedule. Park and Ride does have a complete system map, viewable here (PDF). It’s a geographical map, exported directly from GIS software. It’s still pretty bad, although admittedly much better than the itty-bitty schematic.

Historical Map: Nicholson’s Complete London Guide Bus Map, c. 1980

Unusual and potentially confusing bus map that chooses to colour-code routes by the major thoroughfare that they travel down: all Oxford Street buses are orange, all Farringdon Road buses are lime green, etc. However it’s all a bit of a mess, made more so by the strangely yellow/orange-heavy colour palette. Westminster Bridge is crossed by six routes; five of them are way too similar to each other (orange-brown, yellow, orange, another orange-brown and lime green). Only the dark green Victoria Street route line provides sufficient contrast with the other lines here.

The map also requires the user to have more than a passing familiarity with London bus routes, as it only lists their route number as they leave the map, not their destination. I know that Route 9 passes through Piccadilly, but where does it go after that? A travel-savvy Londoner might know, but a tourist may not.

Reminiscent of this similarly confusing central Sydney bus map from 2000, although at least the Sydney map tells you the final destination of the bus routes!

Our rating: Idiosyncratic, strange and not actually terribly useful. One-and-a-half stars.

1.5 Stars

Source: grepnold/Flickr

Photo: Tassenger (sic) Traffic Circuit Sketch Map

Putting the “net” in “network”. Long distance bus map in Qingdao, China.

Source: chrisdrum/Flickr