Historical Map: San Francisco Muni Transit Routes, 1970

For a long period of time, the San Francisco Municipal Railway, (commonly shortened to just “Muni”) used pretty much exactly the same map in their brochures. It seems that each year, they’d simply make any amendments required — addition of new routes, deletion of old ones, etc. —  and then reprint the brochure/map in a new colour combination.

The earliest example I can find, from 1952, uses a sombre two-color palette of black and red, mostly tinted down to greys and pinks. However, by 1970, the map had evolved into this gloriously garish three-colour purple, yellow and black vision that suits the post-Summer of Love San Francisco perfectly.

The map shows all Muni streetcar, coach and cable car services, but with no visible mode differentiation — express services are shown with a dashed line. However, the map’s actually pretty clean and easy to follow: route termini are clearly shown by route numbers in large circles, and there’s enough smaller numbers along each route to allow you to follow them from one end to the other.

Also of note: basic fare is just 20 cents!

Our rating: Groovy, man! A psychedelic re-imagining of a long-serving and functional map. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: Eric Fischer/Flickr)

Wonderfully immersive visual history of transit in San Francisco. As the blurb on the site says:

The history of San Francisco’s transit system can be traced back as far as 1873, when the first cable car began service. Tales of technological advances, natural disasters, political struggles, and triumphant celebrations color its 140-year history and shape it into a system today that’s uniquely diverse and uniquely San Francisco.

Definitely worth losing a few hours to!

Historical Map: Kroll’s Standard Map of Seattle, 1914 

As Seattle continues with its expansion of light rail (East Link, University Link) and streetcar (Capitol Hill streetcar), here’s a look back at the city 99 years ago. This isn’t a transit map per se — rather, it’s a map of the city that also happens to show the transit network in no uncertain terms. The thick dark lines that traverse the city like veins are all streetcars, cable cars and interurban trains. Main line trains are shown by more conventional “railway line” ticked strokes — these travel to King Street Station (still in use by Amtrak and Sounder trains today) and the adjacent Union Station, which now houses the offices for Sound Transit. View a full-size version of the map here.

(Source: Rob Ketcherside/Flickr)

Unofficial Map: Frequent Transport of Wellington, NZ

Submitted and created by Brent Palmer.

This is one I conjured up this weekend, dealing with Wellington, NZ. Only four local bus routes (and the Airport Flyer) turned out to meet any half-reasonable “frequent service” criteria.

Transit Maps says: A gorgeous looking map from long-time follower, Brent Palmer, that unfortunately serves to highlight the paucity of frequent transit services in New Zealand’s capital. Another striking dark background, and some unusual but highly effective colours for the routes themselves. Brent makes good use of the extra space afforded by the lack of routes, with nice big numbers for the routes, clear type, and a very handy inset diagram of commuter rail services. Top notch work indeed. Four-and-a-half stars!

4.5 Stars!

Official Map: Hong Kong MTR

Opened in 1979, the Hong Kong MTR (Mass Transit Railway) has a very clean, easy to understand map that visually owes a debt to its previous colonial owners - the UK - via the London Tube map.

Have we been there? No (the airport by itself doesn’t count).

What we like: Clean and elegant, even with the bilingual requirements of the map. Some unusual but lovely colours for some of the routes, especially the teal used for the Airport Express line.

What we don’t like: The light rail network, which comprises some 69 stations, is relegated to a few random-looking lines with only stations that interchange with the MTR shown. I’m not sure what the meaning of the coloured marks inside interchange stations is: some are straight, others are curved, others cross over each other. An indication of platform layout, perhaps… but it all seems a bit unfathomable to me without any indication in the map’s legend.

Our rating: Simple, clean, effective. An excellent map. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: MTR website)

Historical Map: San Francisco Market Street Railway Company Routes, 1931

An absolutely stunning overhead perspective drawing of San Francisco in this old cable car company map of services. The Golden Gate bridge does not exist yet, and fares to any part of the city (including transfers) are just five cents.

Have we been there? Yes, but the remaining cable cars are now just a sad, touristy reminder of what there once was.

What we like: Just about everything. The draftsmanship, and detailing is extraordinary - this is all drawn by hand! The unusual aerial perspective of the city is both effective and eye-catching. Nice use of limited colours: this looks like a three-colour print job (black, red, green).

What we don’t like: Perhaps a little difficult to decipher individual services, but it seems this map is part of a booklet that provides greater detail on other pages, so even this is not much of a fault.

Our rating: 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: Eric Fischer/Flickr - visit to see a high-res version!)