Jenni Sparks does her meticulously-detailed-yet-organic illustration thing with San Francisco (we’ve previously featured her great NYC map), with BART and Caltrain (really?) given strong visual prominence. Strangely, there’s not a single Muni Metro train, F Line streetcar or cable car to be seen!

99percentinvisible:

A beautiful, detailed, hand-drawn map of San Francisco

Submission – Unofficial Map: Regional Rail Network for Rennes, Brittany

Submitted by favrebulle, who says:

This is a proposed regional rail network for Rennes, Brittany. The map is my own work. The network revolves around a central Ring. Lines come in two types. Main lines are in bright colors, and circulate all day, every day, twice an hour. Secondary lines are in pastel colors and run during rush hours, or during special events for the Expo Arena line. Intercity and high-speed services (not detailed) are the grey, outern lines. The stations are simple, white indentation in the lines. Texts come in only two angles. Finally, the map is in breton.

——

Transit Maps says:

Stylistically, this map immediately brought to mind this commuter rail map from Madrid (June 2013, 3 stars), which similarly features a central ring and sharply angled corners.

I do like the interesting “half-circle” device used for stations, and the way it changes into a full circle when two lines are present, or a longer “pill” shape for three or more lines. It’s a logical transformation and is used effectively throughout.

Less successful are the pastel colours used for the rush hour services – they’re too visually recessive (the light yellow S24 line almost disappears completely), and S21 and S22 look way too similar to each other. Something that could help here would be to link the route designations in the legend to the lines on the map, so that it’s easier to work out where each line begins and ends.

Our rating: A nicely distinctive diagrammatic style of map that just needs a little more work on the usability side to make it really successful. Two-and-a-half stars!

2.5 Stars

Unofficial Map: Sydney Rail Network (Trains and Light Rail) by Ben Luke

Submitted by Ben, who says:

This is my version of the Sydney Trains map. I was inspired to try designing my own version after the introduction of the new official map which I found to be rather uninspiring. I have been learning Illustrator in the process, so thanks to your excellent blog for all the tips and tutorials.

I have used a realistic background layer which is distorted to fit around the map but maintains a sense of geographic familiarity (I’m a map geek so this is important to me!). My aim was to capture the essence of Sydney with its rich interplay between land and water without being to distracting. I have also decided to include the light rail system, which the new official map has dropped, as I’ve always been fan of multi mode maps. Other than that I just tried to keep things as simple and straight as possible. 

——

Transit Maps says:

There’s a lot to like in Ben’s reinterpretation of the Sydney Trains map. His use of 30/60-degree angles actually helps a lot in some of the traditionally crowded parts of the map – the Illawarra Line south of Arncliffe and the North Shore Line, in particular. The reorientation of the main trunk line out to Blacktown as one long straight line on a 30-degree angle also works surprisingly well, countering the diagrammatic enlargement of the CBD nicely. There are places where the 30-degree lines look a bit awkward next to the 45-degree labels (Flemington to Granville, for example), but I can see why Ben’s taken this approach.

I also really like the “Intercity” labels that Ben has used to indicate the direction of longer-distance trains: it integrates the branding of the service more effectively than the official map, although adding some key destinations along each line might be a good idea for users unfamiliar with the system: Blue Mountains Line – to Katoomba and Lithgow works better than just the line name for me. A little more “breathing room” at the top and bottom of the map would also be welcomed, as the labels are pushed up pretty tight to the edge at the moment.

I do feel that the spacing of the stations in the western part of the map is a little big compared to other parts of the map: there’s nice, even, tight spacing up to Blacktown, then a giant gap to Doonside or Marayong, and much bigger spacing between all the stations from there on out.

I’ve gone on record as saying that I’m not the greatest fan of diagrammatic maps on geographic backgrounds – but if you’re going to do it, do it well. Ben’s done it very well here – it looks far less distorted and cartoony that the previous Sydney rail map.

Ben’s integrated the light rail system into his map – although he’s inexplicably changed it to blue from its official deep red – and has come across a pretty big problem. The sydney train network is vast and sprawling, covering huge distances in every direction – while the light rail line is much denser, with stations spaced much closer together. It’s very difficult to coherently place these two very different systems on the same map, although Ben’s put in a manful effort here. I’d probably be in favour of showing the light rail (because I like a good multi-modal map too!), but only labelling major terminus stations. Dots or ticks to indicate the number of other stations could be retained. A separate map could then be used to show the light rail system in detail, without having to show all of Greater Sydney on the same map.

Our rating: Some excellent ideas that improve on the official map in some aspects. Spacing of stations could be a little more even/harmonious, but it’s really a great effort. Three stars.

3 Stars

Submission - Official Map: Copenhagen S-Tog Network, 2014

Submitted by 1993matias, who says:

Hi there!

I am a big admirer of your reckless slaughter of bad maps - and the praise of the good ones. But, the map you got for the Copenhagen S-train network (reviewed way back in November 2011, 3 stars) is not the best you could have gotten. This one above is the official one at all stations in the area.

It has that sleek feel as the other map, but the local trains in the north take much of the focus with their dark colour. The metro has some very neutral colours, contrary to the red and green they really have. And the black and white dots make no sense to me, why not use ticks as the rest of the map? There are no transfer station, as the ticket system is “open” - barrier free. That makes every station a transfer station. 

The design has been thought through, I can’t see any glaring design mistake - maybe apart from the “merging” routes just after the central station on the big bend (purple and grey).

I wonder what they will do when the new metro circle line opens - there’s no room left in central Copenhagen…

——

Transit Maps says:

To be fair, I did review the previous map back in 2011, so I’m not really surprised that it’s changed since then (I do note that my source link on the previous post no longer leads to any maps).

That said, this version of the map addresses almost all of the issues I had with the older one – lack of geographical context, no indication of connecting services, no indication of the importance of Copenhagen Central station – so it’s definitely a huge improvement in my opinion.

I would agree that the dark purple colour used for the connecting “Lokalbaner” trains is far too visually strong, but I don’t really mind the light grey used for the Metro lines: it’s secondary, connecting information and shouldn’t be shown with the same importance as the main focus of the map, the S-Tog system. I’m also at a a loss to understand why the stations are white on the M1 line, but black on the M2: it really doesn’t seem necessary to me. 

And yes, it looks like a rethink will be needed once the Metro circle line opens… the centre of the city is going to need a lot more room. However, there’s a lot of empty space (Sweden) to the right of the map, so it looks like the same square format could still be used.

Our rating: A big improvement over the previous iteration. Four stars.

4 Stars!

Source: DSB website (PDF download) 

Historical Map: Frankfurt S- and U-Bahn Map, 1982

Here’s a great map that shows the rapid transit of Frankfurt am Main in Germany at an interesting point in its development.

The Citytunnel that carried lines S1 through S6 under the central part of the city had opened just four years prior to this, and the bridge over the Main that carried the new S14 and S15 lines was constructed in 1980. The year after this map was produced, the Citytunnel was extended from Hauptwache to Konstablerwache, transforming it from a small station that only served the U4 and U5 lines to the second-busiest station in the network.

Also of interest is the strong divide visible in the network north and south of the Main river. Only one coloured S-Bahn route (the S15) makes it south of the river, and then only just. The rest of the routes that service the south are all shown in black, and all depart from the mainline platforms at the Hauptbahnhof. In effect, they’re really regional trains, despite their “S” numbering, and actually appear to be indicated as such in modern maps of the network.

The map itself is a great example of nice, clean, 1980s German transit map design, apart from the oddly large and out-of-place asterisk used to mark short-turn stations.

Our rating: Good-looking map of a system that was expanding rapidly at the time. Three-and-a-half stars!

3.5 Stars

Source: Dennis Brumm/Flickr

Submission — Unofficial Map: Intercity and Commuter Rail of North America’s East Coast by Edward Powell
Submitted by Isaac Fischer, who says:
Here’s a neat map I found online that shows the entire American east coast, as well as southeastern Canada. It shows both commuter and intercity rail lines. As far as I can tell, it seems fairly accurate, and could definitely be useful.
——
Transit Maps says:
While there’s more than a passing resemblance to my own Amtrak Passenger Rail map here — both in the general aesthetics of the map and in the circle/line device used to indicate whether trains call at a station or not — this map adds another whole level of detail by adding commuter rail services (and eastern Canada!) to the mix.
Note that the map shows intercity and commuter rail only, meaning that in New York, for example, the LIRR and Metro-North lines are shown, but not the subway. For a map of this scale (the entire eastern seaboard), that seems like a wise choice.
The layout of the map is great: nice and clean, very diagrammatic but still mindful of the “lay of the land”. The use of a single, distinctive colour for each agency also works really well — Amtrak’s distinctive teal blue and purple for the MBTA commuter rail are especially effective.
However, I find the typography less inspiring, with labels at a lot of different angles combined with some fairly lacklustre type layout for the different agency legends.
Edward also could have proofed his work a little better (although it’s definitely difficult to do a project this size, as I well know!). Even a cursory look at the map revealed quite a few errors, including labelling all the commuter rail stations in Florida as “VIA”, rather than “TRI” for Tri-Rail. Lake Worth station is also included twice, at the expense of Boynton Beach. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, a duplicate Chestnut Hill East station strangely serves as the terminus for the Chester Hill West line. And so on…
Our rating: great diagrammatic layout (although too huge to ever realistically be reproduced as a poster), but let down a bit by some average type treatment. Still a lot of detail to savour and enjoy, though! Three stars.

Source: Edward’s DeviantArt account Submission — Unofficial Map: Intercity and Commuter Rail of North America’s East Coast by Edward Powell
Submitted by Isaac Fischer, who says:
Here’s a neat map I found online that shows the entire American east coast, as well as southeastern Canada. It shows both commuter and intercity rail lines. As far as I can tell, it seems fairly accurate, and could definitely be useful.
——
Transit Maps says:
While there’s more than a passing resemblance to my own Amtrak Passenger Rail map here — both in the general aesthetics of the map and in the circle/line device used to indicate whether trains call at a station or not — this map adds another whole level of detail by adding commuter rail services (and eastern Canada!) to the mix.
Note that the map shows intercity and commuter rail only, meaning that in New York, for example, the LIRR and Metro-North lines are shown, but not the subway. For a map of this scale (the entire eastern seaboard), that seems like a wise choice.
The layout of the map is great: nice and clean, very diagrammatic but still mindful of the “lay of the land”. The use of a single, distinctive colour for each agency also works really well — Amtrak’s distinctive teal blue and purple for the MBTA commuter rail are especially effective.
However, I find the typography less inspiring, with labels at a lot of different angles combined with some fairly lacklustre type layout for the different agency legends.
Edward also could have proofed his work a little better (although it’s definitely difficult to do a project this size, as I well know!). Even a cursory look at the map revealed quite a few errors, including labelling all the commuter rail stations in Florida as “VIA”, rather than “TRI” for Tri-Rail. Lake Worth station is also included twice, at the expense of Boynton Beach. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, a duplicate Chestnut Hill East station strangely serves as the terminus for the Chester Hill West line. And so on…
Our rating: great diagrammatic layout (although too huge to ever realistically be reproduced as a poster), but let down a bit by some average type treatment. Still a lot of detail to savour and enjoy, though! Three stars.

Source: Edward’s DeviantArt account Submission — Unofficial Map: Intercity and Commuter Rail of North America’s East Coast by Edward Powell
Submitted by Isaac Fischer, who says:
Here’s a neat map I found online that shows the entire American east coast, as well as southeastern Canada. It shows both commuter and intercity rail lines. As far as I can tell, it seems fairly accurate, and could definitely be useful.
——
Transit Maps says:
While there’s more than a passing resemblance to my own Amtrak Passenger Rail map here — both in the general aesthetics of the map and in the circle/line device used to indicate whether trains call at a station or not — this map adds another whole level of detail by adding commuter rail services (and eastern Canada!) to the mix.
Note that the map shows intercity and commuter rail only, meaning that in New York, for example, the LIRR and Metro-North lines are shown, but not the subway. For a map of this scale (the entire eastern seaboard), that seems like a wise choice.
The layout of the map is great: nice and clean, very diagrammatic but still mindful of the “lay of the land”. The use of a single, distinctive colour for each agency also works really well — Amtrak’s distinctive teal blue and purple for the MBTA commuter rail are especially effective.
However, I find the typography less inspiring, with labels at a lot of different angles combined with some fairly lacklustre type layout for the different agency legends.
Edward also could have proofed his work a little better (although it’s definitely difficult to do a project this size, as I well know!). Even a cursory look at the map revealed quite a few errors, including labelling all the commuter rail stations in Florida as “VIA”, rather than “TRI” for Tri-Rail. Lake Worth station is also included twice, at the expense of Boynton Beach. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, a duplicate Chestnut Hill East station strangely serves as the terminus for the Chester Hill West line. And so on…
Our rating: great diagrammatic layout (although too huge to ever realistically be reproduced as a poster), but let down a bit by some average type treatment. Still a lot of detail to savour and enjoy, though! Three stars.

Source: Edward’s DeviantArt account Submission — Unofficial Map: Intercity and Commuter Rail of North America’s East Coast by Edward Powell
Submitted by Isaac Fischer, who says:
Here’s a neat map I found online that shows the entire American east coast, as well as southeastern Canada. It shows both commuter and intercity rail lines. As far as I can tell, it seems fairly accurate, and could definitely be useful.
——
Transit Maps says:
While there’s more than a passing resemblance to my own Amtrak Passenger Rail map here — both in the general aesthetics of the map and in the circle/line device used to indicate whether trains call at a station or not — this map adds another whole level of detail by adding commuter rail services (and eastern Canada!) to the mix.
Note that the map shows intercity and commuter rail only, meaning that in New York, for example, the LIRR and Metro-North lines are shown, but not the subway. For a map of this scale (the entire eastern seaboard), that seems like a wise choice.
The layout of the map is great: nice and clean, very diagrammatic but still mindful of the “lay of the land”. The use of a single, distinctive colour for each agency also works really well — Amtrak’s distinctive teal blue and purple for the MBTA commuter rail are especially effective.
However, I find the typography less inspiring, with labels at a lot of different angles combined with some fairly lacklustre type layout for the different agency legends.
Edward also could have proofed his work a little better (although it’s definitely difficult to do a project this size, as I well know!). Even a cursory look at the map revealed quite a few errors, including labelling all the commuter rail stations in Florida as “VIA”, rather than “TRI” for Tri-Rail. Lake Worth station is also included twice, at the expense of Boynton Beach. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, a duplicate Chestnut Hill East station strangely serves as the terminus for the Chester Hill West line. And so on…
Our rating: great diagrammatic layout (although too huge to ever realistically be reproduced as a poster), but let down a bit by some average type treatment. Still a lot of detail to savour and enjoy, though! Three stars.

Source: Edward’s DeviantArt account Submission — Unofficial Map: Intercity and Commuter Rail of North America’s East Coast by Edward Powell
Submitted by Isaac Fischer, who says:
Here’s a neat map I found online that shows the entire American east coast, as well as southeastern Canada. It shows both commuter and intercity rail lines. As far as I can tell, it seems fairly accurate, and could definitely be useful.
——
Transit Maps says:
While there’s more than a passing resemblance to my own Amtrak Passenger Rail map here — both in the general aesthetics of the map and in the circle/line device used to indicate whether trains call at a station or not — this map adds another whole level of detail by adding commuter rail services (and eastern Canada!) to the mix.
Note that the map shows intercity and commuter rail only, meaning that in New York, for example, the LIRR and Metro-North lines are shown, but not the subway. For a map of this scale (the entire eastern seaboard), that seems like a wise choice.
The layout of the map is great: nice and clean, very diagrammatic but still mindful of the “lay of the land”. The use of a single, distinctive colour for each agency also works really well — Amtrak’s distinctive teal blue and purple for the MBTA commuter rail are especially effective.
However, I find the typography less inspiring, with labels at a lot of different angles combined with some fairly lacklustre type layout for the different agency legends.
Edward also could have proofed his work a little better (although it’s definitely difficult to do a project this size, as I well know!). Even a cursory look at the map revealed quite a few errors, including labelling all the commuter rail stations in Florida as “VIA”, rather than “TRI” for Tri-Rail. Lake Worth station is also included twice, at the expense of Boynton Beach. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, a duplicate Chestnut Hill East station strangely serves as the terminus for the Chester Hill West line. And so on…
Our rating: great diagrammatic layout (although too huge to ever realistically be reproduced as a poster), but let down a bit by some average type treatment. Still a lot of detail to savour and enjoy, though! Three stars.

Source: Edward’s DeviantArt account

Submission — Unofficial Map: Intercity and Commuter Rail of North America’s East Coast by Edward Powell

Submitted by Isaac Fischer, who says:

Here’s a neat map I found online that shows the entire American east coast, as well as southeastern Canada. It shows both commuter and intercity rail lines. As far as I can tell, it seems fairly accurate, and could definitely be useful.

——

Transit Maps says:

While there’s more than a passing resemblance to my own Amtrak Passenger Rail map here — both in the general aesthetics of the map and in the circle/line device used to indicate whether trains call at a station or not — this map adds another whole level of detail by adding commuter rail services (and eastern Canada!) to the mix.

Note that the map shows intercity and commuter rail only, meaning that in New York, for example, the LIRR and Metro-North lines are shown, but not the subway. For a map of this scale (the entire eastern seaboard), that seems like a wise choice.

The layout of the map is great: nice and clean, very diagrammatic but still mindful of the “lay of the land”. The use of a single, distinctive colour for each agency also works really well — Amtrak’s distinctive teal blue and purple for the MBTA commuter rail are especially effective.

However, I find the typography less inspiring, with labels at a lot of different angles combined with some fairly lacklustre type layout for the different agency legends.

Edward also could have proofed his work a little better (although it’s definitely difficult to do a project this size, as I well know!). Even a cursory look at the map revealed quite a few errors, including labelling all the commuter rail stations in Florida as “VIA”, rather than “TRI” for Tri-Rail. Lake Worth station is also included twice, at the expense of Boynton Beach. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, a duplicate Chestnut Hill East station strangely serves as the terminus for the Chester Hill West line. And so on…

Our rating: great diagrammatic layout (although too huge to ever realistically be reproduced as a poster), but let down a bit by some average type treatment. Still a lot of detail to savour and enjoy, though! Three stars.

3 Stars

Source: Edward’s DeviantArt account

Submission - Historical Map: MARTA Rail System, 1984

Submitted by Chris Bastian. The map is almost identical to the one shown in this photo submitted by Matt Johnson a couple of years ago, but with the “Under Construction/Design” dots for the extremities of the North/South line clearly visible.

Submission - Unofficial Map: Park and Ride Commuter Bus, Northern New Mexico by Isaac Fischer
Isaac submitted this in two parts, which I’ve combined into one post here. 
Of the first image, Isaac says:

This is the map that New Mexico Park and Ride provides in their system timetable; it’s probably the worst designed transit map I’ve ever seen. Not only is the design quality abhorrent, but it doesn’t even show the routes as even REMOTELY geographically accurate, and fails to include about two-thirds of the stops. Why they felt it necessary to make their map in this way is beyond me.

The second image is Isaac’s quite lovely redesign of the system as a proper transit map. He’s also made a future fantasy map in the same style, but let’s compare apples with apples for now.
First off, Isaac’s appraisal of the map from the official timetable is spot on. It’s an absolute disgrace, and has instantly found a place in the Transit Maps Hall of Shame. I really don’t need to describe what’s wrong with it, because it’s pretty darn obvious. I particularly like the way that the Purple Line extends to Albuquerque, but the Turquoise Line – which also goes there – is drawn completely separately, not joining on to the top part of the map at all.
Isaac’s map, by comparison, is quite excellent. There are a few minor things that could be tweaked, but in general, this is lovely, clean design that makes the network look easy and efficient to use. I particularly like the nice, wide, sweeping curves that the routes make when they change direction: the big arc that the Turquoise Line makes as it comes into Albuquerque is quite delightful.
I’m not entirely sure about the use of Gill Sans as the main labelling type. While it’s a classic sans serif typeface, I always feel that the x-height is a little small for the best legibility. Here, that failing is especially noticeable in the smaller “subtitle” labels.
I probably would have made the shade used for the Purple Line a little darker to provide better contrast with the adjacent Blue Line through Los Alamos: at the moment, they sort of blur into each other as their colour intensity is very similar. Overall, I find the colours very pleasing, with a nice New Mexican desert feel to the palette, but these two colours could be adjusted a bit for better balance between them.
A bigger problem: using the same line thickness to denote peak hour Purple and Blue Line bus route extensions and the RailRunner commuter rail service between Belen and Santa Fe. Rail is a different transit mode to bus and needs to be differentiated visually from it. 
Finally, a letter line designation – “B” for Blue, “R” for Red”, etc. – for each route could assist colour-blind users. There’s quite a bit of empty space, so adding a couple of markers at each terminus station shouldn’t be too difficult.
Our rating: The official map obviously gets a big, fat, ZERO.

Isaac’s is far superior and really very promising work. Three stars.
Submission - Unofficial Map: Park and Ride Commuter Bus, Northern New Mexico by Isaac Fischer
Isaac submitted this in two parts, which I’ve combined into one post here. 
Of the first image, Isaac says:

This is the map that New Mexico Park and Ride provides in their system timetable; it’s probably the worst designed transit map I’ve ever seen. Not only is the design quality abhorrent, but it doesn’t even show the routes as even REMOTELY geographically accurate, and fails to include about two-thirds of the stops. Why they felt it necessary to make their map in this way is beyond me.

The second image is Isaac’s quite lovely redesign of the system as a proper transit map. He’s also made a future fantasy map in the same style, but let’s compare apples with apples for now.
First off, Isaac’s appraisal of the map from the official timetable is spot on. It’s an absolute disgrace, and has instantly found a place in the Transit Maps Hall of Shame. I really don’t need to describe what’s wrong with it, because it’s pretty darn obvious. I particularly like the way that the Purple Line extends to Albuquerque, but the Turquoise Line – which also goes there – is drawn completely separately, not joining on to the top part of the map at all.
Isaac’s map, by comparison, is quite excellent. There are a few minor things that could be tweaked, but in general, this is lovely, clean design that makes the network look easy and efficient to use. I particularly like the nice, wide, sweeping curves that the routes make when they change direction: the big arc that the Turquoise Line makes as it comes into Albuquerque is quite delightful.
I’m not entirely sure about the use of Gill Sans as the main labelling type. While it’s a classic sans serif typeface, I always feel that the x-height is a little small for the best legibility. Here, that failing is especially noticeable in the smaller “subtitle” labels.
I probably would have made the shade used for the Purple Line a little darker to provide better contrast with the adjacent Blue Line through Los Alamos: at the moment, they sort of blur into each other as their colour intensity is very similar. Overall, I find the colours very pleasing, with a nice New Mexican desert feel to the palette, but these two colours could be adjusted a bit for better balance between them.
A bigger problem: using the same line thickness to denote peak hour Purple and Blue Line bus route extensions and the RailRunner commuter rail service between Belen and Santa Fe. Rail is a different transit mode to bus and needs to be differentiated visually from it. 
Finally, a letter line designation – “B” for Blue, “R” for Red”, etc. – for each route could assist colour-blind users. There’s quite a bit of empty space, so adding a couple of markers at each terminus station shouldn’t be too difficult.
Our rating: The official map obviously gets a big, fat, ZERO.

Isaac’s is far superior and really very promising work. Three stars.

Submission - Unofficial Map: Park and Ride Commuter Bus, Northern New Mexico by Isaac Fischer

Isaac submitted this in two parts, which I’ve combined into one post here. 

Of the first image, Isaac says:

This is the map that New Mexico Park and Ride provides in their system timetable; it’s probably the worst designed transit map I’ve ever seen. Not only is the design quality abhorrent, but it doesn’t even show the routes as even REMOTELY geographically accurate, and fails to include about two-thirds of the stops. Why they felt it necessary to make their map in this way is beyond me.

The second image is Isaac’s quite lovely redesign of the system as a proper transit map. He’s also made a future fantasy map in the same style, but let’s compare apples with apples for now.

First off, Isaac’s appraisal of the map from the official timetable is spot on. It’s an absolute disgrace, and has instantly found a place in the Transit Maps Hall of Shame. I really don’t need to describe what’s wrong with it, because it’s pretty darn obvious. I particularly like the way that the Purple Line extends to Albuquerque, but the Turquoise Line – which also goes there – is drawn completely separately, not joining on to the top part of the map at all.

Isaac’s map, by comparison, is quite excellent. There are a few minor things that could be tweaked, but in general, this is lovely, clean design that makes the network look easy and efficient to use. I particularly like the nice, wide, sweeping curves that the routes make when they change direction: the big arc that the Turquoise Line makes as it comes into Albuquerque is quite delightful.

I’m not entirely sure about the use of Gill Sans as the main labelling type. While it’s a classic sans serif typeface, I always feel that the x-height is a little small for the best legibility. Here, that failing is especially noticeable in the smaller “subtitle” labels.

I probably would have made the shade used for the Purple Line a little darker to provide better contrast with the adjacent Blue Line through Los Alamos: at the moment, they sort of blur into each other as their colour intensity is very similar. Overall, I find the colours very pleasing, with a nice New Mexican desert feel to the palette, but these two colours could be adjusted a bit for better balance between them.

A bigger problem: using the same line thickness to denote peak hour Purple and Blue Line bus route extensions and the RailRunner commuter rail service between Belen and Santa Fe. Rail is a different transit mode to bus and needs to be differentiated visually from it. 

Finally, a letter line designation – “B” for Blue, “R” for Red”, etc. – for each route could assist colour-blind users. There’s quite a bit of empty space, so adding a couple of markers at each terminus station shouldn’t be too difficult.

Our rating: The official map obviously gets a big, fat, ZERO.

Nothing!

Isaac’s is far superior and really very promising work. Three stars.

3 Stars

Official Map: Southeastern Rail Network, England

Southeastern’s website contains the following blurb: “Our network covers London, Kent and parts of East Sussex. With 179 stations and over 1000 miles of track, we operate one of the busiest networks in the country. We also run the UK’s only high speed trains.”

They should really add: “We also have a network map that makes it almost impossible to work out where our trains actually go.” I mean, what is actually going on here? Leaving out the networks of connecting rail companies, there are two main Southeastern networks – the magenta Metro routes (London and surrounds) and the lime green mainline routes that extend out into Kent and East Sussex – but that’s about as much as this map really tells you.

You could probably assume that most Metro services start at one of the four London terminus stations shown, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess. If I get on at Victoria, where can I actually go? What happens at the apparent Y-junctions east of Barnehurst and Slade Green? Which way do trains go and could they actually loop all the way back to London? Nothing here tells me otherwise, so that’s an assumption that could be made by a user unfamiliar with the system.

Do the mainline trains start in London as well, or do I have to catch a Metro train out to, say, Sevenoaks and change trains there? The lime green routes are only shown outside London’s perimeter, after all.

It’s all just horribly ambiguous and unclear. It’s only after poking around on the Southeastern website that I found an alternate “lines of route” interactive map that makes some sense of things. There are actually six Metro routes and five mainline routes, four of which originate from London. The fifth – the Medway Valley line – runs from Tonbridge to Strood. Try working that out from the map.

Our rating: A prime example of style over substance. The map looks cool and all, but it doesn’t actually help a user plan a trip at all. Eleven routes isn’t that many: show them all from end to end so that people can easily determine where to get on a train, where to most efficiently interchange with other services and where they can get off. It’s really not that hard, people. One star.

1 Star

Source: Southeastern Rail website

Official Map: South East Queensland Train Network

Requested by quite a few readers, this is an new version of this map that I reviewed back in March 2012. Unlike that previous map, this one does not show Brisbane’s bus lane network, concentrating solely on the rail system. In my eyes, this is a wise move, as the scale of the map (it’s some 240km – or 150 miles – from Nerang on the Gold Coast at the bottom of the map to Gympie at the top!) is really too great to allow a peaceful co-existence between the two networks.

As a result, the map has been simplified a lot and has much better coherence in general. The central part of the map, in particular, is much easier to follow. There’s also been an interesting operational change: the Cleveland line used to be indicated in purple and run through downtown and become the Doomben Line, but now it’s blue and interlines with the Shorncliffe Line instead.

While the routes are drawn better than the previous map, this version still has some of its failings: small, difficult to make out icons being the most obvious one. 23 separate fare zones seems to be bordering on the ridiculous, but I’m not convinced a zone number next to every station is the best way to indicate them in any case.

The newly drawn background that the map is placed on is – for me at least – way too detailed. Look at the myriad little islands shown off the coast at the end of the Cleveland Line, or the detailed twists and turns of the Brisbane River to the east of Indooroopilly. On a diagrammatic map like this, this is fussy and unnecessary: like the route lines themselves, keep the geography simple.

As a side note, this map was designed by Sydney company Netzplan, who were also responsible for the previous Sydney CityRail map (Sept. 2012, 3.5 stars).

Our rating: Six steps forward, five-and-a-half back. Ever so slightly better than what came before, but not enough to lift it up half a star. Still a three.

3 Stars

Source: Official Translink website