Unofficial Map: Suburban Rail Network of Mumbai, India
Designed by two students — Jaikishan and Snehal — at Mumbai’s Industrial Design Centre under the supervision of Associate Professor Mandar Rane. While it looks like quite a traditional transit map, there’s a few innovations and design choices (of which some work, and some don’t) that make it interesting to study.
First off, this map is infinitely better than the official one, which is a bit of a mess however you look at it.
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of pseudo-geography behind a diagrammatic map, but I think this actually works rather nicely. The interesting textural treatment of the water is particularly nice.
I also think that the explicit labelling of slow and express (fast) routes is surprisingly effective and definitely leaves no confusion as to which is which. The “play” and “fast-forward” arrows for each service type are a cute touch, but also act as good visual contextual cues.
While naming the lines on the map is a good practice to assist colour-blind users, I think there’s a bit of overkill here for a map this simple. The Central and Western Lines are labelled no fewer than four times each — the one for the Western Line at the bottom left of the map is particularly egregious as the route lines have to take a little jog to the left to accommodate it!
The only part of the map that I would change completely if I had a chance is the grid system. While it’s laudable that the designers have attempted to come up with an new, easier way to locate stations on the map (and it’s very clearly explained in the legend of the map), I feel that the end result has way too much visual importance. The numbers that denote each square are large and visually distracting, and can’t be placed in a consistent location because the actual map (the important stuff!) gets in the way. The haphazard placement of these numbers combined with the checkerboard pattern also makes the map look more than a little like a board game, which probably wasn’t the intended result.
In my opinion, the traditional letter-number grid system — a system that almost all map users around the world are familiar with through years of exposure to it — would work much better here. The letters for the columns (A-D) and numbers for the rows (1-6) could be placed discreetly in the orange border around the map and the distracting numbers removed completely from the main map. If required, the smaller “Find Your Station” grid in the legend could spell out the full grid location within each square (In the example they use, Wadala Rd. station would be at B-4).
Apart from that, there’s just a few missing spaces between words to be fixed and consistency checks to be done — the map needs to use either “Rd.” or “Road” in station names, not both. Space limitations would seem to suggest that the former would be more appropriate here.
Our rating: A considered and well-measured approach to developing something beautiful, modern and usable, although some of the map’s innovations don’t quite work. Three stars.
Source: Professor Rane’s website. I definitely recommend clicking through, as there’s a lot of interesting background on the development of the map, including a Q&A with Jaikishan and Snehal, and images of concept maps that they worked on independently before combining their ideas into the final map. I’m quite partial to a couple of the maps that use 60/30-degree angles myself!
Unofficial Maps: Other Salt Lake City Rail Transit Maps
A selection of alternate maps for Salt Lake City that I’ve received as submissions or that I’ve found on the Internet. The first two maps — by thatlattesipper and scsj, respectively — were sent to me in the aftermath of Friday’s review of the UTA’s latest absymal effort, and must therefore have only had a few hours of work put into them.
Scsj’s map was actually produced by an online transit map generator in less than three hours and also includes the “MAX” bus rapid transit line. While it runs into problems because the stations from Meadowbrook to Courthouse run at a 45-degree angle instead of conforming to Salt Lake City’s street grid, the very fact that a free online tool can produce a more competent map in three hours than a sizeable transit agency can in six months is damning in the extreme.
The third map is by cranialdetritus and is possibly the nicest-looking of the bunch. The inclusion of the Free Fare Zone is a very welcome touch. Routes should be designated by their official numbers, however (701 = Blue Line, etc.).
The fourth is taken from Wikipedia’s page about the UTA, and is theonly map not to currently show the new streetcar line.. It’s not actually that great a map, but I would still venture that it’s better than the real thing.
The fifth map was featured a while back on Transit Maps (December 2012, 3.5 stars), and is also streets ahead of the official map.
So, that’s five completely unofficial maps that outshine the real thing, and I bet there’s more out there as well. Sad, really…
Official Map: Salt Lake City Rail Transit for Opening of New “S Line”
Submitted by the eagle-eyed Garrett Smith, who says:
I must say I am not overly impressed with UTA’s revision of their rail map—which will begin to be posted in trains once UTA’s first streetcar, the S Line, opens. Yes, it certainly is better than before. Removing addresses from the map did wonders for improving legibility. But that’s about it. Call me old fashioned, but shouldn’t the lines below the station names roughly correspond to the length of the word? And why doesn’t N. Temple Bridge/Guadalupe receive a callout box when it also is a transfer station involving TRAX, FrontRunner, and local bus service?
Transit Maps says:
And here we are: hardly worth the wait, really. Tiny baby steps have been taken by removing the street addresses of the stations, but almost all the previous faults are still present. The labelling of stations remains an awful, convoluted mess and the giant callout boxes at transfer stations are still completely unnecessary. Downtown is a disgrace, with eight stations crammed into the tiniest of spaces: so small that most of those stations have to have a smaller station dot to compensate. Meanwhile, the new “S Line” streetcar, which is only 2.1 miles long, stretches luxuriously off to the right side of the map, way larger in scale than it should ever be.
And your brand-new, awesome streetcar gets to be the “gray” line? How exciting.
This map needs to be crumpled up, thrown away and never used as a template again. Seriously, who at the UTA actually approves this? Who actually says, “Wow! That looks great! Let’s print some signs and put it on the website!”
Start from scratch. Abandon the pseudo-geographical layout that actually has no consistent scale. Take a diagrammatic approach and expand the downtown area (so we can read the station names!) while compressing the outlying ones. Make the FrontRunner follow a completely straight path from end to end — a compositional vertical axis for the rest of the map. Ditch the freakin’ terrible compass rose. Anything but this.
(Source: Official UTA website)
Great Big Transit Map: Barcelona Edition
Simply enormous map at the Estació de Barcelona-Sants, showing both the Metro and commuter rail networks. It’s made up of twenty-eight square screens, each of which looks pretty big in their own right!
Official Map: Tri-Rail Commuter Rail, Southern Florida
I’ve had a couple of requests to review this one, so here goes…
For me, this map is an excellent example of the overwhelming averageness of a lot of transit mapping here in the US. Yes, it does the job — you can work out how to get from here to there and where to make connections — but it’s just so completely bland and unmemorable.
Everything about the map seems to be completely generic, from the stock ESRI icons for airports and connecting services to the dull and tired Arial used for the labels. The beige background and thick, heavy black route line don’t help matters either. This is Florida here: how about some bright, sunny colours?
For me, the Tri-Rail logo itself suggests that the lovely blue in the central icon could be used as the colour for the main route line — the orange and green have already been used for the connecting Metrorail services, so why not continue with that colour theme and leverage the service’s branding a little more?
Speaking of the Tri-Rail logo, its placement in a white box within the blue header bar is awful — either reverse the logo out in white (if corporate standards allow) or put it on a light background. Similarly, the Interstate and U.S. Highway markers look odd when they’re contained in a white square.
A note regarding labelling: consistency is hugely important to produce an attractive map! Labels for the Metrorail services use all sorts of different sizes — “Douglas Road” is absolutely tiny compared to the other stations for no apparent reason. The names of the three counties that give Tri-Rail its “tri” are almost completely unreadable — light grey against a green/beige background and they also have a little offset drop shadow effect behind them that further obfuscates the text. Yes, this is subsidiary information, but it still needs to be readable.
On a more positive note, it’s nice to see that the map at least attempts to integrate services from different transit agencies, something I wish more maps that serve a large region would do.
Finally, examination of the PDF seems to suggest that this map was at least output from Microsoft Publisher: not a first-choice map/diagram design tool.
Our rating: Bland, dull and forgettable. Could easily be so much better and evocative of the area it serves. One-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official Tri-Rail website - PDF link)
Also see the similarly dull and unattractive Miami-Dade Metrorail map (Aug. 2012, 1 star). Florida doesn’t inspire great map design, apparently.
Here’s an animated GIF you can show to those people who say the new MBTA map looks “just like the old one”. The clarity of design is so much better, even at this reduced size.
Official Map: Gauteng Metrorail, South Africa
Submitted by scsj, who says:
Metrorail in Gauteng (Johannesburg/Pretoria/Soweto/Germiston), South Africa. I don’t know, I find this map monumentally confusing. There are way too many colors and none of the lines have names, there’s no scale or anything to indicate location other than station names, it’s so cramped, and it sacrifices too much geographic accuracy for the sake of the design - for example, the offshoot of the dark blue line between Johannesburg Park and Pretoria is actually west of the main part of the line, not east. And why is the spacing mostly uniform everywhere except the Centurion and Midrand Gautrain stations?
The interesting thing is that Gautrain is among the best, most user-friendly transit systems I’ve ever used. I haven’t used Metrorail in Gauteng, but I have used it in Cape Town, and the quality is much lower. Gautrain is aimed at upper and middle class suburbanites whereas Metrorail is aimed at the working class, who by and large commute in from the far-flung townships they were forced into under apartheid.
Transit Maps says:
It’s pretty hard to disagree with this summary: this really is a pretty dismal effort of a map. The most ridiculous part has to be the naming of all eleven route lines in the legend as just “MetroRail Line”, not as destinations or even route colours. Absolutely and astonishingly useless.
The other main problem is the lack of any semblance of geography or scale. This system is huge and sprawling: it covers an area around 150 km tall by 120 km wide (90 x 75 miles), but you’d never know it from this map. As an example, Nasrec station is less than 10 km away from Johannesburg Park Station, and over 60 km from the southernmost station, Vereeniging — yet here they seem almost equidistant. While I understand that this is a diagrammatic representation of the system, some concession to showing the distances a traveller can expect to cover needs to be made.
Colour choices are generally hideous as well: cyan interchange markers clash with almost every line they cross, and we also have retina-searing magenta and yellow “Business Express” markers just to make sure no colour feels left out.
Finally, absolutely every single station label is set at an angle — and in all four possible 45-degree orientations as well: Erik Spierkermann would have an absolute fit if he ever looked at this map.
Our rating: Technically, it’s actually drawn quite well — no errors, consistently drawn lines, no-nonsense sans serif typeface (some variant of DIN?) — but the end result still manages to be quite dire. 1.5 stars.
(Source: Official Metrorail website - PDF link)
This is an aerial view of surface public transport routes in Budapest, Hungary – the idea came from the work of Taylor Gibson posted on transitmaps.tumblr.com.
Following the general convention in Budapest, bus lines are blue, trams are yellow, trolleys are red, and suburban railways are shown in green. As for the direction of the image, the Danube flows approximately from the north (upper right corner) to the south (lower left corner). Elevation is shown with a vertical distortion factor of 2.0.
There are a few notable elements in the picture. First, there are three tram lines that go up the hills in the upper left corner – the middle one is actually a cog-wheel railway, now classified as a tram by BKK, the operator. Second, the two suburban railway lines going southward are not connected: there is about only 500 meter between the two, and while the connection has been planned for many years, there is no timeframe set for the completion. Third, notice that trolleybuses are only running on the Pest side of the city. While there used to be a line in Buda, it was destroyed in the second world war. New lines in Pest were opened in late forties and early fifities, then more were added in the 70’s and 80’s, mostly replacing old tram lines which ran in the narrow streets of Pest.
The extensive night bus system of the city is not shown in this image.
Nice work! The radial nature of transit here is immediately evident, and the lack of trolleybuses on the “Buda” side of the river is fascinating.
Historical Map: Boston Rapid Transit Map, early 1980s
Submitted by “Some Assembly Required” who says:
I’ve been enjoying your site for some time and recently remembered that I have an old MBTA system map in my basement. It came into my possession via a roommate over 20 years ago; I’m not sure how that person came to have it, but it probably wasn’t entirely legal. It’s a piece of metal (some sort of tin?) so I believe it was removed from a station.
Based on what is and isn’t on the map, I believe it dates to the early 1980s.
Transit Maps says:
You own this? JEALOUS.
(And your dating seems to be about right; definitely no later than
Future Map: Paris Métro, RER and Tram Expansion Plans to 2030
Once hemmed in by old city walls, then by the Boulevard Périphérique, the Paris Métro has rarely ventured outside the city proper into the suburbs. That is about to change with the ambitious “Le Grand Paris” plans shown here. Extensions of the existing Métro Lines 11 and 14 will take them far out into the Île-de-France, while new Lines 15, 16, 17 and 18 will encircle the region with orbital routes. Extensions to the RER E and a comprehensive network of regional trams will complement the system. All this is planned to be completed in just 17 years’ time, by 2030.