Submission: Transportation in the Backwaters of Kerala, India

Submitted by Jim McNeill, who says:

Kerala in southern India is famed for its backwaters, a popular holiday destination for people to cruise in rented houseboats. I was amazed to see a transit map of the area, and not a bad one at that. I was impressed at the attempt to show road, train, boat and air all on the same map. Granted it’s not perfect, the ferry crossings become maze like in the centre and there are some awkward angles in the south, but overall I was impressed.


Transit Maps says:

It’s not the world’s most beautiful transit map, but I’m as impressed as Jim by the map’s intent: one map showing all the transportation options available in the Backwaters of Kerala — a huge area covered by lakes, lagoons, rivers and canals, sometimes compared to the Mississippi Bayous.

One thing the map doesn’t really do is give an idea of the scale of the area shown: it’s around 140km (86 miles) by road from Kollam at the bottom of the map to Kochi near the top. It’s only when you read the notes on the map and see that a ferry trip from Kollam to Allappuzha (not even as far as Kochi) will take seven hours to complete that you start to get an idea of what we’re dealing with here. Some context in the form of the large lakes that the canals join together would be helpful in this regard. 

I’d also agree that the maze-like representation of the ferry routes in the middle isn’t very helpful, although it seems that Allappuzha is the main hub and ferries from elsewhere all end up there eventually. Another thing to note is that India has officially-designated National Waterways, much like National Highways — the main water route through this area is National Waterway 3, and is clearly marked as such on the map.

Our rating: Not beautiful, and not really that great for ferry route-finding. But in the end, it’s quite a nice little overview of transportation in the Kerala region as a whole. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

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.

3 Stars

(Source: Official Southern Vectis website)

High-Resolution Scan of 1988 Amsterdam Transit Map!

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my readers?

I posted about this map last Monday, praising its visual clarity, but also lamenting the fact that I didn’t have a higher resolution version of it to really savour the details.

Almost immediately, I got a submission from Alain Lemaire, who generously sent me full high-resolution scans of the whole map from his personal collection. He provided me with four separate scans, one for each quadrant of the map (which is obviously too big to scan in one piece), which I have simply combined them into one big file (4325 × 4653px, 6MB) in Photoshop.

Tumblr’s maximum image size is way too small for a detailed map like this, so I’m hosting it over on my personal website. Click the image above or here to go and view/download it.

Alain has this to say about the map:

In my opinion, this map is a diagrammatic beauty, but pretty much rendered useless outside the city center because of the lack of bus stop labels and a geographic backdrop. Might have been the reason why GVB decided to drop this beauty and put the current – rather bland but more practical – design in place which does not feature any stop labels at all but does have a clear geographic backdrop. That way at least you do have a reference point for using the map. Maybe Hans van der Kooi could tell you more about the history and eventual decommissioning of this map.

As far as the colour coding goes, Van der Kooi used colour and line width to show which lines go where: thick red for all tram and thin red for all bus lines to the central station and main transit hub in Amsterdam, thick green for trams on the inner ring route along the city center, thick yellow for ‘other’ tram routes and thin yellow, green, blue and purple for all other bus routes. It seems to me he used yellow for most lines terminating at Sloterdijk station, which served as a second transit hub in the late 1980s. All regional bus lines are shown in black and white. For comparison: the current official map uses colour only to distinguish between tram, bus, peak bus and regional bus. Not of much use if you want to easily determine where your line is heading.

(Source: Alain Lemaire via email)

Submission - Historical Map: Public Transit in Amsterdam, 1988 by Hans van der Kooi

Submitted by the designer of the map, Hans van der Kooi, who says:

As a result of the popularity of the hand-out map for trams (June 2013, 4.5 stars) in Amsterdam, we designed a larger scale map, used on the tram and bus stops in Amsterdam, including the line of the buses as well. Designed and used in 1988.


Transit Maps says:

An absolute pleasure to have this map submitted by the original designer! While the image size is a little small to make out the fine detail, it’s obvious that this map builds on and continues the good work of the tram network map that I’ve featured previously. Again, the dodecalinear layout suits Amsterdam’s underlying structure almost perfectly, and the way that the thickness of the tram route lines instantly denotes service frequency is quite superb.

Buses are shown with thinner lines and (what looks like) lighter colours. Enough geographical information – parks, bodies of water, major roads, etc. – is included to orient users and make the bus routes useful to use.

The Metro is shown with a dashed blue line: again, the route line doubles in thickness when the two separate lines from Gaasperpas and Gein merge together in the south-eastern corner of the map. National rail services are shown as a dashed black and white line, the way they often are on Dutch transit maps. Note that even in this small image, it’s still very easy to distinguish between the different modes of transit shown – definitely something to aspire to!

Our rating: The image is a little too small to give this a proper rating, but even at a distance, the clarity of the informational design is something to behold.

(Source: 8-13 website via Hans van der Kooi)

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.

Historical Map: Aerial View of the Puget Sound Area, Washington, c. 1940

An old postcard showing a colorised aerial photo of Seattle and the Puget Sound. Points of interest and the ferry routes of the era (pre-Washington State Ferries, which only commenced service in 1951) have then been added to the image.

It’s these ferry routes which allow us to date this charming postcard to somewhere between 1935 and 1942. The little Fletcher Bay to Brownsville ferry route (centre left on the photo) only operated between 1924 and 1942, while the Colman Dock (Seattle) to Manchester route only ran after 1935, when the old eastern terminus dock at Alki Point washed out.

(Source: alanp_photo/Flickr)

Submission - Offical Map: Water Transport Routes, St. Petersburg, Russia

Submitted by nelequetan.

Here’s a very pleasant map that shows the “Akvabusy” water transportation routes in St. Petersburg, Russia, which were introduced only a few years ago in 2010. The service only runs from the end of May until October each year as the city’s rivers and canals all freeze over in winter. The fleet — as shown at the bottom of the map — consists of everything from small 12-seat water taxis all the way up to 120-seat hydrofoils that can reach speeds of 65km/h.

The map itself is very clearly laid out and makes good use of 30/60 degree angles to represent the islands and canals of the city. This does make the one really odd angle — on the blue Central Line to the east of the Summer Garden stop — stand out like a sore thumb, however. I’m also not sure that the little “flick” in the red Kurortnaya line as it nears Kronstadt (in the map’s inset) is really necessary.

The map also has other useful information: the distance to nearby Metro stations is marked where appropriate (although 1,100 metres — over a kilometre! — is hardly a “short walk”), as are the names of the city’s famous bridges, both of which are great for general orientation and getting around.

My one main problem with this map is that the type is tiny and very hard to read. All the iterations I’ve seen are online bitmap graphics with a maximum width of just 1000px or so. A lot of the type, especially the English subtitle labelling, is almost impossible to make out at that resolution.

Our rating: Looks good, contains useful information, but teeny-tiny type lets it down somewhat. Three stars.

3 Stars

(Source: Transport in St. Petersburg website. An almost identical version with only four routes can be found here.) 

From the Field — Official Map: Sydney Ferries Network

Greetings from beautiful, sunny Sydney, where I’m currently visiting family — my first time back home for six years. Of course, I can’t help but look around and see transit maps wherever I go, and here’s the one that shows the Harbour City’s extensive and under-rated ferry network.

Most notably, the map shows which wharf each ferry leaves from at Circular Quay, the main hub of the system. The importance of knowing this cannot be understated, so it’s nice to see it shown so clearly.

A little strangely, zone information is shown for the river services (west of Circular Quay), but not for the Harbour. A trip to Manly requires a MyFerry2 ticket, but that is not indicated here.

Aesthetically, the map follows pretty standard transit map rules, although there’s some weird angles on the Manly and Watsons Bay routes that detract from the look somewhat.

Our rating: competent-looking effort missing some important information. Two-and-a-half stars.

Official Map: Commuter Rail Strip Map, Lisbon, Portugal

A lovely above-door strip map from Portugal’s capital. By sacrificing geographical reality (only the Tagus River gives any sense of orientation), the three lines are able to be laid out for maximum clarity and legibility. The comprehensive legend has symbols for connections to the Metro, the private Fertagus commuter rail line to Setúbal, ferries, and buses. It even has a “camera” icon for stations with points of interest nearby, and a little “umbrella and beach towel” indicating stations with connections to the Atlantic Coast beaches.

If I had one complaint, it’s that the green oval indicating the centre of Lisbon looks a little overbearing and tacked-on compared to the simplicity of the rest of the diagram.

(Source: loose_grip_99/Flickr)

Submission — Official Map: Bus and Ferry Network of the Faroe Islands

Submitted by Helgi Waag, who says:

The entire bus and ferry system of the Faroe Islands. The online version is interactive. Hubs are in boxes and sea routes in blue.


The Faroe Islands — a remote island nation under Denmark’s sovereignty located about halfway between Norway and Iceland — isn’t necessarily somewhere you associate with a bustling and modern transportation network, but here it is!

This map shows the Bygdaleiðir, or “village buses”, which connect the cities and towns that are accessible to each other by road (including some that travel through undersea tunnels), and the all-important ferry routes between the islands. The Number 7 route shown on the map between the capital, Tórshavn, and the southern island of Suðuroy is a two-hour journey in good weather.

Not shown are the local buses — or Bussleiðin — in Tórshavn, which are operated by the city council, not the Strandfaraskip Landsins company. Interestingly, these buses are completely completely free of charge, an initiative introduced in 2007 to encourage people to use public transportation instead of driving their cars.

The map itself is a nicely stylised version of the archipelago, and information is presented nice and clearly. Nice bright route colours, too. My only complaint is that the interactive Flash version of the map on the website is the only version of the map available. Not all devices (especially mobile devices!) support Flash, so there should be an alternate image or PDF version easily available for those users.

Our rating: Nice work from an unexpected location. Three stars.

3 Stars

(Source: Official Strandfaraskip Landsins website)