Unofficial Map: MBTA Map Contest Entry by Michael Kvrivishvili
Here’s another entry for the MBTA’s map contest, sent to me by Michael Kvrivishvili, a graphic and interactive designer from Moscow.
Michael has chosen to show all of the services on his map that the MBTA does on their map — subway, BRT, commuter rail, key bus routes and ferries. He pulls it off pretty well, too, although the convoluted network of bus routes is always going to look a little busy.
Like Kerim, Michael’s map features a perfect diamond representing the downtown interchange stations, and he also manages to fit in all the Green Line stations.If it wasn’t for the little flip in the Red Line to Braintree, he’d also have a perfectly straight diagonal line across the map! Despite these similarities, the two maps are really quite different.
Much like the current Washington DC map, Michael has added badges to the end of each line that denotes that line’s name — ”OL” for Orange Line, and so on — an excellent aid for color-blind users of the system. He also adds the full name of the line in very small text within each line, which seems redundant and is also far too small to be of any real use.
For the most part, Michael’s handling of the commuter rail lines is well done: they’re obviously lower in the information hierarchy than the main subway lines, but still look attractive. Again, the ends of the commuter rail lines feature some lovely and unusual arrowheads — I love this sort of attention to detail. The one place the map is not as clear as it could be is at Readville station. The Fairmount Line terminates at this station, while trains on the Franklin Line stop, but trains on the Stoughton/Providence Line pass through without stopping. On Michael’s map. the Franklin Line looks like a continuation of the Fairmount Line (which isn’t named on the map), and there’s no visual indication that Stoughton/Providence trains don’t stop here.
There’s more usability problems with the Silver Line at Logan Airport. Michael shows all the stops, but he doesn’t show how the route loops around. From the information shown on the map, a reader might expect that once the bus reaches the end of the line at Terminal E, it reverses back along the line, stopping at the other terminals again along the way. A similar problem is evident with the end of the SL2 line at Design Center (also a loop in real life).
Interestingly, Michael has chosen to show non-accessible stations on the map, rather than accessible ones. This actually works quite well at cleaning up the central part of the map, where there are more accessible stations than non-accessible ones.
A few other thoughts: the legend at the bottom of the map is beautifully laid out; the subway to bus/commuter rail symbol is subtle but effective; and the bus routes are generally pretty well done. Also, the Silver Line makes a big capital “B” in the middle of the map!
Our rating: Really quite good. The few shortcomings are probably due to Michael’s unfamiliarity with the system and look like they could be easily fixed. Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Email from Michael, also on Flickr)
Historical Map: Alilaguna Gold Line, Venice, 2006
We’ve featured Venice’s public transportation ferry map previously (February 2012, 2.5 stars), but here’s an interesting photo of a map by Alilaguna, a privately-run ferry and water taxi service.
This map, dating back to 2006, shows only the Alilaguna Linea Oro (Gold Line), running from the airport to St. Mark’s Square. Interestingly, this express route no longer exists, leaving passengers to lake the slower, local Linea Blu to the heart of Venice instead.
The map has some interesting Vignelli-esque aesthetics, with the lagoon islands reduced to simplified, blocky shapes (as well as beige water!). The execution works well for Venice itself; less so towards the edges of the map. There’s too much fussy detail over on the left side of the map near Malcontenta, and the way the mainland is strangely truncated makes Mestre and the airport look like they’re also located on islands. Global warming, perhaps?
Production-wise, it’s obvious that this map has been created by simply deleting the other Alilaguna lines from a master map, which leads to the three “station” markers shown being extremely long for no apparent reason. The indeterminate angle the route line takes from the airport down towards Murano is also a little odd-looking, given the strong 45-degree design aesthetic of the map.
Our rating: Nice concept, huge potential to be visually striking — but a shame about the uneven execution. Two-and-a-half-stars.
Historical Map: Bay Area Connections Map, 1981
Submitted by Alex Jonlin, who says:
I saw this at the Fremont BART Station a couple weeks ago. It’s labeled (in tiny print at the top) “September 1981.” I have no idea how it ended up staying for so long, but it’s interesting to see how the transit system has changed since then. I also like the concept of depicting long-distance rail and long-distance buses just about the same - it shows people that the Bay Area’s transit network extends beyond where just the BART and Caltrain go.
Transit Maps says:
Another fine entry in the “hopelessly out-of-date map” genre — 31 years and still counting!
This really is one of my favourite categories of transit maps. So much so, that I’ve introduced a new tag just for them: out of date. This applies to maps that are still located at active stops or vehicles only — maps in transit museums or used as movie/TV show props don’t count. Anyone got any examples from their local transit system?
Unofficial Map: Transportation of Walt Disney World Resort, Florida
Here’s a seriously impressive piece of work by Arthur de Wolf that I came across while trawling Flickr. This map shows transportation options at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida - monorail, bus, water transportation, parking lot trams, even walking routes between transportation hubs. Walt Disney World Resort is the size of a small city and has a transportation system that puts many of them to shame. Bringing order and sense to this system is no easy feat, and I think that Arthur has done a fantastic-looking job (although I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the map’s contents).
Have we been there? No. Maybe when my son is old enough to appreciate it.
What we like: Beautifully executed map that obviously has a lot of research and thought behind it (despite Arthur’s statements regarding potential errors). Takes a system that’s as complex as many large cities, and creates order and simplicity out of it. The Mickey Mouse/London Underground Roundel mashup in the top right corner is hilarious.
What we don’t like: Could use a little more visual differentiation between the monorail and bus services. The “M” at stations is a little hard to find when you’re first scanning the map. Map is maybe a little too sterile for what is an enormous theme park.
Our rating: Fantastic work that shows a complex system with remarkable clarity. Four-and-a-half-stars! Be sure to click through to the image on Flickr where you can view it large!
Unofficial Map: Istanbul Rapid Transit, by Kerim Bayer
One of the things I love about running this blog is when amateur map designers send me their work for review. The quality of these maps is often amazing, and this one of Istanbul’s rapid transit network by Istanbul native Kerim Bayer is a fantastic example.
Design- and quality-wise, it far surpasses the official map (shown in the images above for comparative purposes), which is a bit of a shambles: weird angles, muddy colours, poorly drawn and a bit old-fashioned. By contrast, Kerim’s map is bright, clear and modern.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: It’s obvious a lot of thought and attention to detail has gone into this map, including what parts of Istanbul’s transit system actually constitute “rapid transit”. As a result, dedicated BRT bus routes are shown, but the city’s two short gondola cable cars are not.
The general layout of the map is very pleasing, with nice even spacing between stations and well thought-out interchanges between lines. I especially like the addition of walking distances between platforms to give an idea of how long a transfer might take.
The colours used throughout the map are bright and modern - the substitution of light blue for water instead of a heavy grey makes a huge difference to the mood of the map.
What we don’t like: Despite looking fantastic, there is one huge drawback with Kerim’s map: everything is just too small in comparison to the finished size of the map. The PDF Kerim sent me is around 41 inches wide, or just over a metre. This seems to me to be a realistic final size for an in-car map, or a map you might find at a train station. However, his station labels at that final size are set at a mere 12 points - far too small to be read at any distance, or on a moving train.
Similarly, I feel that the route lines themselves are a little thin and spindly at the map’s final size - especially for the “under construction” routes, which have a white stroke down the middle of the line, making them very visually weak at any distance. I’d also like to see a little more differentiation between the different modes of transit shown on the map: at the moment it’s a little hard to tell which lines are BRT as opposed to tram or light rail, for example.
Finally, Kerim’s map sacrifices some information shown on the official map, such as the location of park-and-ride stations. While it helps his map look cleaner, this is important information for commuters and should be considered for inclusion.
Our rating: A beautiful-looking map that suffers slightly because of real-world considerations, but still an amazing piece of work that shows great potential. Four stars.
(Source: via email from Kerim)
Official Map: Vancouver, BC Frequent Transit Network
Here’s a question I received from Tumblr user pw3n:
“TransLink (in Vancouver) just released their first official Frequent Transit Network map. A lot could be said about the design (in particular, the apparent lack of craftsmanship), but that’s not what I want to ask you about. The first thing I noticed was a lack of route numbers. At first I was annoyed. But then I thought: do I care what bus is coming by, as long as there’s a bus coming? Basically: is the corridor or the route more important? What are your thoughts on frequent transit maps?”
In general, I think showing service frequency on a map is a good thing and it’s something that’s not done enough by transit agencies. I feel that you can get away without showing frequency on a map that concentrates on one mode with a known service frequency - everyone expects trains to come frequently on the New York subway, for example - but it’s definitely needed on mixed-mode maps like this.
That said, I’m not sure that this FTN map is particularly useful for travellers. My problem is mainly with the bus corridors (as per pw3n’s initial thoughts): there’s no indication of which routes serve the corridors or where any buses actually go. As a transit user, I would say that’s the most important thing for a transit map to show: If I get on a bus here, can I go there? This map doesn’t show that information at all, and I actually feel that TransLink’s previous Transit Connections map does a much better job that this map as the bus routes shown are clearly labelled.
Another problem with this map is that it creates the idea that infrequent service (those routes which exist but don’t meet the criteria for inclusion on this map) equals no service. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak. I far prefer to see frequency information incorporated into a full system map, like the previously-reviewed and quite excellent Spokane Transit map.
One thing this map does do well is show gaps in the frequent service network, so it may actually be quite useful for future planning. But as a tool for travellers, I don’t think it’s actually that useful.
Source: TransLink Buzzer Blog)
Official Map: Vaporetto Routes of Venice, Italy
Requested by foxydwoww
Venice is one of those places that has to be experienced to fully appreciate it. Forever and inextricably tied to the ocean, Venice’s transit system has always been vaporetti and traghetti rather than buses and trains. You walk, or you get on a boat - there is no other way to get around. As shown in my photo above (taken on a misty morning at the Ferrovia wharf), there’s a certain sense of mystery and timelessness to Venice, but I feel this map fails to live up to that expectation.
Have we been there? Yes back in 2003. Cruising the Grand Canal on the No. 1 is awesome, as is heading out to Murano and Burano on the lagoon.
What we like: A comprehensive guide to waterborne transit services in Venice. Uses San Marco as its major landmark, as well as cleverly showing the bridges (also important landmarks and attractions) that cross the Grand Canal.
What we don’t like: Surprisingly hard to read - there’s a lot of routes, and following them around the twisty canals to the individual wharves is not easy. It’s sometimes also hard to make out which side of the canal a stop is on.Doesn’t show the locations where the traghetti - large passenger gondolas - cross the Grand Canal: an important passenger link (but admittedly mainly used only by locals).
Despite the nice design that the map is wrapped in (I love the “HelloVenezia” logo), the map itself is very bland, with a dull grey background and standard Helvetica text.
Our rating: A hugely wasted opportunity to make something as unique as the city of Venice itself. No sense of place or history. Two-and-a-half-stars.
(Source: Hello Venezia website)
Official Map: MBTA Rapid Transit/Key Bus Routes Map – Boston, Massachusetts
I haven’t really looked at the Boston MBTA map since I was there for a few days in the middle of 2008, but I certainly don’t remember it looking as bad as this. I’ve always been mildly annoyed by the fact that not all the stations on the surface street sections of the Green Line are labelled, but my overall impression back then was of a solid, well-designed map.
Just a few short years later, well-meaning but poorly thought-out additions have reduced the map to the horrible mess we see here. And the word “addition” reveals the real cause of this map’s problems: new services have simply been slapped on top of the earlier map when it actually needed a full redesign to solve the problems that these additions created.
If you strip the map down, you can see how these problems multiply with the addition of each new service. The subway lines by themselves actually make a nice, well-designed diagram. Then the commuter rail routes were added: these still fit within the framework fairly well. Then the Silver Line - by now, the designer is struggling to make things fit, resulting in an incomprehensible maze of directional arrows to the west of South Station. Finally, the “key bus routes” have to be shoehorned into a map that was never originally designed to show them, resulting in the routes weaving uncertainly all over the map. Oh, and did I mention the ferry routes and the airport shuttle buses?
Have we been there? Yes, although I only used the “T” a couple of times, and only in the downtown area.
What we like: Ambitious scope to show different transit modes. Unfortunately, looks very amateur compared to some of the maps currently coming out of Europe. I don’t have a problem with the commuter rail lines not being shown along their entire length - they head a long way out and this is a map of Boston, not Massachusetts or New England!
What we don’t like: This is going to be a long list…
I really dislike the knobby, multi-armed Transfer Stations - South Station and Forest Hills look incredibly messy, while Haymarket’s angled bus stop circle clearly shows that the designer simply ran out of room and cheated to fit the station name in. Even worse are the transfer stations rotated to a random, non-45-degree angle (also cheating) to allow them to connect to a bus service (see Hynes, Coolidge Corner and Harvard Ave on the Green Line for examples).
The Silver Line is one hot mess. It’s not a subway line (it’s actually BRT), but is shown as one. It’s made up of four separate routes (SL 1 and 2 run to the east of South Station, SL 4 and 5 run to the west – with no direct interchange between the two sets of routes), but it’s almost impossible to decipher this on the map. As noted before, the directional arrows on the SL4/5 routes don’t really help at all. Lots of stops on SL1 and SL2 simply aren’t shown at all - not even a dot! But the bit I hate the most is where SL1 loops around the Logan Airport Terminals - the connecting line joins on against the directional flow of the arrows: hideously counterintuitive and ugly.
The less said about the presentation of the bus routes, the better. Cramped and ugly. The way the curve of the 32 doesn’t nestle into the curve of the commuter rail line to the south-west of Forest Hills catches my eye (in a bad way) every time.
My final major complaint is the representation of Boston’s geography - on a diagrammatic map like this, I’m almost never in favour of “realistic” representations of shorelines and rivers, seeing as they have to be seriously distorted to fit around the diagram anyway! I believe they should also be represented in a simplified form to add to the clarity of the map. Here, we have the seemingly farcical image of the F2 ferry passing over what looks like a spit of land to reach its destination in Quincy (it’s actually going under a bridge, but this map doesn’t draw that distinction at all).
Our rating: Well meaning, but seriously flawed. Needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. With the addition of the Silver Line, the centre of the city needs far more space given to it, while the edges can afford to be compressed a bit to compensate (look how much room the Braintree leg of the Red Line has, for example). One-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official MBTA website)