Official Map: Isometric JR West System Map
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so completely, madly and totally in love with a transit map as I am with this. A giant, sprawling, isometric representation of much of Japan showing JR Group railway lines. The map is produced by the JR West company, and its operating area is shown in full detail within the green area (apart from the heavily urbanised areas around Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, where — wisely — not all stations are shown). Connecting services and routes operated outside the JR West area are also shown, but in less detail — only major stations along the routes are indicated. Shinkansen lines are light blue, JR West main line routes are dark blue (main line routes outside their operating area match the company that operates in that area - red for JR Kyushu, for example), while urban routes seem to follow their established colour-coding.
As can be seen from the two detail images from the area around Osaka, there’s both an English and Japanese version of the map. The Japanese version is arguably more effective because of the in-built ability to set the text vertically, but the English version isn’t half bad either. I particularly like the way the line names have been set to conform to the isometric grid — a very nice design touch.
Our rating: I like to imagine that this is the world map from some incredible railroad-building computer game. 5 stars!
(Source: Official JR West website)
Submission - Unofficial Map: Portland, Oregon Rail Network by Taylor Gibson
When Taylor sent through his aerial photo map of Portland the other day, he also submitted this very interesting isometric map of the city’s rail network (MAX, WES and streetcar). Tyler is a self-proclaimed “total newbie at making transit maps”, but this is definitely a pretty solid effort.
Highly reminiscent of this isometric map of Stuttgart (Oct 2011, 5 stars), the 30-degree-angled route lines allow station labels to be set horizontally without clashing with each other, even in the congested downtown area. The only real problem area is the almost unavoidable mess created by the four separate “Pioneer Square” stations right in the middle of the map. I’ve noticed that these have been consolidated into one “mega-station” on TriMet’s new in-car maps, and that’s definitely a cleaner, more sensible approach to the problem in my eyes.
I also see a little influence from my own map of Portland’s rail system: both in the layout of the legend, and the fact that Taylor has decided to show the new MAX line to Milwaulkie as an extension of the Yellow Line, rather than the commonly expected “Orange Line”.
I do have a few minor criticisms: text in general is a little small and hard to read, although I can see how larger text would cause layout problems (perhaps a condensed typeface could solve this), and there are a couple of confusing label clashes: the parking symbol for Gateway TC is right on top of the station marker for Parkrose/Sumner TC, for example. It’s also a little sad to see the streetcar relegated to thin unlabelled lines, but the space limitations of the map almost demand this treatment.
Still, for a “newbie”, this is pretty darn awesome. Great work, Taylor!
Historical Map: Isometric S-Bahn Map, Stuttgart, 2007
After all this time running this blog, only now do I find out that the incredible isometric Stuttgart U- and S-Bahn map (October 2011, 5 stars) has an S-Bahn-only sibling?
If anything, this is actually even better than that map: fewer route lines leads to more graphical simplicity. Like that map, however, it’s since been replaced with something disappointingly normal.
Historical Map: Stuttgart VVS Map, circa 2000
Without a doubt, this has to be one of my favourite transit maps ever. As far as I know, this isometric approach is unique and it is staggeringly effective. Everything is beautifully labelled, and lovely icons highlight important sites like the zoo, museums and sports stadiums. Unfortunately, this stunning map has since been replaced by a far more conventional diagram - a great loss in my opinion.
Have we been there? I’ve changed trains at the Hauptbahnhof, but have never ventured into the city itself.
What we like: The clever three-dimensional representation of the Hauptbahnhof, complete with corner tower, does a lot to complete the illusion of dimensionality. The isometric layout is a clever way of allowing all the type to be set horizontally without hitting route lines. Subtly different line weights for the S-Bahn and U-Bahn work really well.
What we don’t like: The isometric effect is so effective and convincing that the one and only horizontal line - the R31 across the top of the diagram - looks strangely out of place.
Our rating: Undeniably brilliant. 5 stars.
(Source: Stuttgart City Information Site)