Historical Map: Opening of the Los Angeles Metro Red Line, January 30, 1993

A very simple map showing the first segment of Los Angeles’ Red Line on its opening in January 1993. The Blue Line (part of which is also shown on this map) had opened three years earlier.

The map is mainly notable for the “RTD” logo that belonged to the southern California Regional Transit District, the immediate ancestor of today’s Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA, or more commonly, just “Metro”). In fact, the LACMTA was formed just a few months after this map was produced.

Source: Striderv/Flickr

Photo: Old Rome–Pantano Railway Map, Italy

Submitted by Chris Bastian. An old, out-of-date wall map of the Rome–Pantano railway. Until 2008, the line ran from the Roma Termini station out to Pantano, a suburb to the east of Rome. Since then, the line has been cut back to Giardinetti (the station near the ring road shown on this map), as the eastern portion of the line is being converted into part of the new Metro Line 3.

Also of note is the depiction of island or side platforms on the map: always nice to know which side of the train to get off!

  1. Camera: Panasonic DMC-TS2
  2. Aperture: f/3.3
  3. Exposure: 1/30th
  4. Focal Length: 4mm
Submission – Official LYNX Light Rail Map, Charlotte, North Carolina
Man, this map sure manages to make depicting one line a lot of hard work. Despite the simple diagrammatic style, stations are still cramped together so close towards the top of the map that the labels have to be randomly placed on either side of the route line, rather than being spaced far enough apart to place them all neatly on one side. The map doesn’t give enough geographical context to justify this “accurate” placement of stations, so even spacing would work much better. If needed, stations in the city centre could be spaced closer together than the outlying Park-n-Ride stations, but the spacing for each type should be even.
Why is the “Blue Line” label all the way over by I-77? What happens when I-77 meets I-485? Apparently, they just end. South Boulevard has a label, but no road. The prominent north pointer is actually not a lot of use, as the diagram doesn’t really conform to reality anyway. In the real world, the line runs almost directly north-south from Woodlawn all the way down to the I-485/South Boulevard station, rather than NE-SW as indicated here. But that would get in the way of the legend, so we get what we get…
Our rating: Not horrendous, but a few little tweaks could make it so much nicer. Two stars.

Source: City of Charlotte LYNX web page

Submission – Official LYNX Light Rail Map, Charlotte, North Carolina

Man, this map sure manages to make depicting one line a lot of hard work. Despite the simple diagrammatic style, stations are still cramped together so close towards the top of the map that the labels have to be randomly placed on either side of the route line, rather than being spaced far enough apart to place them all neatly on one side. The map doesn’t give enough geographical context to justify this “accurate” placement of stations, so even spacing would work much better. If needed, stations in the city centre could be spaced closer together than the outlying Park-n-Ride stations, but the spacing for each type should be even.

Why is the “Blue Line” label all the way over by I-77? What happens when I-77 meets I-485? Apparently, they just end. South Boulevard has a label, but no road. The prominent north pointer is actually not a lot of use, as the diagram doesn’t really conform to reality anyway. In the real world, the line runs almost directly north-south from Woodlawn all the way down to the I-485/South Boulevard station, rather than NE-SW as indicated here. But that would get in the way of the legend, so we get what we get…

Our rating: Not horrendous, but a few little tweaks could make it so much nicer. Two stars.

2 Stars

Source: City of Charlotte LYNX web page

Fantasy Future Map: Sydney, Australia by Thomas Mudgway

Thomas, who is a ninth-grader (i.e., he’s just 14 or 15 years old), says:

Sydney, my home town, has around 4.7 million people and already has a commuter rail network, however, the city is growing, and the network doesn’t cover everything, so I have augmented the network in many places, as well as showing how it could grow into the currently undeveloped far south- and north-west (they are generally the places where the stations have no names, there simply aren’t currently any for them). It is show by the thick lines. Also represented by the thick lines is the long planned north-west rail link in light green/khaki. Additionally, the map shows bus rapid transitways and light rail in half thickness, some built, some planned, and some I propose. Finally, the map shows the intercity trains as far as the city limits in quarter thickness, as well as an extra express service from the planned Badgerys Creek Airport to the existing Kingsford-Smith airport and the city loop.

——

Transit Maps says:

Being a native Sydneysider myself, I can’t help but laugh at the sheer audacity of some of Thomas’ proposals for new lines. Yes, it’d be great if there was a rail line running up through the Northern Beaches (from the southern side of the harbour via The Spit, no less!), but the geography of the area means it’ll realistically never happen.

Pipe dreams aside, the map is really quite beautifully drawn, especially for someone so young. His dream system is extremely complex, but everything fits together nicely with a good information hierarchy and harmonious colours. He’s even indicated ferry routes, busways and the extended light rail system to produce a fully multi-modal vision, which is great to see.

This is very promising work from Thomas: keep it up!

Quick Redesign: Denver RTD Light Rail Isometric Map

Way back when, I posted a quick sketch of an concept Denver RTD light rail map that used 30-degree lines to give an isometric appearance to the map, based on the amazing Stuttgart U- and S-Bahn map, c. 2000. 

Now that I’ve finished with my “Highways of the USA" project, I’ve been able to find a few hours to turn that sketch into something a little more more finished. I didn’t want to spend too long on the map – doing it more as a light and fun "warm up" piece, rather than any serious finished article. So it’s a little rough around the edges, but works nicely as a proof of concept.

The interesting thing about an isometric map like this is that it’s actually easier to work with skewed and rotated rectangles for the line routes than the usual stroked paths: this is because the strokes won’t skew properly to give the required 30-degree end to a route line (an isometric map only uses angles that are 30 degrees above and below the horizontal).

While I feel that this treatment works well for the existing Denver rail system, further exploration revealed that it is utterly inappropriate for the near-future of all the FasTracks extensions. The I-225 line would take up way too much space with stations spaced too far apart if the isometric grid was adhered to, and the proliferation of commuter rail routes out of Union Station is almost impossible to convey with only a couple of viable angle options to work with. Any deviation away from the required 30-degree angles spoils the isometric illusion, but would almost certainly be necessary to fit some parts of the network together.

In short, a fun little design exercise that looks pretty nifty, but would be a dead end in the development of a “future-proof” map for Denver. 

Unofficial Map: Los Angeles Metro for the “Analogue Guide: Los Angeles”

Submitted by Stefan, who says:

Hi Cameron,

I thought I’d share the Los Angeles Metro map that we designed for the Analogue Guide Los Angeles.

We always include “alternative” transit maps in our guide books, such Eddie Jabbour’s KickMap or Mark Noad’s Tubemap. In Los Angeles, given the sheer lack of maps, we designed one in-house.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on it!

——

Transit Maps says:

Thanks for sharing, Stefan! This is quite a neat piece of work that would seem to suit your needs very well. The design definitely fits in with the clean, minimalist look of the guide book itself! I’m never too certain about using Futura Condensed on a transit map myself, but it seems to be doing a good job here.

While concentrating on the central/downtown part of the city is probably perfect for what you cover in the guide, I’d personally still like to see some indication of the final destinations of each line: either as arrows pointing off the edge of the map, or incorporated into the legend at the top left. I also would have identified the lines by name in the legend, as LA has that weird mix of colour-named and destination-named lines (Expo and — soon — Crenshaw)

However, I do like the way you’ve incorporated the dates for the future openings of the various lines: it helps bring context to what is still an evolving and developing system.

Really minor typo: it’s “Light Rail”, not “Lightrail”.

Overall, I really like this map: it places the system on top of just enough geographical clues (the street grid, coastline,river and neighbourhood names) to allow for easy orientation — which is what a guide book should be all about, right?

Official Map: Sydney Light Rail Network, 2014

Sydney’s light rail system is expanding this Thursday March 27, with an extension from the current outermost station at Lilyfield along an old freight rail alignment to Dulwich Hill.

Here’s the map of the “network” (can you call one line a network?) that’s now available on the Transport for NSW website. Stylistically, it’s been brought into line with the maps of the other Transport for NSW services, including that of the main Sydney Trains network.

Interestingly, the light rail line seems to have inherited the red colour that the main Sydney Trains map lost when the old Northern Line was rebranded as part of the Yellow “T1” line: I don’t know whether this is by design or coincidence.

The map is drawn well enough, showing the slightly circuitous route that the line takes through Pyrmont in a nicely stylised manner, but the whole thing just seems so… empty.

In a frankly baffling move, absolutely no indication is given of where the light rail interchanges with the main rail network — at Central (Sydney’s main railway station), Dulwich Hill, and (with a bit of a walk) at Lewisham West. Ferries are also easily accessible at the Pyrmont Bay station, and there are connections to bus services at many of the stations. A light rail line like this doesn’t exist in isolation: it’s a feeder service that creates and allows transit connections — why not show them, especially when there’s so much empty space on the map?

Our rating: Competent enough and in-keeping with the new Sydney transit design style, but needs to show better integration with other transit options to be truly useful. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

Source: Transport for NSW website

Official/Future Map: Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Strip Map (now with added Green Line!)

Submitted by Nathan Bakken, who says:

Hi, I am an Urban Studies major at UMN, and while riding the Blue line today I noticed the new transit map for our light rail system. thought i would share.

——

Transit Maps says:

Looks like the Twin Cities’ Metro Transit is gearing up for the opening of the new Green Line light rail nice and early! The line — which will link the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul — doesn’t open until June 14, but here’s a strip map ready to go on a train already. By the looks of it, the “Green Line Opens June 14, 1014” text is on a sticker that can simply be removed from the map at the appropriate time.

The map itself does just about everything you could expect from an above-door strip map that has to show the entire system: it clearly labels the stations (using type only set at one, consistent angle: well done), delineates the two downtown cores with a minimum of fuss and even gives estimates of the time taken to travel between stations. I’d like the interchange to the Northstar commuter rail service at the Target Field station to be given a little more prominence, but that’s really about my only complaint.

Our rating: Simple, clean, clear — what maps of this type should strive to be! It’ll be interesting to see how this map evolves further when the Green and Red Line extensions come into play, though. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

  1. Camera: iPhone 5s
  2. Aperture: f/2.2
  3. Exposure: 1/120th
  4. Focal Length: 4mm

Unofficial Future Map: Metro Denver Rapid Transit by Steve Boland

Long-time readers will know that I’m not a huge fan of Denver’s current light rail map (April 2013, 2 stars). And it seems that I’m not the only one, as Steve Boland of San Francisco Cityscape has turned his hand to designing a new map. We’ve featured his excellent Bay Area Rapid Transit map previously (Feb. 2013, 4.5 stars).

His Denver map includes all the FasTracks extensions — light rail along I-225 through Aurora, BRT lanes on US 36 to Boulder and new commuter rail lines to all points north, including a line out to Denver International Airport (finally!). Interestingly, he’s chosen to color-code the services by corridor, rather than by route designation, which actually works quite nicely and simplifies the map in the dense downtown core. The map also makes the peak-hour only nature of the “C” and “F” light rail routes visually obvious on the map by adding a white stroke to their route line: a nice usability touch.

Technically, the map is infinitely better drawn than the official one: no wobbly route lines here! I do miss the sweeping arc that the light rail lines make from Auraria West around to Union Station — I always felt that if it was drawn better, it could be the defining visual “hook” of the official map — but the squared off look does fit in well with the overall aesthetics of this map.

Personally, I find the kink in the “G” line at Aurora a little visually distracting in such a clean diagram, but Steve tells me he really wanted to show how the line leaves the I-225 corridor at that point. As he consistently labels all the main roads that transit travels along on the map, this is probably a fair point.

An oddity: without knowing how all the new lines will fit into RTD’s fare structure, the map has to constrain that information to the currently existing parts of the system — which actually highlights the new parts rather nicely.

Our rating: That’s much better! Clean, crisp, functional informational design that builds excitement for the future of transit in Denver. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: sfcityscape website — GIF)

Fantasy Map: North American Metro Map by Mark Knoke
Obviously inspired by — and clearly credited as such — the brilliant xkcd “Subways of North America” map, here’s a quite staggeringly detailed map of pretty much every rail-based rapid transit system in North America, including future expansions and upcoming new systems like Honolulu’s HART elevated light rail. Like the xkcd map, all the systems link up at their termini to form one giant Metro map that spans the entire continent.
True, the map isn’t the most visually attractive piece — it’s very basic in its construction and has labels going just about everywhere, but the sheer level of effort required simply has to be appreciated. By my count, there are forty-seven (yes, 47!) separate systems represented on this map, from the New York subway to the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico and all points in between. Each and every station is labelled. For the most part, the systems adhere to their standard map layout, although obviously some tweaks have had to be made to make them join up.
While I haven’t checked every detail, I have noticed that the Tacoma Link light rail in Tacoma, Washington is missing. It’s part of Sound Transit’s network, although physically separate from the main Central Link line that runs from SeaTac Airport to downtown. The inclusion of the the much-maligned Detroit People Mover is interesting (is it really proper “rapid transit”?), and begs the question why the very similar Miami Metromover system isn’t also shown.
(Source: Mark Knoke/Flickr) Fantasy Map: North American Metro Map by Mark Knoke
Obviously inspired by — and clearly credited as such — the brilliant xkcd “Subways of North America” map, here’s a quite staggeringly detailed map of pretty much every rail-based rapid transit system in North America, including future expansions and upcoming new systems like Honolulu’s HART elevated light rail. Like the xkcd map, all the systems link up at their termini to form one giant Metro map that spans the entire continent.
True, the map isn’t the most visually attractive piece — it’s very basic in its construction and has labels going just about everywhere, but the sheer level of effort required simply has to be appreciated. By my count, there are forty-seven (yes, 47!) separate systems represented on this map, from the New York subway to the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico and all points in between. Each and every station is labelled. For the most part, the systems adhere to their standard map layout, although obviously some tweaks have had to be made to make them join up.
While I haven’t checked every detail, I have noticed that the Tacoma Link light rail in Tacoma, Washington is missing. It’s part of Sound Transit’s network, although physically separate from the main Central Link line that runs from SeaTac Airport to downtown. The inclusion of the the much-maligned Detroit People Mover is interesting (is it really proper “rapid transit”?), and begs the question why the very similar Miami Metromover system isn’t also shown.
(Source: Mark Knoke/Flickr) Fantasy Map: North American Metro Map by Mark Knoke
Obviously inspired by — and clearly credited as such — the brilliant xkcd “Subways of North America” map, here’s a quite staggeringly detailed map of pretty much every rail-based rapid transit system in North America, including future expansions and upcoming new systems like Honolulu’s HART elevated light rail. Like the xkcd map, all the systems link up at their termini to form one giant Metro map that spans the entire continent.
True, the map isn’t the most visually attractive piece — it’s very basic in its construction and has labels going just about everywhere, but the sheer level of effort required simply has to be appreciated. By my count, there are forty-seven (yes, 47!) separate systems represented on this map, from the New York subway to the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico and all points in between. Each and every station is labelled. For the most part, the systems adhere to their standard map layout, although obviously some tweaks have had to be made to make them join up.
While I haven’t checked every detail, I have noticed that the Tacoma Link light rail in Tacoma, Washington is missing. It’s part of Sound Transit’s network, although physically separate from the main Central Link line that runs from SeaTac Airport to downtown. The inclusion of the the much-maligned Detroit People Mover is interesting (is it really proper “rapid transit”?), and begs the question why the very similar Miami Metromover system isn’t also shown.
(Source: Mark Knoke/Flickr) Fantasy Map: North American Metro Map by Mark Knoke
Obviously inspired by — and clearly credited as such — the brilliant xkcd “Subways of North America” map, here’s a quite staggeringly detailed map of pretty much every rail-based rapid transit system in North America, including future expansions and upcoming new systems like Honolulu’s HART elevated light rail. Like the xkcd map, all the systems link up at their termini to form one giant Metro map that spans the entire continent.
True, the map isn’t the most visually attractive piece — it’s very basic in its construction and has labels going just about everywhere, but the sheer level of effort required simply has to be appreciated. By my count, there are forty-seven (yes, 47!) separate systems represented on this map, from the New York subway to the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico and all points in between. Each and every station is labelled. For the most part, the systems adhere to their standard map layout, although obviously some tweaks have had to be made to make them join up.
While I haven’t checked every detail, I have noticed that the Tacoma Link light rail in Tacoma, Washington is missing. It’s part of Sound Transit’s network, although physically separate from the main Central Link line that runs from SeaTac Airport to downtown. The inclusion of the the much-maligned Detroit People Mover is interesting (is it really proper “rapid transit”?), and begs the question why the very similar Miami Metromover system isn’t also shown.
(Source: Mark Knoke/Flickr) Fantasy Map: North American Metro Map by Mark Knoke
Obviously inspired by — and clearly credited as such — the brilliant xkcd “Subways of North America” map, here’s a quite staggeringly detailed map of pretty much every rail-based rapid transit system in North America, including future expansions and upcoming new systems like Honolulu’s HART elevated light rail. Like the xkcd map, all the systems link up at their termini to form one giant Metro map that spans the entire continent.
True, the map isn’t the most visually attractive piece — it’s very basic in its construction and has labels going just about everywhere, but the sheer level of effort required simply has to be appreciated. By my count, there are forty-seven (yes, 47!) separate systems represented on this map, from the New York subway to the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico and all points in between. Each and every station is labelled. For the most part, the systems adhere to their standard map layout, although obviously some tweaks have had to be made to make them join up.
While I haven’t checked every detail, I have noticed that the Tacoma Link light rail in Tacoma, Washington is missing. It’s part of Sound Transit’s network, although physically separate from the main Central Link line that runs from SeaTac Airport to downtown. The inclusion of the the much-maligned Detroit People Mover is interesting (is it really proper “rapid transit”?), and begs the question why the very similar Miami Metromover system isn’t also shown.
(Source: Mark Knoke/Flickr)

Fantasy Map: North American Metro Map by Mark Knoke

Obviously inspired by — and clearly credited as such — the brilliant xkcd “Subways of North America” map, here’s a quite staggeringly detailed map of pretty much every rail-based rapid transit system in North America, including future expansions and upcoming new systems like Honolulu’s HART elevated light rail. Like the xkcd map, all the systems link up at their termini to form one giant Metro map that spans the entire continent.

True, the map isn’t the most visually attractive piece — it’s very basic in its construction and has labels going just about everywhere, but the sheer level of effort required simply has to be appreciated. By my count, there are forty-seven (yes, 47!) separate systems represented on this map, from the New York subway to the Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico and all points in between. Each and every station is labelled. For the most part, the systems adhere to their standard map layout, although obviously some tweaks have had to be made to make them join up.

While I haven’t checked every detail, I have noticed that the Tacoma Link light rail in Tacoma, Washington is missing. It’s part of Sound Transit’s network, although physically separate from the main Central Link line that runs from SeaTac Airport to downtown. The inclusion of the the much-maligned Detroit People Mover is interesting (is it really proper “rapid transit”?), and begs the question why the very similar Miami Metromover system isn’t also shown.

(Source: Mark Knoke/Flickr)