Update: Washington, DC Metro Map Final Draft Version
Yes, I post a lot about the DC Metro Map, but it’s not often we get to see the process of developing a transit map as publicly as this, or in such immense detail. I find it fascinating to see the decisions that are made, the different iterations the map goes through, and what is kept and what gets discarded.
Pretty much the only thing up for discussion on this final draft is the shape of the station indicators when there are three route lines present: “whiskers” or “capsule”. I’ve deftly added a “whisker” indicator into the detail part of the map above for easy comparison.
To my mind, the elongated capsule shape is more successful, and is a logical extension of the normal circle shape used to indicate a station. I’d like to see the capsule extend out a little further into the Blue and Orange lines: it barely grazes them at the moment, and isn’t consistent with the amount of overlap you can see when a circle station overlaps two lines, like at Pentagon City — half the circle is on blue, half is on yellow. Similarly, when the symbol is over three lines, half the circle should be on orange and half on blue, joined by the straight edges of the capsule over the Silver Line.
Speaking of the Silver Line, the decision to move it between the Blue and Orange lines is to be applauded. Previous drafts had it sitting above the Orange Line, which necessitated a very clumsy crossover between the Stadium-Armory and Benning Road stations. Having the crossover at East Falls Church instead is visually simpler and cleaner.
Apparently the route lines are now also “24% thinner” than before: looks like Lance Wyman is very grudgingly giving in to the fact that the playfully thick lines of the original map are no longer suitable for this modern version.
Also, there’s parkland shown along the Anacostia River… that’s a first!
Another step in the right direction, I think. Slowly and surely, this map is getting there…
(Source: Plan It Metro website)
Historical Map: Old M1 Signage, Bucharest Metro, Romania, c. 1989
The Gara de Nord to Dristor 2 section of the M1 line opened in 1989, and this signage certainly looks like it’s from that era. The design is pretty rough and ready, looking almost like the sign makers made it up as they went along, but it does have a certain brutalist charm about it.
Of particular interest are the two patches at each end of the map that keep this old map somewhat up to date: “Preciziei” at the left end covers up the previous station name of “Industriilor”, which was changed in 2009, while “Anghel Saligny” has been added to the right side to reflect the new M3 terminus that opened in 2008.
(Source: Marcus Wong from Geelong/Flickr)
Historical Map: Washington, DC Metro Map, 1977
This is a Metro map from March, 1977 — about a year after the system first started carrying passengers. At first glance, it looks very similar to today’s modern map… but then you realise that the only section that’s actually in service is the Red Line between Dupont Circle and Rhode Island Avenue, denoted by black outlines around the station circles, rather than the plain white circles used for future stations.
The uncanny resemblance to today’s map comes about because the whole system shown here — up to and including the opening of the Green Line segment to Branch Avenue in 2001 — was planned for right from the start of the project. If you look closely, there are actually quite a few differences: the Blue and Yellow Lines south of Pentagon are reversed from today’s configuration, and a number of station names have changed from these initial plans. Bigger visual differences include the lack of the kink in the Yellow/Green line around Columbia Heights and a much greater sense of visual clarity: short station names (note that it’s only “U Street” here!) and no secondary information like cross streets, hospitals or timetable/routing callout boxes give the map room to breathe. While not quite the mimimalist classic that Massimo Vignelli’s New York Subway map is, this version of the map is definitely far more deserving of the “iconic” tag than its modern descendants.
Our rating: An unadulterated look at the far superior original concept. Four stars.
(Source: Subchat.com thread about the map: the thread originally dates the map to March 27, 1976, but later revises it to March 17, 1977 because of the stations that are shown as being open — Dupont Circle and Gallery Place stations opened after the rest of the Phase I Red Line stations)
Metro Map, Pyongyang, North Korea
An interactive metro map from North Korea’s secretive capital. The green buttons across the bottom of the map represent all the stations: press one and the path from your current station to your destination lights up. With just a handful of stations on two lines (and only one interchange), I hardly think many people are going to be overwhelmed by the system’s complexity.
Wikipedia’s article on the Pyongyang Metro is actually a very interesting read: the stations are mostly named thematically (Comrade, Enlightenment, Three Rejuvenations, etc.), while accounts vary as to exactly how many stations foreign visitors to the city can visit — whatever the final number, it seems that they’re mostly limited to the newer, more impressive stations.
Now, I don’t want answering this sort of question to become a habit — I’m more interested in looking at maps than being some sort of public transportation help desk — but I’ll make an exception just this once.
The short answer is that you can’t, as the Metro itself doesn’t go to CDG. However, a quick glance at the official Paris Metro/RER map tells you that you can catch a train on the RER “B” line from CDG (shown at the very top right hand corner of the map) to the Chatelet-Les Halles station, where you can transfer to Metro Line 14 (via a short walk through tunnels to the connected Chatelet Metro station) towards Olympiades. Bercy is just two stops down the line!
Brussels Metro Line Map and Next Train Countdown
A companion piece to the official map (Dec. 2012, 3 stars) on the platform at Rogier station. The look of this map marries with the official map quite well, showing an admirable consistency in application.
Rogier station itself is clearly shown with a nice big arrow and stations before it on the lines are clearly indicated against greyed-out route lines. There’s also a nicely legible countdown for the next two trains, indicating their route number (2 or 6), final destination and estimated time in minutes to arrival. It even looks like the position of all the trains on the line headed in the same direction are shown on the strip map as bright red lights. Now you can see where that train you just missed has got to without you!
The only thing this map fails to show is the circular nature of the routes that the station serves. Routes 2 and 6 form Brussels’ “circle line”, and the two terminus stations for Route 2 — Simonis (Elisabeth) and Simonis (Leopold II) — are really just two different levels of the same Metro station.
(Source: Ian YVR/Flickr)
The Almost Official Map: Ilya Birman’s Moscow Metro Map
However, I haven’t seen as much attention being paid to the second-place winning map, designed by Ilya Birman. He also has a design process page for his map, and it’s just as fascinating as the Lebedev one.
He discusses the difficulty of having to label the map in Cyrillic and Latin scripts, as well as the problems posed by stations having multiple names, depending which line they are on.
The map also employs an unusual station-finding technique that relates all stations to the Circle Line, rather than the more usual grid look-up. It seems a little quirky at first, but it’s actually surprisingly intuitive after a while.
The page also addresses important issues like colour-blindness (the map holds up fairly well) and what to do when a station named Aeroport no longer has an airport anywhere near it.
Well worth a look, if only to see the sheer amount of thought and effort that goes into making a transit map of this quality. For me, there’s very little between this map and the Lebedev map, and both would have been very worthy of being the public face of this venerable Metro system.
Unofficial Map: “Barcelona Tourist Guide” Metro Map
As you should know, official transit maps are copyrighted materials. Commercial reproduction of the map by third parties normally requires permission and payment of a licence fee — often a hefty one.
A lot of people don’t want to pay that fee, so they design their own version of the map instead. This can result in maps that are eerily similar to the official one, nicely designed but different maps, or horrendous monstrosities. Guess which category this map falls into?
Have we been there? Yes. And with the official map (October 2011, 4.5 stars), the Metro is super easy to use.
What we like: At least the lines are the right colours.
What we don’t like: Sooooo ugly. Call-out boxes for every station waste space and look terrible. The worst example is Trinitat Nova station, which has two call-out boxes, one for Lines 3 and 11 and a separate one for Line 4, because the designer couldn’t work out how to have the three different line colours in the background of one call-out box.
Which way is north? Barcelona is actually oriented about halfway between the cardinal points, so giving some sort of directional indication on the Metro map is very important. The official map includes major roads, the coastline and a north pointer to help out: this map gives you nothing at all. What appears to be north here is actually north-east.
The integrated tram system is missing entirely, as there’s simply no room for it to fit. There’s actually a second map on the website for this system, where the main Metro map is tinted back without labels and the tram system is slapped on over the top.
Our rating: Hideous and confusing. I thought long and hard about giving this a zero, but surely there’s still something worse than this out there.
(Source: Barcelona Tourist Guide)
The Design Process Behind the New Moscow Metro Map
As you may have heard by now, the Art Lebedev Studio entry will become the new official Moscow Metro map at the end of February. It beat out the other two entries convincingly, garnering 52% of the popular vote.
Of particular interest to me, though, is the design process page for the map on their website: a fascinating look at the hard work and effort that goes into making a world-class transit map. Concepts are tried, refined, discarded and tried again to find the perfect solution. Nothing is taken for granted and everything is evaluated again and again. Note the beautiful underlying grid (shown above) and the guides used for accurately placing station labels perfectly every time (something that the Washington DC Metro map was completely incapable of in its redesign last year.) More than anything, this page shows that good design doesn’t just “happen”: it’s a process that evolves over time according to the needs of the client and the designer’s skills.
The best part of the page? The map halfway down the page where you can scrub through 95 — yes, ninety-five! — different iterations of the map to see how the map evolved over time.
See also this page on Lebedev’s website that details all the features of the final, finished map. Also fascinating!