Photo: A Washington DC Metro strip map that’s just bound to cause confusion…
Here’s an example of an overly designed strip map that’s gone horribly wrong. This photo was taken by Bryan Rodda, who notes that the sign makes it appear that Foggy Bottom-GWU is the name of the main interchange station between the Silver, Blue and Orange Lines in the center of the photo.
Anyone who knows the DC Metro system will know that the station in question is actually Rosslyn, but the map makes this horribly ambiguous. The problem stems from the fact that all the station names are offset from their markers up and along a 45-degree axis. It seems a reasonable thing to do in theory, but what it has actually done is position most of the labels almost directly above the next station marker to the right, where it can reasonably be confused as belonging to that marker.
Good design should not create confusion or make things unnecessarily ambiguous for the end user — it should always simplify and clarify: something this map absolutely fails to do.
(Source: Bryan Rodda/Twitter)
Submission - Historical Map: Informational Leaflet, Metro de Santiago, 1975
When moon-monolith sent me the new Santiago Metro map that I featured yesterday, he also sent me this fascinating old map from 1975: the year that the Metro first opened.
The map itself probably redefines the term “basic” when it comes to transit maps, with some very coarse route lines and type-written station names. However, I’m more interested in the map as a very early look at the current system.
At first glance, it looks like the map shows two extensive lines — Lines 1 (Red) and 2 (Yellow) — with planned future routes for Lines 3, 4 and 5. However, in 1975, all that was open was a small stretch of Line 1 between San Pablo and La Moneda stations. You can just make out this section on the map, as it’s ringed with a thicker black outline — although the map makers erroneously identify the eastern end as Neptuno station, not San Pablo (which seems to be missing a station marker anyway).
So what the map really shows is the existing system, with fairly well-developed plans for the rest of Line 1 and Line 2. Then things get a little nebulous with the other planned lines. As we can see on the current map, Lines 4 and 5 follow different routes to those shown here, while (a completely different) Line 3 is still under planning to this day!
Also, due to the very early stages of planning shown on this map, many stations have completely different names to the current system, or were never actually built.
This map is certainly not going to win any awards for its looks, but it’s definitely a fascinating historical document of the early days of Santiago’s Metro.
(Source: Tercera Cultura article on “Ghosts of the Santiago Metro" - Spanish)
New Official Map: Metro de Santiago, Chile
In a way, this is really an evolution of the previous map, rather than a complete redesign — the routes still sit on top of a stylised street grid of the city, for example — but the execution is much more polished and stylish.
The whole city has been expanded horizontally (the map is rectangular now instead of the almost square proportions of the previous one). With more room to breathe, the labels for all the stations can be set horizontally instead of at angles for easier reading. The deletion of the express route information that was previously shown for Line 1 also helps with the cleaner look.
Informational icons have been simplified and standardised: instead of the entire (and complex) logo for the innovative BiblioMetro program, we now just have a quickly-identifiable (and universally understood) book icon. The standard “bike” symbol also works a lot better than the previous BiciMetro logo.
Things aren’t perfect, though: the poor old airport still loiters up in the top left hand corner of the map with absolutely no way illustrated to actually get there, and there’s some inconsistent and poorly drawn curves on the river. Look especially at the one to the northwest of Puente Cal y Canto station… ugly!
Our rating: An definite improvement! Three-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official Metro de Santiago website)
New Subway Map-Themed Game in Development: Mini Metro!
This looks extremely promising, especially since development on Third Rail seems to have stalled (no updates on progress since mid-last year). It’s being developed by small New Zealand-based studio, Dinosaur Polo Club (great name and logo!). Here’s the preamble from their website:
Mini Metro is a minimalist subway simulation game about designing efficient subway networks. The player must constantly redesign their line layout to meet the needs of a rapidly-growing city.
The game, currently available as a rough and ready alpha version (that’s pre-beta, folks!), currently has four maps — London, New York, Paris and one other that I haven’t identified as yet. Each map in the game looks like that of its real life equivalent, right down to the colours used to represent routes: a neat touch! That’s London seen in the mesmerising GIF above.
In short, I want to play this right now. Hurry up and take my money.
Historical Map: Old Paris Metro Map Uncovered at Les Halles Station
A fantastic photo from Jean-Luc Raymond on Instagram of an old Metro map that’s just been revealed behind multiple layers of billboard advertising at Les Halles station. Definitely looks like it used to have a street grid layer which has faded away with age.
I’m not entirely sure of the vintage, although I’d say it can’t be from before 1979, as that’s when the RER C opened. It’s the thicker yellow line across the top of the photo with stations at Quai d’Orsay and St. Michel. The map’s typographical treatment — with names for interchange stations set in all caps Futura Bold — would also seem to point to that general era. Any further ideas on dating this?
Submission - Historical Map: Los Angeles Metro, 1997
From reader Chris Bastian comes this awesome old photo of an early Los Angeles Metro map, dated precisely to the 14th of November 1997, thanks to our old friend the date stamp.
The map is incredibly primitive compared to today’s polished effort, with unevenly spaced stations, labels at all sorts of angles, clumsy integration of Metrolink services, and lots of big, ugly call-out boxes.
However, we can see that by 1997, the Blue and Green Lines as we currently know them were complete, although a few station names have changed over the years: thankfully all the redundant I-105s have been removed from most of the Green Line station names. At this stage, there’s no Purple Line (a designation that only started appearing in 2006), and the Red Line continues out to Wilshire/Western. Despite the dotted line extended hopefully west from there, Wilshire/Western is still the end of the line (although that is finally about to change). The future alignment of the modern day Red Line is also shown heading north from Wilshire/Vermont. Proposed extensions from Union Station to the east and north are shown as continuations of the Red and Blue Lines, rather than Gold.
Our rating: Fascinating to see the early development of today’s system, but it’s certainly not a patch on the modern map! Three stars — and that’s mainly for the historical value.
Official Map: Brussels Integrated Transit Map
According to my correspondents, Brussels has recently switched from a geographical transit map to this new diagrammatic map. As you can see by comparing the two images of the centre of the city above, a lot of streamlining and simplification has taken place. The first thing that strikes me is the way that many bus routes have either been removed or have been condensed or “collapsed” into a single route line with a common label, simplifying the map immensely. The place where this is really obvious is at Gare du Nord/Noordstation, which now only has six route numbers listed next to it, compared to thirty-six on the previous map!
Major interchanges are now denoted by an enclosing ring, suggesting that all stops at that interchange — be they bus, tram or Metro — are in close proximity to each other. The Paris Metro map uses a very similar device at interchanges between modes.
However, while the map is a huge improvement over the crowded mess of the previous geographical map, it’s certainly not perfect.
The labelling — which admittedly has to overcome the requirement of being bilingual — is a bit haphazard in its application, with some labels for one station overlapping that of another in parts. Major station labels waste a lot of space when there’s only one or two route numbers listed under the station’s name.
Each and every route line is outlined in black, regardless of its colour, which gives a very heavy, cumbersome feel to the map. Normally, only very light coloured routes (yellow or light blues, for example) need this treatment, so I’m not sure why it was deemed necessary here. Also, while the difference in line thickness between trams and buses seems obvious in the legend, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart on the actual map when multiple routes are butting up to each other (Hint: stops on bus routes are ever so slightly wider than the route line — way too subtle for easy mode differentiation!)
The icons for points of interest are all so very generic and bland.
Finally, the colours used on the map seem very simplistic and cartoon-like, stopping the map from having a harmonious, unified feel. Both the green used for parkland and the blue used for water are way too strong and vivid: they compete with the route lines for attention, becoming a distraction.
Our rating: Better than what came before, but still not great. Despite all the reworking, it’s still very cluttered and confusing. The new Ile-de-France Regional Rail map sets the standard for this type of map, and this falls well short. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official STIB website)
Dubai Integrated Transport Network
System Map Design Proposal
A few months ago, Matt Forrest (Carticulate Maps) asked me to redesign Dubai’s system map as part of a larger proposal Matt was working on at the time. Here is what we did:
Seriously beautiful work here from Kyril Negoda, who made this great future map of transit in Minneapolis/St. Paul (May 2013, 5 stars). It’s a great example of how a well-designed transit map can simplify and clarify important information while still retaining enough geographical context to orient users.
I definitely recommend clicking through to Kyril’s Tumblr to read more about the process and rationale behind this lovely map, as well as comparisons between it and the clumsy, cluttered official map.
Submission: Official Map - Metro de Medellin, Columbia
Submitted by Daniel Echeverri, who says:
Medellin (Colombia) transit map. Downloaded from the official website of Metro de Medellin. It shows Metro Lines, Articulated Buses lines (Metroplus) and Aerial Tram lines (Metro Cable)
Transit Maps says:
Medellin’s transit system is fascinating because it’s one of the first places in the world to implement aerial gondolas as part of a mass transit system. Other cities may have gondolas and aerial trams, but they’re almost always deployed as tourist attraction, like London’s Emirates Air Line. Medellin’s CableMetro reaches up to areas clinging to the sides of the steep valley that the city lies in that are unreachable by traditional forms of transit, linking seamlessly to the main Metro lines at the bottom of the cables.
However, the map’s not anywhere as interesting as the system. It looks like it draws its inspiration from the Los Angeles Metro map — it has a very similar aesthetic and also uses DIN as its primary font — but it’s nowhere near as well executed as that map, having a whole host of technical issues.
There’s an inexplicable kink in the “K” MetroCable line, while the “L” line just heads off at its own unique angle. Similarly, the “1” bus route has an awful kink as it heads north out of the Industriales interchange station that could easily have been avoided with a little though (making the river slightly wider, perhaps?).
The “1” and “2” bus lines are drawn terribly, with odd gaps between them when they run parallel to each other, and as they go around corners together. Line 2 has “stops” — as opposed to “stations” — indicated by hash marks along part of its route: they’re both way too big and extremely ugly. In contrast, the circular station markers are so small as to almost be invisible. The marker for San Pedro station has a red outline to indicate that it’s currently closed: this is almost impossible to make out.
Finally, the lines under construction are very poorly drawn, with the dashed lines doubling over each other as the routes go around corners. It’s difficult to tell where the Tranvia Ayacucho (a new streetcar/tram service) ends and the two new MetroCable lines begin, and there’s a whole new set of kinks and weird angles here as well.
Our rating: A fascinating transit system, let down by an extremely average and technically deficient map. Could be so much more. One-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official Metro de Medillin website)
Historical Map: Tactile/Braille Map of the Washington DC Metro, 1988
A tactile map designed by J.W. Wiedel for the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education.
Tactile surfaces on the map reveal information about the Metrorail system for vision-impaired users, including whether stations have side or centre platforms (more information than can be found on the official map) and transfer stations. It’s hard to make out, but braille text is also included for major stations and areas. Each route line also appears to have a unique texture so that one can be distinguished from another easily. It’s easiest to see this with the Yellow Line in the legend, where a tactile dotted line can be discerned.
We talk about making maps accessible for colour-blind users a lot, but we don’t often discuss how to make transit accessible for completely blind or heavily vision-impaired users. Maps like this are a great tool for such users, but seem to be pretty few and far between.
Note also the “missing” parts of the system that haven’t been built yet: no Green Line at all, Yellow Line only goes to Gallery Place, etc.