Official Map: Portland MAX Horizontal Strip Map
The newest rolling stock used on Portland’s MAX light rail (Siemens S70 cars, known as “Type 4”) has enough room above the doors to display a horizontal version of the system map. Types 1 through 3 don’t have this space, and instead display an unwieldy portrait-oriented version of the map that bears little resemblance to geographical reality.
Interestingly, this map is not the same as the official system map found on TriMet’s website or ticket machines (despite sharing the same orientation and very similar proportions) but instead is yet another completely different layout. Wisely, the information on the map has been simplified down to the essentials — route lines and stations. Even the WES Commuter Rail has been omitted: there’s simply a note at the Beaverton Transit Center station noting that transfers to the weekday rush-hour only service can be made.
However, the map is also arguably the most geographically accurate version that TriMet has made: the Red and Blue lines take a big detour southwards from Sunset TC to Beaverton TC on the west side, just like in real life. Similarly, the Blue Line’s realignment from alongside I-84 to E Burnside St after Gateway TC makes an appearance. Even the slight changes in direction at either end of the Blue Line are reminiscent of actual geography.
Finally, of particular interest to me is the map’s striking use of 30- and 60-degree angles. Hmmmm, where have I seen that before?
Official Map Update: Denver RTD Light Rail West Line
Transit Maps reviewed Denver’s light rail map way back in October 2011. We weren’t too impressed with it then, and nothing much has changed with this new edition that marks today’s opening of the new (aqua) West Line out to Golden.
The map itself has had to change orientation from portrait to landscape to fit the new route in, which raises the question of how it’s going to fit into existing fittings on trains and stations. The new format also seems to make a lot of the labels — especially those on the underlying street grid — very small and hard to read.
The route lines on the map are still very poorly dawn. Lines that run parallel to each other appear to have been drawn individually, rather than offsetting a master line with the tools available in most illustration software to ensure accuracy (Hint: in Illustrator, this would be the Object > Path > Offset Path command). As a result, there’s some very ugly and inconsistent gaps between routes in places. The curves are also generally badly drawn: the loop around the city would look so much better as a proper circular arc, while the sudden jog in the West Line at Federal Center looks positively dangerous for riders!
Finally, it looks as if the designer forgot to group all the roads together before reducing their opacity: it looks especially horrid where I-25 and I-225 intersect.
This is very much an interim map: the RTD’s FasTracks program is going to expand the passenger rail system in Denver hugely in the next few years — both light rail and commuter rail. However, that still doesn’t excuse sloppy work like this.
Our rating: Nothing’s really changed since last time in terms of execution or quality. Still two stars.
(Source: Official RTD website)
Salt Lake City UTA TRAX and FrontRunner: now officially the most embarrassing transit maps in the U.S.
Seriously. Do they even care at all any more?
With the opening of the new TRAX light rail Green Line extension to the airport, the UTA has updated their website with new maps. Well, only partially, which is bad enough in itself. If you go to the System Maps page, you still get a combined pre-extension TRAX/FrontRunner map (reviewed here, Dec 2012, half a star). However, if you click on the TRAX or FrontRunner icons, you can get to the updated individual maps for each service as shown here.
These maps are… beyond appalling.
It’s painfully obvious to me that a low-quality JPG has been exported for each map, and the service that is not meant to be shown has been deleted in Photoshop using the eraser tool. And they’ve done a really bad job of it, too, sloppily deleting parts of route lines, station markers and labels all over the place. On the TRAX map, the Red and Blue lines inexplicably change to shades of grey through the city center, and a completely undeleted part of the FrontRunner route remains visible (also in grey!). Stations on the FrontRunner map that would interchange with TRAX still have their wider interchange markers, even though there’s no TRAX routes shown to interchange with.
Even the legend at the bottom of the maps have had the same treatment: there’s room for the three TRAX lines to slot neatly into place on the FrontRunner map and vice versa. I’ve overlaid these two maps on top of each other in Photoshop: they fit almost perfectly.
I recently said that designers shouldn’t work for free, but in this case, I take it all back. Please: can someone — anyone! — design a decent rail map for the UTA and make them use it, because this is is just pathetic.
Official Map: Israel Railways Passenger Services, 2013
Originally sent to me as a photo by long-time reader and contributor, Sam Gold, I thought this map was interesting enough for a full review. It shows all the passenger rail services in Israel, which are divided into nine operational routes, plus a night route than runs the length of the main north-south trunk line.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Clear coding of the routes in attractive colours. The night service is handled deftly, with a distinct visual difference between it and the regular routes. The bilingual labeling is mostly nicely done, although a couple of stations at the southern end of the “Red Line” have their Roman script left-aligned when right-aligned would be more appropriate.
What we don’t like: The whole map feels a little disjointed to me. In a diagrammatic map like this, the main north-south trunk line from Nahariyya to Be’er Sheva really could be turned into a straight line — a strong visual axis that underpins everything else. Instead, it weaves uncertainly all over the place, leading to some awkward spacing between route lines and other elements
Stations that are recommended as interchanges have a bar linking all the lines, while other stations that serve multiple lines just have unconnected dots. I’d prefer to see them linked with a thin black line, just so it’s obvious that all the dots collectively belong to one station.
Although this is a diagrammatic map, the scale of some elements is very odd. Stations in Tel Aviv, which have to span across seven lines (plus the night line at Savidor Center), seem to take up half the width of the country, while the “Brown Line” from Be’er Sheva - North to Dimona — which is actually a 40-kilometre (25 mile) journey, appears to be a tiny shuttle trip, as its route line is only just longer than the distance shown between Be’er Sheva - North and Be’er Sheva - Central: a real-life distance of just over a kilometre!
Our rating: Serviceable enough, but visually, a whole lot more could be made of the main north-south trunk. Two stars.
(Source: Official Israel Railways website)
Official Map: Opolskie Voivodeship Railway Network, Poland
The whole map is a bit of a mess, with all sorts of random angles everywhere (both route lines and station labels), but what really takes this map into the land of the bizarre are the big photos of trains superimposed over it. It’s like someone said, “Hey, there’s a bit of white space left over — what can we fill it up with? I know! How about some shots of our trains, and we’ll rotate them so it looks like they’re travelling along the tracks? That’s a great idea!”
NOT. One-and-a-half stars.
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)
Official Map: CTrain, Calgary, Canada
Lots of people have requested this map, but I’ve held off for a while as some extensions to the system and amendments to the map itself have been made. Calgary Transit actually released a preliminary version of this map last year and asked for public input on it via an on-line survey, which is good to see. However, it’s not the most thrilling map, and there’s still one quirk with it that could cause some confusion.
Have we been there? No.
What we like: Clean, minimal, easy-to-follow design. No extraneous bells and whistles to get in the way of a relatively simple system.
What we don’t like: I really don’t see the need to alternate the station labels between the left and right hand side of the route lines when they run vertically. The names would be much easier to quickly read if they just ran underneath each other to the right of the route line, much like a bulleted list. It looks particularly odd on the southern part of the Red Line, where Victoria Park/Stampede and Elton/Stampede are both to the right, and then the rest alternate.
The quirk I mention above regards the handling of the stations along 7th Avenue in the “Downtown Area” of the map. City Hall is the only station in the section where both lines run that serves both directions of travel — the rest of the stations alternate directions. The 1st, 4th and 7th Street stops serve all westbound trains, and the 8th, 6th, 3rd and Centre Steet stops serve all eastbound trains.
The designers have tried to show this by use of a directional arrow near each station. However, by placing these arrows within the coloured route lines, it could be interpreted that only Blue Line trains travel west and only Red Line trains travel east along this corridor. This ambiguity could have been averted by placing the arrows within the station dots or next to the station names themselves, where it would be almost impossible to misinterpret their intention.
However, the approach used here is still markedly better than the one used on the preliminary sample map, which placed the dots for all westbound trains in the Blue Line, and all eastbound dots in the Red Line! Now that would have been confusing!
Our rating: Workmanlike and honest, if a little dull. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official Calgary Transit website)
Official Map: Bus System of Meiningen, Germany
Submitted by Heikki Salko, who says:
You keep mentioning how “there must be something worse out there.” Personally I like to think it will always hold true, but I’d still like to see your opinion on this official map from a small German town. Someone linked to it in a discussion about line numbering/naming systems, but I have to admit I didn’t quite have the courage to try figuring out that much detail…
As a related question, do you ever get the urge to just scribble a new map together in an hour and mail it to a transit agency since it’d still be better than their existing one? I know I do, and I’m hardly a professional.
Transit Maps says:
I think Heikki may have done it, folks. If any map deserves a rating of zero, it’s this one. Technically deficient, confusing to use and hideous to behold: this one’s got it all. And I can see why the route naming conventions were being discussed: here we have the A/B, the B/A, the B1, the C and the C1… clear as mud. Most of these names don’t even fit properly into their little label boxes on the map, making them almost impossible to read as well.
And if you foolishly assumed north was at the top of this map, you’d be wrong. That’s east. Well, kind of. The map is so hopelessly distorted — even for a diagrammatic map — that direction and the relative location of stops is almost totally random.
We also have white bus stops, blue stops and yellow stops, but no explanation of what that means, here or on the website. Some sort of zoning, maybe? Anyone’s guess!
Stop names regularly run into the stop marker, sometimes so badly that you can’t see the entire last letter of the name! The two zones — one for the city of Meiningen, the other for the area around the smaller village of Herpf — are badly drawn: a rough ellipse that clashes with stop labels, and a shonky polygon that’s drawn that way in order to avoid the text and logo at the top left of the map.
Our rating: Absolutely appalling and so at odds with the normal efficient German transit map style. The Deutsche Bahn logo (a German design classic) must be embarrassed to be on a map this bad. I’m going to do it, everyone — for the first time, a map gets a ZERO.
Source: Official MBB website
As to Heikki’s second question: All the time! However, it’s a matter of finding the time and prioritising projects for me. I have a full-time job and a two-year old son: “free time” seems to be a dwindling resource for me these days!
Official Maps: In-Car Strip Maps for Loop or Circle Lines
An anonymous follower asks: “Do you have any examples of a line map for a loop/circle line? I’m curious as to how those are implemented.”
Transit Maps says:
Generally, a strip map for a loop or circle line follows much the same principles as a usual one, although the available space may have to be used a little more creatively in order to fit things in. Above are a few interesting examples.
London’s Circle Line: With recent additions, this line is no longer a true loop — for which the travelling public is sincerely thankful, as any problems on the Circle used to impact the District and Hammersmith & City lines terribly, throwing much of the Underground into chaos. From the picture above, it can be seen that the Circle Line’s strip map utilises a much deeper space above the doors than many Underground strip maps do. Often, they run in a single, shallow line above the windows of the carriage. The other lines that share track with the Circle Line are also shown, but not lines that cross it: these are shown as standard interchanges instead.
Chicago’s Orange Line: This line runs around Chicago’s central Loop and returns back the way it came. The map handles things in a pretty straightforward way, although, interestingly, the thickness of the route line halves while it’s going around the loop. The direction of travel around the loop is clearly indicated with arrows.
Tokyo’s Yamanote Line: Of course, the Japanese use technology to display information about their famous circle line! Each car on the Yamanote Line has LCD displays that indicate the current station (the red box), as well as the estimated time to the next few stations. The display alternates between Japanese and English information.
Glasgow Subway: Well, the whole subway is a loop — earning the system the nickname “The Clockwork Orange” — so all their maps look like this. Despite the inner and outer loops travelling in opposite directions, this map neglects to point out which one goes where!
Official Map: Streetcar Network, New Orleans
Brought to my attention by Transit Maps follower, Alex Marshall, this is the latest New Orleans streetcar map, updated after the opening of the new Loyola Avenue line in January of this year.
Have we been there? No. One day!
What we like: Informationally, it does the job, I guess. It shows the routes and connections to other services in a neat, easily understandable way. It’s just so… dull.
What we don’t like: The very best transit maps have a sense of place about them, and one could argue that New Orleans is like no other place on earth. The sheer amount of history represented by the historic streetcars and the unique culture of the city itself should be represented in this map, yet are completely absent. Instead, we’re given a bland, generic map that could be from just about anywhere.
Quickly looking at a geographical map of the network gives me so many ideas, I may just have to whip something up myself. The smooth curve of the St. Charles Line wrapped in the meandering shape of the Mississippi River could be so beautiful if handled well…
Also of note: apparently, the only two points of interest on the entire streetcar network are the Convention Center and NORTA’s own building. I never knew New Orleans could be so exciting.
Our rating: A hugely wasted opportunity to create something as memorable as the Big Easy itself. Competent but extremely dull. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official NORTA website)