Victorian Rail Network — Concept Map, April 2014

Here’s an interesting proposed new map out of Australia which combines Melbourne’s suburban rail network with the V/Line passenger rail service. In a way, this makes sense, as many of V/Line’s services act as commuter rail services from surrounding cities like Geelong. With the introduction of the myki farecard, much of the V/Line network now even shares the same ticketing system, as shown on the map by use of a solid grey route line. However, it does look a little odd to have Craigieburn (25km from the Melbourne CBD) so close to Albury at the end of the line (over the border into NSW, some 330km from Melbourne). In the end, the diagrammatic distortion is probably a good trade off in making a compact, legible map.

Overall, I really think this a good effort, and I certainly like it a lot more than the current Melbourne rail network map that just uses two colours (blue and yellow) to represent fare zones, although I don’t know if this map will replace that one or is meant to complement it.

I was going to comment that an indication of which direction trains travel around the City Loop would be good, but some research reveals that there’s no easy answer to that: trains can go opposite directions around the loop depending on the time of day.

Apparently, this map is on display at certain stations around Melbourne and Public Transport Victoria will be surveying customers for their opinion. However, putting a call to action on the poster — “for more information, visit our website” — really only works if the end user can actually find the relevant information easily (I gave up after 10 minutes).

Our rating: Nicely done. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

(Source: Daniel Bowen/Flickr)

Submission: Transportation in the Backwaters of Kerala, India

Submitted by Jim McNeill, who says:

Kerala in southern India is famed for its backwaters, a popular holiday destination for people to cruise in rented houseboats. I was amazed to see a transit map of the area, and not a bad one at that. I was impressed at the attempt to show road, train, boat and air all on the same map. Granted it’s not perfect, the ferry crossings become maze like in the centre and there are some awkward angles in the south, but overall I was impressed.

——

Transit Maps says:

It’s not the world’s most beautiful transit map, but I’m as impressed as Jim by the map’s intent: one map showing all the transportation options available in the Backwaters of Kerala — a huge area covered by lakes, lagoons, rivers and canals, sometimes compared to the Mississippi Bayous.

One thing the map doesn’t really do is give an idea of the scale of the area shown: it’s around 140km (86 miles) by road from Kollam at the bottom of the map to Kochi near the top. It’s only when you read the notes on the map and see that a ferry trip from Kollam to Allappuzha (not even as far as Kochi) will take seven hours to complete that you start to get an idea of what we’re dealing with here. Some context in the form of the large lakes that the canals join together would be helpful in this regard. 

I’d also agree that the maze-like representation of the ferry routes in the middle isn’t very helpful, although it seems that Allappuzha is the main hub and ferries from elsewhere all end up there eventually. Another thing to note is that India has officially-designated National Waterways, much like National Highways — the main water route through this area is National Waterway 3, and is clearly marked as such on the map.

Our rating: Not beautiful, and not really that great for ferry route-finding. But in the end, it’s quite a nice little overview of transportation in the Kerala region as a whole. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

Historical Map/Photo: Installing an Enormous Northern Pacific RR Map, 1917

A fantastic photo that shows a huge map being installed through a window at the Northern Pacific offices in St. Paul, Minnesota. The short article that accompanied the photo when it was first published in Popular Mechanics in February 1917 says:

A railway map of enormous size was recently installed in the immigration department of the Northern Pacific Railway offices in St. Paul. It measures 69 ft. long and 11 ft. wide and required the services of nearly a dozen men to carry it. The map shows that portion of the United States between the eastern boundary of Minnesota and the Pacific coast, and the entire Northern Pacific Railway system, including practically every station on the line. The whole representation is done on such a large scale that even the lettering used in the names of the smallest towns can easily be read several feet away.

Despite its great size, the map appears to be pretty coarsely executed. The presence of what looks like large handwriting — it’s not sign writing, but is written in a natural hand — across the top of the map leads me to think that this is some kind of photographic enlargement from a much smaller original map, although I have no idea how such large prints would be accomplished with early 20th century technology.

Source: Making Maps: DIY Cartography

Historical Map: Gotthardbahn (Switzerland and Italy), 1898

Here’s a beautiful Art Nouveau railway poster promoting the Gotthardbahn that links northern Italy with Switzerland and points north through the famous Gotthard Tunnel. At the time of opening in 1882, the tunnel was the longest railway tunnel in the world at 15 kilometres (9.3 miles).

The map shows the then privately-operated Gotthardbahn and its branch routes in thick black lines (the Swiss Railways incorporated the line into its national network in 1907). The tunnel is indicated by a dashed section, while the railroad spirals that the trains needed to quickly gain or lose elevation when space was limited are also indicated, although certainly not to scale!

The importance of this route to opening up European trade and passenger travel cannot be underestimated, and is well represented by the beautiful allegorical woman, standing atop a winged wheel — a symbol often used by European railway companies of the time — seemingly welcoming travellers from Italy to Switzerland, Germany and France.

Our rating: I’m an absolute sucker for Art Nouveau posters, and one that adds a railway map to the mix is always a winner in my eyes! Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: Strange Maps website)

Official Map: Integrated Transit of Südtirol (Alto Adige), Italy

Sent my way by a reader known only as “mmmaps”, here’s a map of the transit system of the northern autonomous Italian province of Südtirol (South Tyrol in English, or Alto Adige in Italian). The system is mainly made up of buses (dark blue), but there’s also a backbone of rail services between the major cities (shown in light blue) and aerial cable-cars as well.

While the restrained colour palette (just blues and greys) looks quite nifty, the map’s usability is seriously hampered by this simplistic approach. Without coloured route lines, the map designers have had to denote separate routes by putting numbered boxes across each line to indicate where they go. And that makes actually using the map to work out how to get places a lot of really, really hard work.

For starters, the termini of routes aren’t indicated at all. A reader has to follow a desired route number along, checking at every bifurcation which way it goes (sometimes it goes more than one direction!). Eventually, there’s no more numbers to follow — so you have to assume that the service ended at the last town? Maybe. You have to work it out by yourself, hopefully with the aid of the individual route timetables and schedules that are available. However, this map gives a rotten overview of destinations, interchanges and routes for someone unfamiliar with the network. A user should always be able to trace any given route from one end to the other without having to make guesses!

If you think I’m being hard on the map, answer this simple question: which two cities does the 314 bus run between?

Our rating: Using a transit map really shouldn’t be this hard. One-and-a-half stars, and that’s because I like the Südtirol logo at the bottom left.

1.5 Stars

(Source: Official SII website)

Historical Map: “Future Growth and Improvement” Map for Lansing, Michigan, 1921

Here’s a simply beautiful map from the 1920s, showing a comprehensive proposed future plan for the city. Along with the extensive and fastidious plans for the extension of the city’s street grid (the web of red extending outwards from the core), the map also shows existing and proposed streetcars with solid and dashed thicker red lines, respectively.

The map also audaciously proposes that the main line railroads be placed onto an elevated viaduct through downtown, something that never actually happened.

Finally, I absolutely love the graceful hand-drawn typography on this — stunning!

(Source: NewCityOne/Flickr)

Historical Map: Southern Pacific “Red Electric” Tracks in Downtown Portland, c. 1920

Scanned from the book “The Red Electrics: Southern Pacific’s Oregon Interurbans" by Tom Dill and Walter Grande.

This handsome map shows the routing of the Southern Pacific’s electric interurban trains through downtown Portland from their northern terminus at Union Station. These trains, popularly known as the “Red Electrics” after their distinctive carriages, ran from Portland all the way down the Willamette Valley as far as Corvallis, 85 miles distant. Service started in 1914, extended to Corvallis in 1917 and ceased in 1929; just 15 years later.

These big, heavy trains ran right down the middle of Fourth Avenue from Union Station with an intermediate stop at Stark and Fourth. At Fourth and Jefferson, the lines split into two services: the “Westside” route served Beaverton, Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Carlton, while the “Eastside” line served Oswego, Sherwood, Newberg and Lafayette. The two routes connected in Saint Joseph, just north of McMinnville, and then continued to Corvallis.

Of further interest, the map also shows the route of the competing Oregon Electric company, running down 10th Avenue and Salmon Street. Their terminus station was at 10th and Hoyt (the train barns still exist, repurposed as fancy loft apartments on either side of 10th Avenue), with stations at 10th and Stark, 10th and Alder, Salmon and 5th/6th, and Jefferson and Front (modern-day Naito). Also seen is the incredible network of streetcar lines at the time, visible on almost every downtown street!

(Source: jackonflickr/Flickr)

"Discover Japan" Map of Japanese Rail Routes, May 2012

A handsome diagrammatic map of rail services throughout Japan, this one from an issue of the “Discover Japan” magazine (Vol. 21, Issue 4) that seemed to deal mainly with seeing Japan by train.

Without the benefit of a translation for the map’s legend, I’d guess that the thick green lines are Shinkansen lines, blue ones are regional trains and brown lines are local/other services (Update: @suldrew has let me know that it’s Green = Shinkansen, Blue = JR Rail routes, Brown = Other non-JR Rail routes).

Some of the route lines are a little unnecessarily wiggly for my liking, but there’s no doubt that this is a very accomplished piece of map design. Cleverly implemented insets for the greater Tokyo area and other islands make very effective use of the space on the page. I also really like the subtle wave pattern in the ocean/sea areas of the map, and the adorable little icon representing Mount Fuji.

Related: This isometric map of JR West rail services, one of my favourite transit maps ever!

(Source: T.Tokuma/Flickr)

Official Maps: Transportation at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
A few requests for these very topical maps, so here goes!
The XXII Winter Games are now in full swing, but how do spectators get around? The Games are divided into two very distinct zones: the Olympic Park down by the Black Sea in Sochi itself for all the indoor sports; and the Mountain Zone, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) up into the Caucasus Mountains, where all the sports that actually require snow are held. Access to the Olympic venues by private transportation is strictly limited, so the Games’ transportation network is absolutely vital to moving people around. Buses and trains shuttle spectators between the suburbs of Sochi (a long, narrow strip city wedged between the Black Sea and the mountains behind it) where they are staying to the Olympic venues. Once in the Mountain Zone, more buses or ski resort aerial cable-cars take spectators to the different venues. Or — perhaps optimistically — there are also walking paths up the side of the mountains!
The maps themselves are pretty bare bones and angular, although this does at least work well with the general design aesthetic of the games. There’s only single route line for each transit mode, so you have to refer to the route number boxes at each station to work out which trains travel between the places you want to go. It’s not an overly complex system, so it’s not that difficult, but something a little more intuitive might have been nice.
Our rating: Probably getting away with the absolute bare minimum of effort and detail required. Two-and-a-half stars.

(Source: Official Sochi Olympics website) Official Maps: Transportation at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
A few requests for these very topical maps, so here goes!
The XXII Winter Games are now in full swing, but how do spectators get around? The Games are divided into two very distinct zones: the Olympic Park down by the Black Sea in Sochi itself for all the indoor sports; and the Mountain Zone, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) up into the Caucasus Mountains, where all the sports that actually require snow are held. Access to the Olympic venues by private transportation is strictly limited, so the Games’ transportation network is absolutely vital to moving people around. Buses and trains shuttle spectators between the suburbs of Sochi (a long, narrow strip city wedged between the Black Sea and the mountains behind it) where they are staying to the Olympic venues. Once in the Mountain Zone, more buses or ski resort aerial cable-cars take spectators to the different venues. Or — perhaps optimistically — there are also walking paths up the side of the mountains!
The maps themselves are pretty bare bones and angular, although this does at least work well with the general design aesthetic of the games. There’s only single route line for each transit mode, so you have to refer to the route number boxes at each station to work out which trains travel between the places you want to go. It’s not an overly complex system, so it’s not that difficult, but something a little more intuitive might have been nice.
Our rating: Probably getting away with the absolute bare minimum of effort and detail required. Two-and-a-half stars.

(Source: Official Sochi Olympics website)

Official Maps: Transportation at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

A few requests for these very topical maps, so here goes!

The XXII Winter Games are now in full swing, but how do spectators get around? The Games are divided into two very distinct zones: the Olympic Park down by the Black Sea in Sochi itself for all the indoor sports; and the Mountain Zone, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) up into the Caucasus Mountains, where all the sports that actually require snow are held. Access to the Olympic venues by private transportation is strictly limited, so the Games’ transportation network is absolutely vital to moving people around. Buses and trains shuttle spectators between the suburbs of Sochi (a long, narrow strip city wedged between the Black Sea and the mountains behind it) where they are staying to the Olympic venues. Once in the Mountain Zone, more buses or ski resort aerial cable-cars take spectators to the different venues. Or — perhaps optimistically — there are also walking paths up the side of the mountains!

The maps themselves are pretty bare bones and angular, although this does at least work well with the general design aesthetic of the games. There’s only single route line for each transit mode, so you have to refer to the route number boxes at each station to work out which trains travel between the places you want to go. It’s not an overly complex system, so it’s not that difficult, but something a little more intuitive might have been nice.

Our rating: Probably getting away with the absolute bare minimum of effort and detail required. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

(Source: Official Sochi Olympics website)

Tokyo Metro: Trains of the Passnet Companies Collectible Farecard

Not a transit map, but too darn cute to not share with you.

From the same series of collectible Passnet cards as this nifty Tokyo Metro map, this card shows an adorably stylised train for each of the (22!) rail companies that participated in the Passnet program.

(Source: Rob Ketcherside/Flickr)