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.
(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!
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!
"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!
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)
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)
Historical Map: The Plan of Chicago — Proposed Arrangement of Railroad Stations, 1909
A plate from the hugely influential 1909 Plan of Chicago (also known as “the Burnham Plan” after its primary author, the renowned architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham) showing proposed amendments and additions to the railroads of the city.
The thin red lines show main line railroads, which were going to be rerouted to two mega-stations to the south and west of the downtown area. To facilitate movement between these stations, an ambitious plan of subterranean streetcars (blue lines) and subway trains (dashed red lines) was proposed in addition to the already existing “El”. It’s hard to make out without viewing the image at its largest size on Flickr, but the “El” is shown by thin orange lines on the map.
In the end, little of this part of the plan was ever implemented. A new Chicago Union Station was finished in 1925, but no other stations were consolidated or relocated. In 1929, the South Branch of the Chicago River was rechanneled between Polk and 18th Streets to untangle railroad approaches as recommended by the plan. However, its importance as a part of this vastly influential document cannot be underestimated.
(Source: Penn State Libraries Pictures Collection/Flickr)
Official Map: TILO Commuter Rail – Ticino, Switzerland and Lombardy, Italy
The emergence of a unified Europe has led to a gradual but noticeable blurring of borders between countries in Europe, which now seem to often exist only on maps. With free and easy travel between the European countries that are bound by the Schengen Agreement, it’s not impossible for people to live in one country and work in another, especially when they live close to a border.
This map shows transit services in such an area, the border between Italy and Switzerland north of Milan. Here, Italian Lombardy (shown with a grey background) borders the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino (white background). Transit between the two areas is becoming more intertwined and reliable, as this map illustrates. The services offered by the issuer of the map — TILO — are the two-digit “S-number” lines: S10, S20, S30 and the narrow-gauge S-60. However, the map also shows the lines of Milan’s own commuter rail network that interact with these services: the S4, S5, S9 and S11 routes, as well as indicating a (slower) regional service that runs between the two provinces. Even the extent of Milan’s Metro is indicated, as are its interchanges with these commuter rail services.
The map itself is quite handsomely produced, and has a distinctive look of its own. The typeface used – Syntax – has a friendly, slightly quirky look to it that helps lift the map up from that typically efficient but clinical Swiss design. The “subway map” stylings definitely help to convey a sense of modernity and speed, even though the main centres shown on the map would take quite a while to travel between (1.5 hours from Milan to Bellinzona; almost three hours from Milan to Airolo).
If there’s a weakness to the map, it’s probably the multitudes of blue bus routes shown on the Swiss side of the border: they clutter that part of the map with a lot of visual noise and probably don’t contain enough routing information to be that useful past an initial confirmation that a town is serviced by a bus route.
Our rating: An attractive and modern-looking map that combines information from different transit agencies to benefit its customers: always a good thing! Three-and-a-half stars!
(Source: Official TILO website)
Unofficial Map: Hand-Drawn Danish InterCity Train Network
Submitted by Halid Karpović, who says:
It’s Halid again, who’s already submitted you the transit diagram of Sarajevo. This time, I’ve got something I’ve made myself.
When I was on vacation in Denmark a while ago, I got a leaflet with timetables of the Danish InterCity lines, operated by DSB. Then, I took a pencil and four sheets of paper and drew a transit diagram with its help. Et voilà, this is the result! I’d be happy to know what you think about it!
Transit Maps says:
This is pretty neat, Halid! I definitely use grid paper and a pen when I have a problematic area of a map to solve, and it’s also a great way to sketch out concepts before getting into the nitty-gritty computer-aided design part of the work.
Conceptually, this seems to follow much the same general layout that can be found in the DSB timetables, although you’ve enhanced the usefulness quite a lot by separating the routes out into their own numbered route lines and showing all the stations along the way.
About the only bit that doesn’t quite work is the area around Fredericia and Vejle: I’d straighten the kink in your station marker for Fredericia out and place the station marker for Vejle at a 45-degree angle, halfway through the 90-degree turn that the northwards routes take. This would eliminate that awkward 90-degree/45-degree combination curve you’ve got going on. But that’s the big advantage of sketching it out like this: now you can be fully aware of that problem area and solve it easily when it comes to final computer layout.
The only other comment I have is that the introduction of some 45-degree angles in the coastline might soften the shapes up a little: the rigid 90-degree-only shapes can look a little harsh.
Unofficial Map: Suburban Rail Network of Mumbai, India
Designed by two students — Jaikishan and Snehal — at Mumbai’s Industrial Design Centre under the supervision of Associate Professor Mandar Rane. While it looks like quite a traditional transit map, there’s a few innovations and design choices (of which some work, and some don’t) that make it interesting to study.
First off, this map is infinitely better than the official one, which is a bit of a mess however you look at it.
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of pseudo-geography behind a diagrammatic map, but I think this actually works rather nicely. The interesting textural treatment of the water is particularly nice.
I also think that the explicit labelling of slow and express (fast) routes is surprisingly effective and definitely leaves no confusion as to which is which. The “play” and “fast-forward” arrows for each service type are a cute touch, but also act as good visual contextual cues.
While naming the lines on the map is a good practice to assist colour-blind users, I think there’s a bit of overkill here for a map this simple. The Central and Western Lines are labelled no fewer than four times each — the one for the Western Line at the bottom left of the map is particularly egregious as the route lines have to take a little jog to the left to accommodate it!
The only part of the map that I would change completely if I had a chance is the grid system. While it’s laudable that the designers have attempted to come up with an new, easier way to locate stations on the map (and it’s very clearly explained in the legend of the map), I feel that the end result has way too much visual importance. The numbers that denote each square are large and visually distracting, and can’t be placed in a consistent location because the actual map (the important stuff!) gets in the way. The haphazard placement of these numbers combined with the checkerboard pattern also makes the map look more than a little like a board game, which probably wasn’t the intended result.
In my opinion, the traditional letter-number grid system — a system that almost all map users around the world are familiar with through years of exposure to it — would work much better here. The letters for the columns (A-D) and numbers for the rows (1-6) could be placed discreetly in the orange border around the map and the distracting numbers removed completely from the main map. If required, the smaller “Find Your Station” grid in the legend could spell out the full grid location within each square (In the example they use, Wadala Rd. station would be at B-4).
Apart from that, there’s just a few missing spaces between words to be fixed and consistency checks to be done — the map needs to use either “Rd.” or “Road” in station names, not both. Space limitations would seem to suggest that the former would be more appropriate here.
Our rating: A considered and well-measured approach to developing something beautiful, modern and usable, although some of the map’s innovations don’t quite work. Three stars.
Source: Professor Rane’s website. I definitely recommend clicking through, as there’s a lot of interesting background on the development of the map, including a Q&A with Jaikishan and Snehal, and images of concept maps that they worked on independently before combining their ideas into the final map. I’m quite partial to a couple of the maps that use 60/30-degree angles myself!