Official Map: JFK Airport AirTrain Map, New York

This map is at the request of an anonymous follower, who wrote this about this map:

Truly terrible transit map that deserves a lashing: the AirTrain JFK. Way too complicated for something that should be fairly simple. Even worse are the TV screens in the stations showing information about where the train at each platform is going, which completely obscure the most important information.

Now, I can’t comment on the info screens, as I’ve never used the AirTrain, but I do have some thoughts about the map. People movers like this at major airports are a form of transit, albeit in a very small, closed system. Some just shuttle between terminals, but the JFK AirTrain also connects passengers to car rentals, long term parking, and (perhaps most importantly), the New York Subway and the Long Island Railroad, so its scope is bigger than some systems of this type.

Have we been there? I’ve spent long afternoons at JFK waiting between flights (and paying prohibitive prices for drinks at the bar!), but I’ve never used the AirTrain, either to transfer between terminals or head into New York.

What we like: Nowhere near as bad as my anonymous friend says it is. Conveys a lot of useful information - especially for visitors who have never been to New York before - in a relatively clean fashion. The inclusion of all potential costs for patrons is especially handy, and the destinations of the connecting MTA services couldn’t be made clearer. Direction of travel is well indicated, which is good if you’re trying to jump between terminals in a hurry - sometimes it might be quicker to jump on a Howard Beach or Jamaica train instead of the dedicated Terminal Shuttle!

What we don’t like: The drop shadows behind the station name boxes are unnecessary and ugly, as is the stacked treatment of the terminal station names. These would look far better if the boxes that contain the word “Terminal” simply lined up horizontally with the subsequent numbered boxes. Also not entirely sure that we need to see the exact outlines of all the terminals… I don’t know what extra insights a traveler is meant to get from that. I’m guessing that the map is not actually to scale, so it’s not like you can tell how far it is to your gate from the AirTrain station!

Our rating: Functional and chock-full of handy information for visitors to New York. A little fussy and over-designed. 3 stars.

3 Stars

(Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - AirTrain web page)

Official Map: Singapore MRT

Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system only opened in 1987, but has expanded greatly since then and now boasts 90 stations and almost 150 kilometres of lines. It is supplemented by the LRT, which is not a true light rail system, but is more like an automated people mover that serves the high density apartment blocks prevalent in land-poor Singapore. In earlier versions of the map, I believe that the stylised “S” logo in the background formed a rough analogy to the shape of the island of Singapore itself - with the addition of new lines, this doesn’t hold as true as before (with much of the North East Line now extending well into the “ocean”), but it’s still a distinctive graphic device to tie the map together.

Have we been there? No.

What we like: Spacious, clean, elegant layout. Distinctive sans serif typeface gives a unique look to the map - for once, Helvetica is nowhere to be seen.

What we don’t like: I’m not sure why the alphanumeric codes for each of the stations has to be included on the map (something to do with ticketing? Can anyone from Singapore enlighten me on this?), but they do end up adding a lot of visual clutter to an otherwise clean map, especially when a station has multiple codes. The two LRT loops in the north east of the map are too close to each other, making type from one run into the other. It looks like it could have been possible to space them a bit further apart by extending the main North East Line just a little further out.

Our rating: A confident, distinctive map that boasts its own look. While obviously bearing a London Underground map influence, it has moved beyond its inspiration to create something new and fresh. Four stars.

4 Stars!

(Source: Official SMRT website)