Happy Easter from Transit Maps!

(Bet you never thought I’d find an appropriate image for this!)

(Source: zhujianxun/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

Photo: Coast to Coast

Lady with a NYC subway map umbrella looking at a Muni map in San Francisco. Great photo!

(Source: the N Judah Chronicles/Flickr)

Highways Project Print Sample!

I got my first test print back from the printers today: a sample of the Texas map. Basically, I’m ecstatic with the way things are looking – all the research and effort I’ve put into this over the last one-and-a-half years is so, so worth it. Just a few more little behind the scenes things to put into place and I’ll be ready to share this project with you all.

Have I mentioned that I’m excited?

For comparison purposes, here’s some original concept work that shows the same area around San Antonio from way back in June 2012 – things have come a long way since then!

  1. Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  2. Aperture: f/3.5
  3. Exposure: 1/60th
  4. Focal Length: 75mm

Photo: Here be Sea Monsters

Always thought there was something strange about Port Phillip Bay…


When catching a train to the bay, beware of the sea monster.

Reflected Berlin U- and S-Bahn map. I like this photo a lot.


You are here.

Historical Photo: Streetcars on an Inclined Railway, Cincinnati, 1904

Not a map, but included because this is possibly the strangest piece of transit infrastructure I’ve ever seen. Discovered while researching the post about Cincinnati’s abandoned subway, this photo shows what happened when that city’s streetcars met the steep hills surrounding the downtown area.

At this time, the streetcars were used in conjunction with four of Cincinnati’s five inclined railways: the Mount Adams Incline, Mount Auburn Incline, Bellevue Incline, and the Fairview Incline. The cars would be driven onto the platform, which was level and was equipped with rails and (in most cases) overhead trolley wires. The platform, riding on its own rails, would then be pulled up the hill by the cable, carrying the streetcar. Upon reaching the top, the streetcar could simply be driven off the platform onto the standard track along city streets. The 1872-opened Mount Adams Incline began carrying horsecars in 1877, and it was later strengthened for use by electric streetcars, which were much heavier.

More information on the inclines here.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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)

Boston Layers

An old Boston T map peeks out from underneath the broken remnants of a recent edition, somewhere along the Orange Line in May 2013. It’s interesting to see that while the two maps occupy the same physical space, their use of it is much different. The older, simpler map fills up its space with bold lines and large type, while the modern map is more geographically based and complex — with the addition of bus routes and the Silver Line — and the type on it is correspondingly smaller.

(Source: Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council - MAPC/Flickr - Photographer: Jessie Partridge)