Historical Map: The City of Los Angeles Showing Railway Systems, 1906
Another amazing old map from the awesome Big Map Blog, showing the already-booming rail transit network that was found in Los Angeles in the early days of the 20th Century. Electric trolleys first ran in LA in 1877, but the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric and the “Yellow Cars” of the narrow-gauge Los Angeles Railway had only appeared a mere five years before this map was produced. Their lines are represented on the map in appropriate colours, along with those of other, less-remembered, railway companies.
Technically, the map is beautifully drawn, although there’s some strange issues with route lines extending past the visible area of the map and spilling over the lists of street names, the map’s legend and even completely bleeding off the edge of the page (see the detail view of the legend above for an example). It could be intentionally done, but it certainly looks a little messy.
From a production viewpoint, it seems as though the map was printed with five different inks: black for the street name legend and Los Angeles Pacific RR routes, yellow for the Los Angeles RR, red for the Pacific Electric, green for the Los Angeles Inter-Urban RR, and a dark blue for the Los Angeles & Redondo RR and the underlying linework of the map itself. Understandably, given the fairly primitive printing technology of the day, the registration of these colours is a little bit off in places.
Our rating: A beautiful look at the early days of mass transit in LA. Four stars!
(Source: the Big Map Blog)
Portland, Oregon: New Motor Coaches Replace Last Street Cars, February 26, 1950
Here’s an amazing full page ad that ran in The Oregonian on Thursday, February 23, 1950 to announce the end of an era in Portland. The last few remaining streetcar lines — to Council Crest, Willamette Heights and 23rd Avenue — were going to be replaced by “the very latest design in city transit equipment”, modern motor coaches. It’s interesting to compare the bulky, inefficient buses depicted here with their modern equivalents, especially in light of the glowing copy in the ad:
“The finest in heating and air conditioning … extra large windows for better natural light … increased electric lights … comfortable seating with deep upholstery … low entrance and exit steps”.
The ad also includes a number of surprisingly clear and attractive route maps for the most popular lines, many of which were subject to route changes because of the then-new system of one-way streets that was being introduced in downtown Portland at the same time as the equipment change. The ad also exhorts the reader to contact the Portland Traction Company (PTC) Dispatcher if “route and schedule folders are desired” — we’re a long way from real-time arrivals information on our smartphones here!
Click through to Flickr to view the ad at a size where you can (just) read the type. Also, compare with this handsome map of PTC services from 1943 (April 2012, 4 stars) — all the streetcar routes shown on that map (the yellow route lines) have disappeared just seven years later.
Historical Map: Kroll’s Standard Map of Seattle, 1914
As Seattle continues with its expansion of light rail (East Link, University Link) and streetcar (Capitol Hill streetcar), here’s a look back at the city 99 years ago. This isn’t a transit map per se — rather, it’s a map of the city that also happens to show the transit network in no uncertain terms. The thick dark lines that traverse the city like veins are all streetcars, cable cars and interurban trains. Main line trains are shown by more conventional “railway line” ticked strokes — these travel to King Street Station (still in use by Amtrak and Sounder trains today) and the adjacent Union Station, which now houses the offices for Sound Transit. View a full-size version of the map here.
(Source: Rob Ketcherside/Flickr)
Historical Map: Preferred Rapid Transit Scheme, Toronto, 1910
A rather lovely (and somewhat prescient) figure from a report prepared by the New York engineering firm of Jacobs & Davies for the City of Toronto in 1910. It shows plans for a system of “subway streetcars” — a combination of at-grade and subterranean routes — both ahead of its time and prohibitively expensive, especially for a modest city like Toronto at the time (which had a population of just 350,000).
Submission — Unofficial Historical Map: Los Angeles Pacific Electric Railway Diagram, 1917
Drawn and submitted by Sam Huddy, who says:
Pacific Electric: Challenge Accepted!
When I read your disappointment on the uselessness of that beautiful map of the Pacific Electric at its peak in 1917 (not 1920), I wondered if it was possible to create a simplified London Underground-style map. With over a hundred routes it seemed impossible, but after several attempts, this was my end result. Any further information is on the map itself.
Transit Maps says:
Basically, this is incredible. An absolute model of simplicity and clarity of information, and it’s all drawn by hand onto some graph paper!
Breaking the multitude of routes up simply by their final downtown destination — either 6th and Main or 4th and Hill — works very well, and the “local services” insets are perfect for a map of this colossal scale: local route information can be easily found by those who need it, but those routes don’t clog the main map up with tiny detail, either. Perhaps the location of the inset boxes could be called out on the main map to aid those unfamiliar with the area, but that’s a very minor quibble.
As an added bonus, Sam has even dated the original map more precisely than any other source that I’ve seen. “Circa 1920” is now definitively dated to 1917, because his research found that some of the shuttle lines shown on this map and the original were abandoned after then.
Our rating: I feel like I could take this sketch and turn it into final computer-generated artwork in less than a day, it’s that good. Astounding work! Four-and-a-half stars!
(Source: Sam Huddy — Check the map out BIG on Flickr to see all the details!)
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)
Historical Map: Lines of the Denver City Tramway, 1913
While we applaud the Denver Regional Transportation District’s current FasTracks program, which is rapidly building a comprehensive light rail and commuter rail system in the Mile High City, it’s sobering to look at a map like this and realise that 100 years ago, Denver already had a comprehensive transit system. It’s a story repeated across America — Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, Minneapolis/St. Paul and more.
Unofficial Map: FrontRunner and TRAX, Salt Lake City, Utah
Brought to my attention by Garrett Smith when he submitted the abomination that is the new official UTA map, here’s a completely different take on Salt Lake City’s rail system from Flickr user H4vok_13. This map is by no means perfect, but it’s an absolute paragon of simplicity and clean design compared to the real thing.
What we like: Streamlined, simplified route lines that expand the city centre and compress the outlying areas work wonders for the clarity of this map. Removing the street addresses from the station names helps a lot, as does the shortening of some of the longer station names.
What we don’t like: I’m not entirely convinced by the use of dashed lines for the FrontRunner routes - dashed lines on a transit map almost always signify a route under construction.
Nor am I a huge fan of the county boundary labels on the FrontRunner lines - a little big and overpowering, and not hugely important for using the system. From what I understand, county boundaries don’t correspond to fare zones on FrontRunner, so why is that information linked so heavily to those routes?
The proposed Sugarhouse Streetcar is perhaps given a little too much emphasis as well: if built, the route will only be about two miles long.
There’s also one very unfortunate error on the map - the service numbers for the Blue and Red lines have been transposed: Blue should be 701 and Red should be 703.
Our rating: Not perfect, but still streets ahead of the official map. Three-and-a-half stars.
Portland Streetcar Strip Map
A first look at the new in-car strip maps for Portland, Oregon’s streetcar system. With the opening of most of the eastside loop, there are now two lines: the original route is now the North/South (NS) line, and the new track is the Central (CL) line.
Unfortunately, for a brand new service that the city desperately wants everyone to like and use, the design of this map is terribly dowdy and old fashioned. There’s some good information there — I particularly like the inclusion of all the bridges over the Willamette River — but it’s just all crammed in with no room for anything to breathe. It may be usable, but it’s definitely not pretty.
Historical Map: Transportation Map of Greater Winnipeg, 1941
Here’s another beautiful vintage transit map, this time from Winnipeg, Canada. It’s around the same age as this great map from Portland, Oregon, and displays a similarly austere wartime aesthetic. The map is printed in just three colours (black, red and green) and — apart from some of the typography in the legend — is entirely hand-drawn and lettered.
Important buildings and points of interest are all carefully and charmingly rendered, but the real winners for me are the numerous golf courses dotted around the city. On the fairways and greens are miniature golf players, most of whom seem to be having a very bad day on the course indeed.
Some other elements are slightly less successful, such as the poorly-drawn scroll around the downtown Winnipeg inset, but overall, this is a charming and whimsical map.
One final point of interest is the obvious replacement of the original streetcar network (solid green routes) by buses (red routes). By 1955 — just 14 years after this map was produced — the streetcar tracks were ripped up, and trolleybuses were phased out in 1970.
Our rating: A charming little slice of history. Red and green aren’t the best colours to use for differentiating service modes, but I doubt a lot of thought was put into that back in 1941. Ticked-off cartoon golfers elevate this to a four star rating.
(Source: Manitoba Historical Maps/Flickr)