Photo: Lost in Berlin
Heh. Love the expression on his face.
Submission: New Washington, DC Metro Strip Map at Pentagon City
Submitted by Peter Dovak, who says:
Spotted a new schematic installed at Pentagon City Metro station in Washington this week. I’m not sure if this is experimental or what, but I’ve never seen such detailed line info at a station here before. Not a huge fan of the execution, though, the labels are awful skewed!
Transit Maps says:
In the limited space allowed here, angled station labels are pretty much the only workable option. It’s actually not dissimilar to the established framework used for line maps on the New York Subway (and many other cities), although they usually only show the one route, not four. The white pointer lines passing through the Orange Line to join station dots to names are not ideal, but are again a product of the space limitations.
Even though you can only catch Yellow and Blue Line trains from this platform, the map also shows the Green and Orange Lines. In principle, this is fair enough — the lines share physical track and stations for much of what is shown on this map, although this is what also leads to such a complex and convoluted looking map.
However, I personally believe that a strip map like this should only show stations that can be reached directly with trains that serve the station the sign is at: in this case, that’s just Blue and Yellow Line trains. Transfers to other lines could be shown as the Red Line is here: with a small coloured dot. While I believe it is possible to transfer to the Orange and Green lines at any of the stations they share with the Blue or Yellow Lines, it’s really preferable to do so only at the major interchange stations, and the placement of transfer dots should reflect this.
Introducing the level of complexity that this strip map has leads people to expect that it shows everything they need to navigate their way around the system (in effect, competing with the actual system map). However, the information shown here is incomplete: there’s absolutely no reference on this map to the Green Line’s leg from L’Enfant Plaza to Southern Avenue, nor the Orange Line’s leg from Rosslyn to Vienna. According to this map, they simply don’t exist. Yet the branch of the Orange Line to New Carrollton (which doesn’t share any track with the Blue Line) is shown in full detail.
Finally, if this approach is continued into the future, then the whole map is just going to have to be redone when the Silver Line is opened, further increasing the complexity.
Moscow Metro Line Maps
A good example of how something that’s probably perfectly clear to locals can be totally confusing to foreign visitors. The first obstacle is obviously the Cyrillic text, which automatically makes things very tricky for non-natives. Now, I’ve spent quite a bit of time translating and cross-referencing the text here with a Moscow Metro map, and I think I’ve got it worked out — but this isn’t exactly a luxury that you would have when you’re down in a busy station, trying to work out where to go next.
Basically, this assembly shows transfers to other lines that are available along the Arbatsko–Pokrovskaya (Number 3) line: the dark blue colour of this line runs across the top, and three station names are visible: Kurskaya (Курская) — where you can transfer to the 5 and 10; Ploshchad Revolyutsii (Пло́щадь Револю́ции) — with a transfer to the 2; and Arbatskaya (Арба́тская) — which has interchanges with the 1, 4 and 9. Interestingly, you can also transfer to Line 1 at Ploshchad Revolyutsii, but this is not shown here. I’m guessing that this photo was taken at Kurskaya station, just from the four golden letters — ская — that can be seen at the top left of the picture.
Each line map underneath these station names helpfully tells you the name of the station that you transfer to (it’s not unusual for interchange stations in Moscow to have different names for each line). Less helpfully, it then presents a list of every station on that line from beginning to end, except for the one you are transferring at: which means you can’t see where on the the line that station is.
For example, on the Line 10 list shown at the left, the transfer station you would be using — Chkalovskaya (Чка́ловская) — should be in the fifth position, but is instead completely absent from the list. Needless to say, this isn’t great informational design, especially if you’re used to those reassuring “You Are Here" markers that you see in many other transit systems around the world.
Obviously, these line maps aren’t the only guidance a traveller would have in the Metro — a really good map and an idea of where you wanted to go would be necessities — but they could definitely be a lot better.
Official Map: Bucharest Metro In-Car Strip Map
A bit blocky and utilitarian, but has some interesting elements worthy of note. Each station icon indicates the positioning of the platforms: either two separate platforms along the side, or one island platform between the tracks — very useful information to have!
Because of the circular nature of the M1 (Yellow) Line, both Dristor 1 and Dristor 2 appear twice on the map, because the M1 line has been “flattened out” to appear in a single line.
Finally, it would seem this particular train car never serves the M2 (Blue) line, as it is not shown in full: only connections to that line are indicated on this map.
(Source: Marcus Wong from Geelong/Flickr)
Official Map: Prague Metro In-Car Strip Map
Following on from the Lisbon commuter rail strip map feautured recently, here’s another excellent example, this time from Prague. Design-wise, it fits in well with the standard Metro/tram map, but is remarkable for its incredibly effective use of space. The three route lines fit beautifully into the space, and the interchanges between the lines in the centre of the map are simply gorgeous. The inclusion of icons for popular landmarks/attractions is welcome and useful (as well as consistent with the standard map), as is the simplified geographical layout of the system to the right of the strip.
Our rating: A model for all in-car strip maps. Legible, easy to follow, useful. Four stars.
Official Map: Commuter Rail Strip Map, Lisbon, Portugal
A lovely above-door strip map from Portugal’s capital. By sacrificing geographical reality (only the Tagus River gives any sense of orientation), the three lines are able to be laid out for maximum clarity and legibility. The comprehensive legend has symbols for connections to the Metro, the private Fertagus commuter rail line to Setúbal, ferries, and buses. It even has a “camera” icon for stations with points of interest nearby, and a little “umbrella and beach towel” indicating stations with connections to the Atlantic Coast beaches.
If I had one complaint, it’s that the green oval indicating the centre of Lisbon looks a little overbearing and tacked-on compared to the simplicity of the rest of the diagram.
Official Map: Portland MAX Horizontal Strip Map
The newest rolling stock used on Portland’s MAX light rail (Siemens S70 cars, known as “Type 4”) has enough room above the doors to display a horizontal version of the system map. Types 1 through 3 don’t have this space, and instead display an unwieldy portrait-oriented version of the map that bears little resemblance to geographical reality.
Interestingly, this map is not the same as the official system map found on TriMet’s website or ticket machines (despite sharing the same orientation and very similar proportions) but instead is yet another completely different layout. Wisely, the information on the map has been simplified down to the essentials — route lines and stations. Even the WES Commuter Rail has been omitted: there’s simply a note at the Beaverton Transit Center station noting that transfers to the weekday rush-hour only service can be made.
However, the map is also arguably the most geographically accurate version that TriMet has made: the Red and Blue lines take a big detour southwards from Sunset TC to Beaverton TC on the west side, just like in real life. Similarly, the Blue Line’s realignment from alongside I-84 to E Burnside St after Gateway TC makes an appearance. Even the slight changes in direction at either end of the Blue Line are reminiscent of actual geography.
Finally, of particular interest to me is the map’s striking use of 30- and 60-degree angles. Hmmmm, where have I seen that before?
A Better Denver RTD Strip Map?
People have already asked me what I’d do to make the Denver RTD strip map better. Well, here’s what I’ve come up with in five minutes flat. Even from this quick little “art director’s sketch”, I’m pretty certain that this concept would work better than the current iteration.
Once a transit system is past a certain size or complexity, some level of abstraction on these narrow oddly-shaped strip maps is a necessity. Once the rider is actually on the train, the most important information that they need is "how many stops until I get off/change trains", not the physical reality of the system. Extraneous information like fare zones and street grids can be stripped out, leaving only the vital information behind.
Lessons in how NOT to adapt your map to a different shape, Denver edition
When I reviewed the new West Line Denver LTD light rail map (April 2013, 2 stars), I wondered how the new landscape format would work on trains and on station fittings. Well, one half of that question has been answered: this is what it looks like on the trains, and it ain’t pretty.
Basically, they’ve just taken the map and compressed it vertically to squeeze it into the allocated space. The loop around the city, which was already a pretty poor excuse for a circle, has now become a weirdly distorted oval, and all the inaccuracies where routes run concurrently have been magnified. Even in this angled photo, you can see huge differences in the spacing between the C, D, E, F, and H lines, especially between the I-25 & Broadway and Alameda stations.
The format also leads to huge amounts of empty, wasted space and teeny-tiny labels for the stations: not exactly useful. I will say that the map looks a lot better without the grey background and street grid (which would probably just look ridiculous in this horribly distorted version, anyway).
P.S. How do you make this map better? Here’s what I came up with in five minutes.
Naked TTC Rocket Map
What goes on underneath the printed map. The lights for the future Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension stations are already in place in the upper left of the map.
Fortunately, the map hasn’t been stolen by someone to reveal these inner workings: it’s simply been moved to the left. This being Toronto, however, it’s probably only a matter of minutes until someone makes off with it to hang on their bedroom/dorm wall.
EDIT: As ytomatoboi points out, the map is missing: what I thought was the map is actually just a separate panel to the side. Seriously, Toronto, what’s the deal with taking the goddamn maps?