Official/Future Map: Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Strip Map (now with added Green Line!)

Submitted by Nathan Bakken, who says:

Hi, I am an Urban Studies major at UMN, and while riding the Blue line today I noticed the new transit map for our light rail system. thought i would share.


Transit Maps says:

Looks like the Twin Cities’ Metro Transit is gearing up for the opening of the new Green Line light rail nice and early! The line — which will link the downtown areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul — doesn’t open until June 14, but here’s a strip map ready to go on a train already. By the looks of it, the “Green Line Opens June 14, 1014” text is on a sticker that can simply be removed from the map at the appropriate time.

The map itself does just about everything you could expect from an above-door strip map that has to show the entire system: it clearly labels the stations (using type only set at one, consistent angle: well done), delineates the two downtown cores with a minimum of fuss and even gives estimates of the time taken to travel between stations. I’d like the interchange to the Northstar commuter rail service at the Target Field station to be given a little more prominence, but that’s really about my only complaint.

Our rating: Simple, clean, clear — what maps of this type should strive to be! It’ll be interesting to see how this map evolves further when the Green and Red Line extensions come into play, though. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

  1. Camera: iPhone 5s
  2. Aperture: f/2.2
  3. Exposure: 1/120th
  4. Focal Length: 4mm

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)

Fantasy Map: In-Car Strip Map for Fictional Indianapolis “CITI” Red Line

A lesson in how not to add station labels to a strip map: type at five different angles makes things incredibly hard to read. Also not to be recommended for legibility is the all-caps treatment of station names.

This would work much better if the route line was pushed to the top of the strip, with all stations spaced equally and type set at one consistent angle across the entire diagram.

(Source: A2DAC1985/Flickr)

Design Resource: Transport for London’s “Line Diagram Standards” Guide

Definitely worth a look to see how a major transit agency puts together a comprehensive guide to assembling consistently designed maps. The guide deals with horizontal in-car strip maps and the vertical line maps seen on platforms, but many of the principles still hold true for the design of a full transit map.

Of particular interest is the relationship between the x-height of Johnston Sans and the thickness of the route lines (they’re the same). This value of “x” is also used to calculate the radius of a curve in a route line: the innermost edge of a curve is always three times the value of “x” — never any less. Almost every relationship between objects on the map is defined mathematically, although the nomenclature can be a little less than intuitive sometimes: “x”, “n” and “CH” all make an appearance!

Also, if you ever wanted to know what the PANTONE or CMYK breakdowns for all the Underground route line colours are, this guide tells you that, too!

All in all, a really interesting read — just try and ignore the terrible typos that pop up here and there: “donated” instead of “denoted” on page 11 is my favourite! Click on the image or the link below to download the PDF.

(Source: Transport for London website - 2MB PDF)

Submission - New Official Moscow Metro In-Car Strip Map

Submitted by long-time contributor, Dmitry Darsavilidze, here’s a brand new strip map for Metro Line 6. Designed by Art.Lebedev Studios, and based on their contest-winning system map, this carries on the good work of that design.

The strip map is simple and uncluttered, and has nice, large, easy-to-read type (a failing of many strip maps, which often have type to small to be easily read from any sort of distance). Information is presented consistently — interchange information is always given underneath the line, making it easy to locate each and every time. 

My favourite part, however, is the subtle ring that denotes the Koltsevaya (Circle) Line. Given the Koltsevaya Line’s importance in the system (almost every other line interchanges with it at least once) and the way that it represents the border between central Moscow and the outlying suburbs, using it as a visual device like this is very clever.

(Source: Dimitry’s Twitter)

Photo: Lost in Berlin

Heh. Love the expression on his face.

(Source: TGKW/Flickr)

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.

(Source: nattynora/Flickr)

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.

4 Stars!

(Source: ralpherga/Flickr)