Isaac Fischer writes:

Hi Cameron! I just wanted to thank you for your review of my map for the New Mexico Park and Ride system (July 2014, 3 stars). I thought I should let you know that I have contacted Park and Ride and they are considering adopting my map in place of their regular one. (I made the edits you suggested and also produced a miniature version that will more easily fit into their timetable.) I’ll let you know if they end up adopting the map.

One other thing that might interest you: I make all my maps in OmniGraffle, which is available for both Mac and iPad (but not for Windows or Linux machines). I wasn’t sure if you were aware of OmniGraffle’s potential for designing transit maps, but it is remarkably effective (I designed the Park and Ride map in about two hours). I never understood Illustrator or Inkscape; OmniGraffle is much more user-friendly. If you’re interested, I’d suggest checking it out.


Transit Maps says:

That’s very interesting news, Isaac! Hopefully they can see the value in a good system map and not only adopt it, but also pay you an amount that reflects that value for your work.

I’m aware of OmniGraffle, but I would have a couple of qualms about using it for professional map-making work.

Firstly, it’s not industry-standard software, which limits the ability to share work with other designers who don’t have the application, and it also prevents you from learning the Adobe Illustrator techniques and skills that would be required in a real-world job.

Secondly, I’m not sure of its ability to create proper four-colour process (CMYK) or spot-colour output files, which would be an absolute deal-breaker in a print production environment. Later conversion from RGB to CMYK could cause unwanted and unexpected colour shifts, especially with blacks and RGB colours that are brighter than can be printed in the limited CMYK gamut (greens and blues are especially susceptible to this). To be fair, I’ve seen conflicting reports on whether or not OmniGraffle can export a CMYK output file, so it may be capable of this.

In short, if you’d like to experiment with transit mapping for fun or as a hobby, then OmniGraffle looks like a cheap, easy to use solution. Isaac has certainly proved that quality work can be created in it. However, if you’re looking for a career in mapping, then there’s no way around it: learn Adobe Illustrator and learn it well.

Thanks also to “Bklynfatpants”, who left a comment on the site noting that it wasn’t necessarily fair to compare Isaac’s complete map with the tiny schematic that Park and Ride uses in their schedule. Park and Ride does have a complete system map, viewable here (PDF). It’s a geographical map, exported directly from GIS software. It’s still pretty bad, although admittedly much better than the itty-bitty schematic.

Submission - Historical Map, Boston Elevated Railway System, 1932

Submitted by emotingviamemes, who says:

This is an old Boston Elevated Railway Company map from a user guide I purchased at the wonderful Ward Maps store in Cambridge, MA. It’s a lovely relic of its time! The rest of the guide gives transit directions to landmarks and points of interest. I’m not exactly sure why the modern day Blue and Red Lines are the same color on here, unless some color had faded with age.


Transit Maps says:

Yep, it’s a beauty alright!

I’ve given up trying to comprehensively date Boston maps (one of my readers always comes up with more accurate dating than me!), so I’m just putting it in the rough range of 1928 to 1938, mainly based on the existence of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated line.

Note: Steven Beaucher from Ward Maps has identified this as the 1932 map for me (see, I told you someone else would know!).

Regarding the route colours as shown, I’d just say that it was done in an effort to minimise the number of colours used in the print job. The “yellow” and “red” lines on this map run concurrently with each other between Haymarket and North Station and thus need some visual differentiation to make them easy to follow, while the two “blue” routes only cross other routes and don’t interact with each other, so they can safely use the same colour. Assignation of route colours back in those early days of transit map design was quite random: even early pre-Beck London Underground maps could never really decide which line got which colour. And remember that Boston’s modern route colours were only defined in the late 1960s when the famous “spider map” was introduced.

Photo: Making Sense of It All

Submitted by Mark, who says:

I was trying to capture a photo of the remnants of this strip list/map when the little girl got in the way and made the photo much better.


Transit Maps says:


  1. Camera: iPhone 3G
  2. Aperture: f/2.8

Submission - Historical Map: MARTA Rail System, 1984

Submitted by Chris Bastian. The map is almost identical to the one shown in this photo submitted by Matt Johnson a couple of years ago, but with the “Under Construction/Design” dots for the extremities of the North/South line clearly visible.

Unofficial Map: “MetroMan” Beijing Subway Map by Lyt

Submitted by Xuan, who says:

Hey Cameron, I am wondering if you’d be interested in reviewing this unofficial subway map of my hometown - Beijing. The author is Lyt, aka lighthunter. I think his version is 100,000 times better than the official map. I think he deserves an ovation.

Although China now has the longest subway mileage in the world, most Chinese transit maps are hideous. That’s why I figure this map could be a really good addition to your blog.


Transit Maps says:

It saddens me to report that this map has been hiding way down at the bottom of my inbox for quite some time now. Quite simply put, this is gorgeous work and should have been posted a long time ago. It’s really everything you want a diagrammatic map to be: compact, simple, easy to understand, and beautiful to look at.

Future lines are shown, but pushed way down in the information hierarchy by making them all a light grey. Beijing’s multiple ring roads are also present, but only very faintly: a visual aid if you need it, barely noticeable if you don’t.

I particularly like the interesting station markers for non-interchange stations – instead of a tick or circle, a thin notch is taken out of the route line that also points towards the station’s label. Nicely done!

Our rating: By far the best Beijing Subway map that I’ve seen. Available on the iTunes as part of the "Metroman China Subway" app. Four-and-a-half stars!

4.5 Stars!

Submitted by Sascha, who says:

just came across your interesting website.

I would like to hear your thoughts on the transit map of the city of Leipzig, Germany.


Sascha, I actually reviewed Leipzig’s map quite while ago (January 2012, 4 stars), so this seems like a good time to remind readers (especially those new to the site) of the awesome power of tags in Tumblr posts, particularly if you’re trying to find a map from a particular place.

I try to be fairly meticulous with my tagging, including as much information as I can: city name, state/region, country, continent, mode of transit, transit agency name, designer’s name (if known), my star rating… etc. If you want to try and find something on the site, then the best thing to do is to type or copy this into your browser’s search bar:

and then type the tag you’re interested after the last slash. If the tag is two or more words, like New York, then you need to separate them with a hyphen instead of a space: new-york

I also have a handy “Search By Tags" page on the blog that has pre-made links to some of the more popular/useful tags. Search away! 

Submission – Fantasy Map: Pacific Northwest (USA and Canada) Regional Rail

Submitted by opspe, who says:

This is my concept for what an integrated regional inter-city rail network in the Northwest could look like, if things had developed that way.  All there is now (regionally) is Cascades, which I ride all the time, but it’s still rather limited.  I decided to include the local commuter rail lines (WES, Sounder, WCE) too.  I also decided to beef up CalTrans a bit - they don’t actually serve Redding, although it’s in discussion.

I sort of based the concept on the National Rail network in the UK, although things had to be scaled up a bit.  The area shown is about 2.5 times the size of the UK, after all.  I decided to include the main communities the lines pass through, rather than have a ton of whistle stops.  To me that makes it feel more…functional, for lack of a better word - more like a proper, seamless system. That being said, I think the scale belies the vastness of the region, so if I were to make smaller-scale maps for individual routes, I would probably include “whistle-stop sections” along the route.  But that’s TMI for an overview.

The routes are all current rail lines, in various states of freight usage or disrepair. I think the section between Juntura and Burns has been scrubbed entirely, but the grade is still there. There are several other minor infrastructure adjustments that would be needed too (downtown Hillsboro comes to mind).

As far as design goes, it seemed best to include some stylized geographical accuracy rather than have it be too rectilinear.  I tried to make the route names somewhat geographic, but I also numbered them for clarity. Route 1 (CascadesExpress) I had imagined as being a high-speed line, as opposed to the more local routes 2 and 3. Together they replace Amtrak Cascades (but keep the name for continuity).

Tumblr and/or Dropbox will likely crush the resolution, but the idea is that it’s supposed to be a big map, such as you would find mounted inside a station, or as a PDF online.

I’m curious what you think of it.


Transit Maps says:

Overall, this is a fine effort, which could just use a little polishing here and there to make it a quite excellent fantasy map. A couple of areas stand out to me for potential improvements:

First, the insets at the top, right and bottom of the map – all for just a few stations each – really make it look like you just ran out of room and didn’t want to go back and rework things. There’s lots of room on a map this big to tighten things up and make everything fit without insets. Even bringing all your stations just a tiny bit closer together across the entire map can create a surprising amount of extra space. For mine, insets should only be used when the complexity of the system at that point can’t reasonably be shown any other way: the inset of the Loop on the official Chicago “L” map stands as a good example of this.

Secondly, you could work a little more on stylizing and simplifying your coastline and rivers. The San Juan Islands look particularly blocky to me, and I think the Columbia River would look so much nicer if it had sweeping curves as it changed direction, rather than the harsh angles you currently have. Remember, the style of your background should complement your route lines, not draw attention away from them.

I also think the thick black border around your legend is a little heavy handed, but that’s a very minor thing.

One thing on the operational aspect of your system (which I don’t normally comment on too much, preferring just to focus on the technical and aesthetic qualities of the map)… I’m not sure any regional/commuter rail system would ever run a route one way up one side of a river and the other direction on the opposite bank like you’ve done with Line 12 in British Columbia. It’s just not at all practical for users! Imagine if I live in Agassiz, and I commute to Vancouver each day: I drive my car to Agassiz station and catch the train. Coming home, I can only return to Chilliwack, which is nowhere near where I left my car. Maybe there are shuttle buses between the two stations, but that just seems incredibly inefficient. I would suggest that most regional rail systems would have one route along the side of the river that serves the most people, or maybe – just maybe! – they’d split the service (but halve the frequency) in both directions on both sides of the river.

Photo: Old Rome–Pantano Railway Map, Italy

Submitted by Chris Bastian. An old, out-of-date wall map of the Rome–Pantano railway. Until 2008, the line ran from the Roma Termini station out to Pantano, a suburb to the east of Rome. Since then, the line has been cut back to Giardinetti (the station near the ring road shown on this map), as the eastern portion of the line is being converted into part of the new Metro Line 3.

Also of note is the depiction of island or side platforms on the map: always nice to know which side of the train to get off!

  1. Camera: Panasonic DMC-TS2
  2. Aperture: f/3.3
  3. Exposure: 1/30th
  4. Focal Length: 4mm

Unofficial Future Map: Melbourne Metro Train Network by Bernie Ng

Submitted by Bernie, whose excellent map of Singapore (Nov. 2013, 3.5 stars) has already been featured on this site. Bernie says:

Hi Cameron,

I saw your post about the new Victorian Rail Network concept map (April 2014, 3.5 stars) by PTV and was very impressed - it’s quite a quantum leap forward from the existing map.  I thought I’d have a go at further redefining the map, but for the Melbourne Metro network only. (I personally don’t see the value in putting the regional/metro network in one map – an average user won’t really need both networks together, and as you say, scale is an issue.)

Quite naturally, the City Loop is used as the visual focal point.  I was hoping it could be placed in the centre of the map, but given the lopsided nature of Melbourne, it was not quite possible.  I have added some of the proposed extensions for the network, including the metro tunnel running through the city, creating a bypass from the congested loop. (This tunnel is currently attracting lots of debate - the latest government proposal is to run it south of the loop via Montague - although I prefer the original proposed route and have shown that on the map.)

Stopping patterns are shown as they are relatively simple compared to Sydney’s. Most routes operate all stops, or with one all stops and one limited stops service. With recent interest on “clockface” or “turn-up-and-go” services, the map indicates which stations have services at least every 15 minutes or better during the daytime.

Each line is assigned a letter code for easier identification, especially for tourists.  The letters are assigned in a counterclockwise order, starting with A-Line for Airport (Tullamarine) services.  

Melbourne public transport uses a fare zone system, but the number of zones have been reduced over the years. I would actually prefer to have more zones, which result in the ability to charge fares more commensurate with the distance travelled. This map shows fare zones in 10km increments from Southern Cross station. (I also have a cleaner version of the map omitting the zones.)

The font used is Source Sans Pro – thanks so much for the tip!  It is indeed a really great font. Very visually pleasing with high legibility. Perfect for maps.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the map.


Transit Maps says:

This is great work once again from Bernie: a very attractive map that features some distinctive and lovely flowing route lines. The representation of the City Loop as a perfect circle is deftly handled and a perfect focal point for the map (the ever-important visual “hook” that helps a map stand out from the crowd). However, I’m not so keen on the way that the labels for the stations on the loop are angled as if they were spokes on a wheel – Bernie’s done an otherwise excellent job of constraining labels to just two angles (horizontal and reading up from bottom left to top right), and this just seems a little gimmicky and fussy to me.

Bernie’s frequency icons are a nice usability touch (it’s always nice to know that you’re never more than 15 minutes away from the next train!), but I’m less convinced by his attempts to show service patterns. Looking at the legend, he’s using eight different station icons to convey this information, which is a lot to ask users of the map to remember. And – at least in the smaller image size that Tumblr allows – it’s pretty tricky to tell some of those icons apart visually. I’m generally in favour of letting timetables deal with the nitty-gritty of showing local/express route combinations, and this treatment doesn’t really convince me otherwise, although I certainly appreciate the effort Bernie has put into it.

Speaking of the legend, it really is beautifully put together and very comprehensive. Placing it neatly into Port Phillip Bay really works pretty much perfectly.

About the only other comment I have is regarding Bernie’s proposed route naming conventions. If I was giving route designations based simply on the alphabet as Bernie has done here, I would start at the one nearest the 12 o’clock position (probably Bernie’s “T” South Morang route) and continue in a clockwise direction, rather than anti-clockwise. It’s simply far more intuitive to use a universally understood convention like this to make finding route lines easier. Yes, “A” for “Airport” is hard to resist, but none of the other routes have any correlation between their destination stations and the letter designation, so the “A” should be as easy to find as possible.

Our rating: Looks fabulous, but perhaps tries a little too hard to convey a lot of information. Still, I have to applaud Bernie for pushing the envelope and attempting something a little out of the box (and mainly succeeding). Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

Submission - Toronto TTC Strip Map at St. George Station

Submitted by criacow, who says:

Check out this wayfinding sign at St. George Station in the TTC subway here in Toronto. (My blurry photo, but TTC signage.) Up is north, but *left* is *east*—they flipped on an axis rather than rotating—and ‘eastbound’ isn’t noted anywhere. I’ve lived here for years and even I was confused by this until I looked at the specific station names!


Transit Maps says:

I’ll agree that this does look odd at first glance, but I’d bet the map points in the right direction (i.e., Kennedy station is to the left of this viewpoint, with the train entering the station from the right). In effect, this is actually a strip map, showing stations in the direction of travel from this platform, rather than a true system map where the cardinal directions point the way you expect.

I think what really throws you (and probably many others!) is the reversal of the distinctive “U-shape” of the Yonge–University–Spadina line (or should that just be “Line 1” now?).