Historical Map: Map of Glasgow Corporation Transport Services, c. 1934
A handsomely drawn map that does some sterling work with just three colours (a very modern combination of black, cyan and magenta!).
Of particular note is the clever way that a solid magenta line (bus service), can be combined with a dashed black line (trams) to indicate where both types of transportation share the same route without having to draw two separate lines. Interestingly, buses appear to have route numbers, while trams are designated by their final destination only.
Glasgow’s single circular subway line is shown in nicely contrasting cyan, as are neighbourhood labels and the River Clyde.
Historical Map: Working Sketch for 1979 New York Subway Map by Nobu Siraisi
As you might probably guess, I’m not really that fond of the current New York Subway map, although its longevity is certainly to be respected. It was first revealed to the public in 1979, and — despite revisions, service changes and disasters — has remained pretty much the same ever since.
However, this preliminary sketch by designer Nobu Siraisi, collaborating with Michael Hertz on that map, is nothing short of delightful. It looks like it was made in an effort to untangle the web of route lines around the busy Atlantic Avenue station with an eye on label placement as well. Note that the label for Grand Army Plaza station has been erased from the right hand side of the route lines and redrawn to the left. It’s also interesting to see just how much cleaner and legible even this spaghetti-strand map is without the underlying street grid of the full map.
The interview in the Gothamist that this image came from is definitely worth reading, although Michael Hertz certainly has a very rose-tinted view of how his map replaced the Vignelli diagram that came before it.
Unofficial Map: Los Angeles Metro for the “Analogue Guide: Los Angeles”
Submitted by Stefan, who says:
I thought I’d share the Los Angeles Metro map that we designed for the Analogue Guide Los Angeles.
We always include “alternative” transit maps in our guide books, such Eddie Jabbour’s KickMap or Mark Noad’s Tubemap. In Los Angeles, given the sheer lack of maps, we designed one in-house.
It would be great to hear your thoughts on it!
Transit Maps says:
Thanks for sharing, Stefan! This is quite a neat piece of work that would seem to suit your needs very well. The design definitely fits in with the clean, minimalist look of the guide book itself! I’m never too certain about using Futura Condensed on a transit map myself, but it seems to be doing a good job here.
While concentrating on the central/downtown part of the city is probably perfect for what you cover in the guide, I’d personally still like to see some indication of the final destinations of each line: either as arrows pointing off the edge of the map, or incorporated into the legend at the top left. I also would have identified the lines by name in the legend, as LA has that weird mix of colour-named and destination-named lines (Expo and — soon — Crenshaw).
However, I do like the way you’ve incorporated the dates for the future openings of the various lines: it helps bring context to what is still an evolving and developing system.
Really minor typo: it’s “Light Rail”, not “Lightrail”.
Overall, I really like this map: it places the system on top of just enough geographical clues (the street grid, coastline,river and neighbourhood names) to allow for easy orientation — which is what a guide book should be all about, right?
Official Map: Boston MBTA Government Center Station Closure Bypass
Submitted by Lawrence, who says:
As you’ve probably heard, the MBTA is about to close Government Center at the end of service tomorrow for a 2 year reconstruction. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the detour maps the T created and have put in stations. To me (a self-confessed transit geek), they seem adequate, but all of my friends find them very confusing. This leads to a broader question: how should transit agencies map and market necessary detours like this? What could be done to improve this? Thanks!
Transit Maps says:
Lawrence, I think you’re being extremely generous when you say that this is an “adequate” map. For me, it takes a pretty simple concept and obfuscates it with so much confusing and unnecessary information that it becomes difficult to decipher.
The idea behind the map is to show riders alternative ways to change between the Green and Blue Lines while Government Center (the natural interchange between these lines) is closed for the next two years. The MBTA’s own project webpage says this, which actually sums things up pretty succinctly:
The recommended path of travel for Green Line customers desiring access to the Blue Line is to travel to Haymarket Station and transfer to the Orange Line toward Forest Hills (southbound). Customers should transfer at State Station for Blue Line connections.
The recommended path of travel for Blue Line customers desiring access to the Green Line is to travel to State and transfer to the Orange Line toward Oak Grove (northbound). Customers should then transfer at Haymarket for Green Line connections.
It’s not exactly convenient — requiring two connections instead of the previous one — but the concept is pretty easy to understand: transfer at Haymarket and State.
You can also walk pretty easily between Park Street and State to achieve a Blue/Green transfer (I’d suggest it would actually take far less time to do this than to transfer trains twice), but the MBTA isn’t doing you any favours if you do. Unless you have an unlimited weekly or monthly pass, you’ll have to pay again to re-enter the system, which doesn’t really seem very fair in the circumstances. An act of good faith from the MBTA might be to allow out-of-system transfers at Park Street and State for the duration of the project (within a reasonable time frame, of course).
So, now that we know what the map is trying to convey, let’s see how it does.
My first — and biggest — problem with the map is the seemingly random way that it depicts the subway lines: all the lines that leave the central map area are ghosted back, except the Blue Line. Why is it shown differently? Why are any of them ghosted back at all? Ghosting a route line back like that can imply that service on that line is suspended or otherwise not operating, which is not true for any of these lines.
It’s particularly confusing for the Blue Line between State and Bowdoin, because it makes it look like all Blue Line services terminate at State. In fact, trains will continue to run through Government Center (without stopping) to Bowdoin, which will operate full-time during this project, instead of its normal limited operating hours.
The other big problem: the repetition of the station “T” icons to show secondary entrances to stations. For someone unfamiliar with Boston (hello, tourists!) these could reasonably be confused for actual, separate stations (which don’t really exist).
The entrance to State station at the Old South Meeting House is the worst offender: the denoted walking path from Park Street leads directly to a labelled “T” marker that’s almost exactly halfway between Downtown Crossing and State — looks like a station to me! The only indication for the uninitiated that this is an entrance to State is that the ring around the “T” shares that station’s blue and orange colour-coding. To my mind, the walking path should continue all the way to State through the marker. And of course, replacing the entrance “T” markers with their own, unique icon would remove any chance for confusion. An icon should never represent two separate, unrelated things!
The arrows used to represent the possible alternate routes do a solid — if unspectacular — job, but they’re surrounded by so much visual confusion that it’s hard to trust what they’re saying. It’s actually kind of frightening that two paragraphs of text on the MBTA website can do a better job of explaining the bypass than this map can — a visual medium should really be able to explain this so much more clearly than a text-based or verbal solution ever could.
In conjunction with the project webpage, which is actually pretty comprehensive, this map is just about tolerable. But for someone coming across it in a station with no other knowledge of the project — it’s awfully hard work.
(Source: MBTA Project webpage)
Submission — Historical Map: Boston Elevated Railway System Map, c. 1946
Kindly sent my way by Ross Howard from his personal collection is this great old map of the Boston Elevated Railway (or BERy).
Ross thought it may have been from the 1930s, but a little Googling has revealed that this version — the seventh edition — was released in 1946-1947, making it the last BERy map before its operations were taken over by the MTA, itself a predecessor to the current MBTA.
The map itself is a fine example of precise mid-20th century cartography, making good use of minimal colour. I also like the great typography and the wonderful compass rose logo on the cover. The house ad for travelling via “El” to the Airport is interesting: shuttle buses still run from the Blue Line to Logan to this very day.
Historical Map: Proposed Cincinnati Rapid Transit System with Subway, c.1912
And here’s where Cincinnati’s long, troubled history with public transit began…
This map shows early route plans for a proposed rapid transit system, roughly corresponding to the modern Alternatives Analysis process. By 1917, a modification of Scheme IV as shown here was chosen and put to a public vote to procure $6 million worth of bonds for construction. The vote passed convincingly, but the United States had entered World War I just eleven days previously — and the federal government had forbidden the issuance of bonds for capital works programs.
The project was put on hold.
When the war ended, estimated construction costs had more than doubled. Work began, but by the time money ran out in 1927, only a short 7-mile section had been dug or graded, and no actual track had been laid. The emergence of the automobile in the intervening years contributed to the project’s final downfall. Despite attempts to restart the project in the 1930s and 1940s, it remains uncompleted.
Four underground stations still remain in the short stretch of completed tunnel, while three at-grade stations were demolished in the 1960s when Interstate 75 was constructed. In the 1950s, a water main was laid through the tunnel, simply because it was already there and obviated the need for expensive tunneling. The original bond was finally paid off in 1966 at a total price of $13,019,982.45 — a lot of money for nothing.
More recently, the tunnels were proposed to be used as an integral part of the MetroMoves transit plan that was convincingly voted down in 2002.
Cincinnati’s transit woes continue to this day with the drawn-out and controversial Cincinnati Streetcar project, which has finally started construction.
Read more about the Cincinnati Subway here.
Fantasy Map: Springfield Transit Authority Map from “The Simpsons”
From the Season 25 episode that premiered last night, “The Winter of His Content”. Looks like the (supposedly abandoned!) system has had a complete overhaul, expansion and rebranding since its previous appearance (second image).
Then again, Springfield’s never made very rational decisions about public transit (monorail monorail monorail…)
(Source: Simpsons Wiki)
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)
Historical Map: Hamburg Hoch- und Untergrundbahn, c. 1912
A beautiful old map showing Hamburg’s Ringbahn and spur lines. I believe that this map is from no later than January 1912, and it may be from even earlier, as the legend denotes that all the routes shown in red (the beginnings of today’s U-Bahn system) are “intended for execution” — that is, planned or under construction, not actually built.
Construction of the Ringbahn began in 1906, and the first section between Rathaus and Barmbek stations was opened on February 15, 1912. The ring was completed by the end of June that year. The spur lines as shown on this map opened in stages between 1913 and 1915.
See also this amazing Hamburg train carriage ceiling map from 1915.
The Hamburg subway in 1912.
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)