Unofficial Map: Transit of Riga, Latvia by Viteks Bariševs
Transit Maps has been keeping an eye on this project for quite some time now: I reviewed an earlier version of this map way back in January 2012, noting that it held a lot of promise for the future.
At the time, Viteks was hopeful that he could get his map adopted as Riga’s official transit map. While that hasn’t quite happened yet, he’s definitely set himself up as an excellent alternative to the (pretty terrible) official maps. That’s right, the official website has to use three maps – one for each mode (bus, trolleybus, tram) – to show what Viteks has expertly put into one.
Having just had his map professionally printed, Viteks was kind enough to send me some samples for review. First off, this map reminds me why I will always love a map on paper… there’s just something about the way you can pore over it and absorb all the details fully that you just can’t replicate on a computer screen. A PDF of a complex network like this is all well and good, but you either have to view the whole map at a size which makes reading text hard, or you have to zoom in and lose the ability to relate the section you’re looking at to the system as a whole.
The print quality of the map is excellent, with good colour fidelity and registration throughout. The map folds down to a very compact size of just 8.5 x 17.5cm (3.3 x 6.9 inches) – a pocket map which can actually fit in a pocket without having to be folded over again! It unfolds to be around 51 x 35 cm (20 x 13.8 inches), which is big without being too big or unwieldy. The folds for the map also concertina nicely, so you could easily unfold it to just the portion that you need without opening it entirely.
The map itself has made great strides in legibility and information hierarchy since the 2012 version: the three transit modes are differentiated much better than before, and terminus stations are now clearly shown in white text in a black box (rather than with underlined text as before). While obviously a diagram, I think Viteks has done a good job of retaining spatial relationships between the different parts of the city, which an be helpful for orientation. The map also has an excellent city centre inset on the reverse of the main map (with some nifty little illustrations of the main points of interest), and a night bus map as well. Truly useful, well-considered information for all travellers!
A few thoughts for improvement: the map is probably at the absolute smallest size that it can be reproduced. While I can read the labels on it just fine, others with poorer eyesight may not fare so well.
Because the route lines are all so thin, the system that Viteks uses to distinguish between the three transportation modes – a solid coloured line for buses, a coloured line overlaid with a thinner white line for trolleybuses, and a coloured line overlaid with a thinner black line for trams – can be a little difficult to make out. The trolleybus lines effectively become two very thin coloured lines separated by an equally thin white one: depending on the colour of the line, this can be very difficult to discern. Similarly, if the route line colour for a tram service is relatively dark, the overlaid black line can be quite difficult to see. In the end, this doesn’t matter a huge amount, because Viteks has cleverly added a letter to the beginning of each route number that corresponds to the mode: A for autobus, E for trolleybus, and T for tram. The legend does point out that these prefixes aren’t actually shown on the vehicles, but perhaps this information could be made a little more prominent to prevent some poor tourist from standing around all day waiting for an “E15” to come.
In short, this is a fantastic effort to create something better than what’s officially available. This is obviously a labour of love and it shows in the attention to detail and quality of the work. Looking at the project website, it seems that lots of locations around Riga are now selling the map, so it would seem that Viteks’ hard work and perseverance is paying off.
Official Map: Brussels Integrated Transit Map
According to my correspondents, Brussels has recently switched from a geographical transit map to this new diagrammatic map. As you can see by comparing the two images of the centre of the city above, a lot of streamlining and simplification has taken place. The first thing that strikes me is the way that many bus routes have either been removed or have been condensed or “collapsed” into a single route line with a common label, simplifying the map immensely. The place where this is really obvious is at Gare du Nord/Noordstation, which now only has six route numbers listed next to it, compared to thirty-six on the previous map!
Major interchanges are now denoted by an enclosing ring, suggesting that all stops at that interchange — be they bus, tram or Metro — are in close proximity to each other. The Paris Metro map uses a very similar device at interchanges between modes.
However, while the map is a huge improvement over the crowded mess of the previous geographical map, it’s certainly not perfect.
The labelling — which admittedly has to overcome the requirement of being bilingual — is a bit haphazard in its application, with some labels for one station overlapping that of another in parts. Major station labels waste a lot of space when there’s only one or two route numbers listed under the station’s name.
Each and every route line is outlined in black, regardless of its colour, which gives a very heavy, cumbersome feel to the map. Normally, only very light coloured routes (yellow or light blues, for example) need this treatment, so I’m not sure why it was deemed necessary here. Also, while the difference in line thickness between trams and buses seems obvious in the legend, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart on the actual map when multiple routes are butting up to each other (Hint: stops on bus routes are ever so slightly wider than the route line — way too subtle for easy mode differentiation!)
The icons for points of interest are all so very generic and bland.
Finally, the colours used on the map seem very simplistic and cartoon-like, stopping the map from having a harmonious, unified feel. Both the green used for parkland and the blue used for water are way too strong and vivid: they compete with the route lines for attention, becoming a distraction.
Our rating: Better than what came before, but still not great. Despite all the reworking, it’s still very cluttered and confusing. The new Ile-de-France Regional Rail map sets the standard for this type of map, and this falls well short. Two-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Official STIB website)
Official Map: Île-de-France Regional Transit Map
Brought to my attention by readers Tony and Guillaume is this striking new regional transit map for the Île-de-France region that surrounds Paris.
It shows not only the Paris Métro (lines 1 through 14), but also the tramways (Lines T1 through T7), RER lines (lines A through E) and the Transilien commuter rail network (lines H, J, K, L, N, P, R and U). In addition to all this, it also manages to show a wide array of bus routes and indicate travel zones! That it can do all this while still looking quite lovely is definitely an achievement.
Issued by the Syndicat des Transports d’Ile de France (STIF) and designed by LatitudeCartagene, the map is starting to pop up at stations across Paris, replacing an older, more geographically-based map.
It’s interesting to note that while the map shows the entire Métro, it isn’t based on the official map of that network and has instead been drawn from scratch — a wise choice. It also uses Frutiger as the main typeface, rather than the RATP’s bespoke Parisine font. However, it does share the Métro map’s slightly muted pastel colour palette, which means that the few really bright colours like the blazing red of the RER “A” line really jump out.
The map uses an interesting mix of angles to allow all the routes to meet up with each other, as well as some lovely sweeping curves, especially the RER “C” line along the banks of the Seine. In general, the RER and Transilien lines have more flowing curves than the Métro, which works well to visually separate them. The bus routes are shown as straight lines with very tight curves when they change direction.
About the only fault with this map is the lack of a legend: the distinction between the RER lines (route letter in a circle) and Transilien lines (route letter in a square) isn’t immediately apparent, and I’m still not entirely sure why some bus routes are orange and others are blue (orange routes mainly serve central Paris, while blue routes seem to serve the outer areas or be express routes).
Our rating: Basically, I love this: a huge, complex network of interconnecting routes and transit modes simplified and rendered in a stylish, understandable way. Hopefully, it’s future-proofed to cope with the upcoming expansion of Métro and RER services. Four-and-a-half stars!
(Source: Official STIF vianavigo site — PDF download)
High-Resolution Scan of 1988 Amsterdam Transit Map!
Have I ever mentioned how much I love my readers?
I posted about this map last Monday, praising its visual clarity, but also lamenting the fact that I didn’t have a higher resolution version of it to really savour the details.
Almost immediately, I got a submission from Alain Lemaire, who generously sent me full high-resolution scans of the whole map from his personal collection. He provided me with four separate scans, one for each quadrant of the map (which is obviously too big to scan in one piece), which I have simply combined them into one big file (4325 × 4653px, 6MB) in Photoshop.
Tumblr’s maximum image size is way too small for a detailed map like this, so I’m hosting it over on my personal website. Click the image above or here to go and view/download it.
Alain has this to say about the map:
In my opinion, this map is a diagrammatic beauty, but pretty much rendered useless outside the city center because of the lack of bus stop labels and a geographic backdrop. Might have been the reason why GVB decided to drop this beauty and put the current – rather bland but more practical – design in place which does not feature any stop labels at all but does have a clear geographic backdrop. That way at least you do have a reference point for using the map. Maybe Hans van der Kooi could tell you more about the history and eventual decommissioning of this map.
As far as the colour coding goes, Van der Kooi used colour and line width to show which lines go where: thick red for all tram and thin red for all bus lines to the central station and main transit hub in Amsterdam, thick green for trams on the inner ring route along the city center, thick yellow for ‘other’ tram routes and thin yellow, green, blue and purple for all other bus routes. It seems to me he used yellow for most lines terminating at Sloterdijk station, which served as a second transit hub in the late 1980s. All regional bus lines are shown in black and white. For comparison: the current official map uses colour only to distinguish between tram, bus, peak bus and regional bus. Not of much use if you want to easily determine where your line is heading.
(Source: Alain Lemaire via email)
Submission - Historical Map: Public Transit in Amsterdam, 1988 by Hans van der Kooi
Submitted by the designer of the map, Hans van der Kooi, who says:
As a result of the popularity of the hand-out map for trams (June 2013, 4.5 stars) in Amsterdam, we designed a larger scale map, used on the tram and bus stops in Amsterdam, including the line of the buses as well. Designed and used in 1988.
Transit Maps says:
An absolute pleasure to have this map submitted by the original designer! While the image size is a little small to make out the fine detail, it’s obvious that this map builds on and continues the good work of the tram network map that I’ve featured previously. Again, the dodecalinear layout suits Amsterdam’s underlying structure almost perfectly, and the way that the thickness of the tram route lines instantly denotes service frequency is quite superb.
Buses are shown with thinner lines and (what looks like) lighter colours. Enough geographical information – parks, bodies of water, major roads, etc. – is included to orient users and make the bus routes useful to use.
The Metro is shown with a dashed blue line: again, the route line doubles in thickness when the two separate lines from Gaasperpas and Gein merge together in the south-eastern corner of the map. National rail services are shown as a dashed black and white line, the way they often are on Dutch transit maps. Note that even in this small image, it’s still very easy to distinguish between the different modes of transit shown – definitely something to aspire to!
Our rating: The image is a little too small to give this a proper rating, but even at a distance, the clarity of the informational design is something to behold.
(Source: 8-13 website via Hans van der Kooi)
Soon-to-be-Official Map: Tram Network of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Submitted by Alexander Zaytsev, who says:
Hey Cameron and Transit Maps readers! I’d like to show you the first transit map that in my portfolio. Here are the tram routes of one of the largest Ukrainian cities — Dnipropetrovsk. This unofficial map is going to be official very soon :) What do you think?
Transit Maps says:
I like it! Clear and easy to follow a route line from one end to the other. The map retains enough information to relate to the city’s street grid, which is more important for trams than it might be for a subway or Metro. The little jogs in the red Line 1 are a good example: I’d hate that kind of fussy detail on a subway map, but here it tells the reader that the line briefly jumps across to another street on its way through the downtown area. The little dogleg that Lines 4 and 12 take is also a nice visualisation of the actual street layout.
Interestingly, while the map shows connections to main line railway stations (denoted by a steam train icon!), it doesn’t indicate the Dnipropetrovsk Metro in any way. While I understand that the Metro isn’t exactly anything to write home about with just six stations and declining ridership, I think that some sort of acknowledgement of it of this map would be useful.
Apart from that, the only thing I’m not too sure about is the thinning of the route lines as they approach the big loop in the centre of the map. While I can understand the desire to save a little bit of space where five lines run concurrently, I don’t think the result is worth the effort. The orange Line 17 looks particularly off-kilter as it approaches the loop from the south, very obviously leaning to the right.
Our rating: A solid, earnest effort that’s clear and easy to use — far better than many maps of similarly-sized tram systems. Three-and-a-half stars!
Historical Map: Thüringerwaldbahn Tram Mural, Tabarz, East Germany, 1989
A photo from 1989 of a newly-painted mural celebrating 60 years of the Thüringerwaldbahn, an interurban tram service running 22km between Gotha and Tabarz.
As the original poster on Flickr notes, the scale of the map is “fanciful”, but it’s really meant more as a (rather lovely) decorative overview than an actual map.
I’d be interested to know if the mural is still there, some 24-odd years later.
Historical Map: Montreal Tramways Company, 1941
Here’s a very handsome map of transit in 1941 Montreal, provided by the Montreal Tramways Company, or La Compagnie des Tramways de Montreal. Despite the name, there’s also a healthy (and growing) number of bus routes on this map, shown in blue.
Cleverly, the map rotates the city away from true north in order to fit everything onto the sheet of paper allocated, and the north pointer used is simply lovely, even including the company’s “MTC” monogram.
The map does a lot with just three colours, clearly differentiating between bus and tram services while highlighting regular services versus supplementary/rush hour ones with a minimum of fuss. The callout boxes for main stations are lovely, with the names contained within an ornate scroll at the top of the box.
My favourite part of the map, however, is how it effortlessly deals with the requirement to present information in both French and English. It even goes so far as to have one information box say “Index of/des Routes” while the other states “Index des/of Routes”, so that no-one feels that the other side got a better deal.
Finally, the roundel that the MTC uses for its logo looks awfully familiar...
Our rating: Quite lovely — clear and stylish. Four stars!
Historical Map: Berlin BGV Map Detail, 1931
Lovely informational clarity in this detail from a beautiful 1931 map of Berlins transit - tram, bus and U-Bahn. Of particular note is how all labelling that is not directly related to the transit routes is rendered in a visually pleasing and subordinate light grey.
(Source: IsarSteve — Around and About in Berlin)
Official Map: Public Transport Network of Debrecen, Hungary
Sent my way via a comment left on the website regarding the woeful map of Szeged, Hungary (Sept. 2013, 0.5 stars), here’s another truly awful transit map from Hungary: this one from its second-largest city, Debrecen.
In short, it’s an absolute disaster.
Route lines branch off in any direction (no constraining angles to 45-degree increments for this bad boy!), while labels are jammed in wherever they can fit, at any old angle. The labelling is so bad, that the map has a large part of the legend at the bottom left devoted to defining abbreviations that are used in an attempt to shorten names to make them fit! At least none of the labels cut through route lines, but the means don’t justify the ends here.
Technically, even the curved parts of the route lines are actually short sections of straight paths that simulate a curve (badly), making me think that this has been put together in CAD software, rather than a design/illustration application.
The strangely subdued colour scheme (a lot of pastel pinks, purples and greys) doesn’t help matters either: there’s very little contrast between a lot of adjacent route lines, which makes following them difficult.
Almost apologetically, the text above the legend states: “Attention! Map not to scale.”
Our rating: An absolute eyesore. This style of map is fairly common for bus/tram networks in Europe, and can work when executed well (see Viteks Bariševs’ unofficial map of Riga, Latvia), but this is definitely not working at all. No stars.
(Source: Official DKV site — also an “interactive” Flash-based version of the same map, and an SVG download if you want to open it up in Illustrator for some laughs)