Historical Map: Comprehensive Rapid Transit Plan for the City and County of Los Angeles, 1925

This is one of the earliest plans commissioned by the City and County of Los Angeles. The consultants — Kelker, De Leuw and Co. of Chicago — were asked to create a plan to accommodate a future city population of three million.

Metro’s own history archive has this to say about the project:

The plan shows a number of proposed immediate and future subways: one across Hollywood to La Brea Boulevard, another from downtown to 7th Street, up Vermont Avenue, and across Third Street. It initially would have run to Larchmont Boulevard as subway with a future extension on elevated rail to Third Street and down Wilshire Boulevard to Beverly Hills and the ocean in Santa Monica.  It also shows a subway from downtown across Pico Boulevard, initially to Rimpau Boulevard with a future extension to Venice Beach. 

Solid lines on both the regional map and the urban map represent mass rapid transit routes recommended for immediate construction to relieve downtown congestion. Dotted lines predict future extensions that will be necessary to serve population increases. The plan recommended for immediate construction of 153 miles of subway, elevated rail, and street railways at a projected cost of $133,385,000. Strong opposition by the business community to planned sections of elevated rail, as well as voter reluctance to tax themselves to benefit the privately held Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway effectively shelved the plan.

The map itself is a superb example of cartography, complete with some lovely contour work on the mountains around the city and simply lovely hand-drawn typography — check out the loveliness of that “PACIFIC OCEAN” label.

The map does a lot with a limited colour palette, but it’s effective: existing rapid transit in black, proposed lines in red, and everything else in a pleasant (and visually recessive) gold. It’s worth noting that there aren’t any roads shown on this map, just the tracks of the two main streetcar companies, the Los Angeles Railway and the Pacific Electric Railway (see this contemporaneous map of that system).

Our rating: Gorgeous, and fun to compare against the actual existing Metrorail system. Four stars!

4 Stars!

Source: LA Metro archive library (lots of other fun planning maps there!)

New Map Project: Highways of the United States
At long last, I can finally unveil my (almost) completed map project that i’ve been working on since May 31, 2012. Yes, 2012!
I’ve given plenty of teasers about this project over the last two years, but I still think the final scale of it will amaze you. Not only have I created a map of the contiguous United States that shows every single last active and numbered Interstate Highway and U.S. Route (both two- and three-digit), but I’ve also broken the map down into separate state and regional maps. So far, I’ve made 33 of these maps and there’s another 11 to go to complete the set. There aren’t 48 state maps because some of them are just too small to show individually (I’m looking at you, Rhode Island!). These are included in regional maps like New England or Chesapeake (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and DC).
More details about the project and better image previews can be found on my main design website. Head on over to read about the main US map, or about the individual state and regional maps.
Posters in a variety of sizes are available in my brand new shop. Orders taken up to the end of the month of April are pre-orders; I expect to begin shipping in the first week of May.
Comments, reblogs, likes, and shares are appreciated to spread the word! Let me know what you think, or let me know if you find any glaring errors. New Map Project: Highways of the United States
At long last, I can finally unveil my (almost) completed map project that i’ve been working on since May 31, 2012. Yes, 2012!
I’ve given plenty of teasers about this project over the last two years, but I still think the final scale of it will amaze you. Not only have I created a map of the contiguous United States that shows every single last active and numbered Interstate Highway and U.S. Route (both two- and three-digit), but I’ve also broken the map down into separate state and regional maps. So far, I’ve made 33 of these maps and there’s another 11 to go to complete the set. There aren’t 48 state maps because some of them are just too small to show individually (I’m looking at you, Rhode Island!). These are included in regional maps like New England or Chesapeake (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and DC).
More details about the project and better image previews can be found on my main design website. Head on over to read about the main US map, or about the individual state and regional maps.
Posters in a variety of sizes are available in my brand new shop. Orders taken up to the end of the month of April are pre-orders; I expect to begin shipping in the first week of May.
Comments, reblogs, likes, and shares are appreciated to spread the word! Let me know what you think, or let me know if you find any glaring errors. New Map Project: Highways of the United States
At long last, I can finally unveil my (almost) completed map project that i’ve been working on since May 31, 2012. Yes, 2012!
I’ve given plenty of teasers about this project over the last two years, but I still think the final scale of it will amaze you. Not only have I created a map of the contiguous United States that shows every single last active and numbered Interstate Highway and U.S. Route (both two- and three-digit), but I’ve also broken the map down into separate state and regional maps. So far, I’ve made 33 of these maps and there’s another 11 to go to complete the set. There aren’t 48 state maps because some of them are just too small to show individually (I’m looking at you, Rhode Island!). These are included in regional maps like New England or Chesapeake (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and DC).
More details about the project and better image previews can be found on my main design website. Head on over to read about the main US map, or about the individual state and regional maps.
Posters in a variety of sizes are available in my brand new shop. Orders taken up to the end of the month of April are pre-orders; I expect to begin shipping in the first week of May.
Comments, reblogs, likes, and shares are appreciated to spread the word! Let me know what you think, or let me know if you find any glaring errors. New Map Project: Highways of the United States
At long last, I can finally unveil my (almost) completed map project that i’ve been working on since May 31, 2012. Yes, 2012!
I’ve given plenty of teasers about this project over the last two years, but I still think the final scale of it will amaze you. Not only have I created a map of the contiguous United States that shows every single last active and numbered Interstate Highway and U.S. Route (both two- and three-digit), but I’ve also broken the map down into separate state and regional maps. So far, I’ve made 33 of these maps and there’s another 11 to go to complete the set. There aren’t 48 state maps because some of them are just too small to show individually (I’m looking at you, Rhode Island!). These are included in regional maps like New England or Chesapeake (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and DC).
More details about the project and better image previews can be found on my main design website. Head on over to read about the main US map, or about the individual state and regional maps.
Posters in a variety of sizes are available in my brand new shop. Orders taken up to the end of the month of April are pre-orders; I expect to begin shipping in the first week of May.
Comments, reblogs, likes, and shares are appreciated to spread the word! Let me know what you think, or let me know if you find any glaring errors.

New Map Project: Highways of the United States

At long last, I can finally unveil my (almost) completed map project that i’ve been working on since May 31, 2012. Yes, 2012!

I’ve given plenty of teasers about this project over the last two years, but I still think the final scale of it will amaze you. Not only have I created a map of the contiguous United States that shows every single last active and numbered Interstate Highway and U.S. Route (both two- and three-digit), but I’ve also broken the map down into separate state and regional maps. So far, I’ve made 33 of these maps and there’s another 11 to go to complete the set. There aren’t 48 state maps because some of them are just too small to show individually (I’m looking at you, Rhode Island!). These are included in regional maps like New England or Chesapeake (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and DC).

More details about the project and better image previews can be found on my main design website. Head on over to read about the main US map, or about the individual state and regional maps.

Posters in a variety of sizes are available in my brand new shop. Orders taken up to the end of the month of April are pre-orders; I expect to begin shipping in the first week of May.

Comments, reblogs, likes, and shares are appreciated to spread the word! Let me know what you think, or let me know if you find any glaring errors.

Victorian Rail Network — Concept Map, April 2014

Here’s an interesting proposed new map out of Australia which combines Melbourne’s suburban rail network with the V/Line passenger rail service. In a way, this makes sense, as many of V/Line’s services act as commuter rail services from surrounding cities like Geelong. With the introduction of the myki farecard, much of the V/Line network now even shares the same ticketing system, as shown on the map by use of a solid grey route line. However, it does look a little odd to have Craigieburn (25km from the Melbourne CBD) so close to Albury at the end of the line (over the border into NSW, some 330km from Melbourne). In the end, the diagrammatic distortion is probably a good trade off in making a compact, legible map.

Overall, I really think this a good effort, and I certainly like it a lot more than the current Melbourne rail network map that just uses two colours (blue and yellow) to represent fare zones, although I don’t know if this map will replace that one or is meant to complement it.

I was going to comment that an indication of which direction trains travel around the City Loop would be good, but some research reveals that there’s no easy answer to that: trains can go opposite directions around the loop depending on the time of day.

Apparently, this map is on display at certain stations around Melbourne and Public Transport Victoria will be surveying customers for their opinion. However, putting a call to action on the poster — “for more information, visit our website” — really only works if the end user can actually find the relevant information easily (I gave up after 10 minutes).

Our rating: Nicely done. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

(Source: Daniel Bowen/Flickr)

Recreated Historical Map: East Berlin S-Bahn, 1980 by Maxwell Roberts

What does noted alternate transit map designer Maxwell Roberts do when he comes across a rare postcard version of the East Berlin S-Bahn network from 1980?

He takes a photo of it, and then recreates it using modern design tools, of course.

Remember that the S-Bahn was still operated by the GDR even in West Berlin, although West Berliners boycotted the service for the most part, preferring their own U-Bahn network. The Staatsgrenze (state border) totally dominates even this supposedly “unified” service map, and it’s clear in a number of places where the border has cut a rail line neatly in two. The only place where interchange between the two halves of the system was even remotely possible was at Friedrichstrasse, and even then only after rigorous border screening.

The map itself is quite lovely — much nicer than this more well-known map from around the same time — with bright rainbow colours, restrained European typography (an East German alternate cut of Futura, as the original typeface was not available there at the time!), and nice mode differentiation. 

Our rating: A superb restoration of an obscure but excellent map, both design-wise and historically. Five stars!

5 Stars!

Source: The Atlantic Cities

Submission: Transportation in the Backwaters of Kerala, India

Submitted by Jim McNeill, who says:

Kerala in southern India is famed for its backwaters, a popular holiday destination for people to cruise in rented houseboats. I was amazed to see a transit map of the area, and not a bad one at that. I was impressed at the attempt to show road, train, boat and air all on the same map. Granted it’s not perfect, the ferry crossings become maze like in the centre and there are some awkward angles in the south, but overall I was impressed.

——

Transit Maps says:

It’s not the world’s most beautiful transit map, but I’m as impressed as Jim by the map’s intent: one map showing all the transportation options available in the Backwaters of Kerala — a huge area covered by lakes, lagoons, rivers and canals, sometimes compared to the Mississippi Bayous.

One thing the map doesn’t really do is give an idea of the scale of the area shown: it’s around 140km (86 miles) by road from Kollam at the bottom of the map to Kochi near the top. It’s only when you read the notes on the map and see that a ferry trip from Kollam to Allappuzha (not even as far as Kochi) will take seven hours to complete that you start to get an idea of what we’re dealing with here. Some context in the form of the large lakes that the canals join together would be helpful in this regard. 

I’d also agree that the maze-like representation of the ferry routes in the middle isn’t very helpful, although it seems that Allappuzha is the main hub and ferries from elsewhere all end up there eventually. Another thing to note is that India has officially-designated National Waterways, much like National Highways — the main water route through this area is National Waterway 3, and is clearly marked as such on the map.

Our rating: Not beautiful, and not really that great for ferry route-finding. But in the end, it’s quite a nice little overview of transportation in the Kerala region as a whole. Two-and-a-half stars.

2.5 Stars

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.

(Source: mikeyashworth/Flickr)

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.

Source: Gothamist interview with Michael Hertz in 2007, via Aaron Reiss (Twitter)

Submission - Unofficial Maps: Redesigned Metro Maps of the World
Submitted by Jug Cerovic, who says:
I completed a set of new schematic metro maps of 12 cities using a common standard. I have tried to make easy to read, memorize and use maps but at the same time pleasant looking. Crowded centers are enlarged and specific features such as ring lines highlighted.
You can see all the maps here.
——
Transit Maps says:
You all know that I love an ambitious transit mapping project, and this is up there with the most ambitious I’ve seen. Jug has taken twelve of the most iconic metro maps out there — New York, Mexico City, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo — and redesigned them all using a standardised design style, font (looks like DIN) and square format.
Despite the common language, the maps still manage to look unique to their city: no easy feat! Jug has managed to impart a very stylish feel to the maps by the use of large, sweeping curves instead of tight angles. There’s some nice information hierarchy too, with Metro/Subway/U-Bahn lines getting full, bright colours while commuter rail/S-Bahn lines are rendered in muted pastel colours.
I would say that some of the maps are more successful than others (Moscow falls a bit flat for me, while New York is incredibly dense and crowded), but this is still an outstanding example of strong unifying design principles applied well across a wide variety of different transit maps.
You should definitely head over to the project website to view and compare all twelve maps; there’s also prints for sale! Submission - Unofficial Maps: Redesigned Metro Maps of the World
Submitted by Jug Cerovic, who says:
I completed a set of new schematic metro maps of 12 cities using a common standard. I have tried to make easy to read, memorize and use maps but at the same time pleasant looking. Crowded centers are enlarged and specific features such as ring lines highlighted.
You can see all the maps here.
——
Transit Maps says:
You all know that I love an ambitious transit mapping project, and this is up there with the most ambitious I’ve seen. Jug has taken twelve of the most iconic metro maps out there — New York, Mexico City, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo — and redesigned them all using a standardised design style, font (looks like DIN) and square format.
Despite the common language, the maps still manage to look unique to their city: no easy feat! Jug has managed to impart a very stylish feel to the maps by the use of large, sweeping curves instead of tight angles. There’s some nice information hierarchy too, with Metro/Subway/U-Bahn lines getting full, bright colours while commuter rail/S-Bahn lines are rendered in muted pastel colours.
I would say that some of the maps are more successful than others (Moscow falls a bit flat for me, while New York is incredibly dense and crowded), but this is still an outstanding example of strong unifying design principles applied well across a wide variety of different transit maps.
You should definitely head over to the project website to view and compare all twelve maps; there’s also prints for sale! Submission - Unofficial Maps: Redesigned Metro Maps of the World
Submitted by Jug Cerovic, who says:
I completed a set of new schematic metro maps of 12 cities using a common standard. I have tried to make easy to read, memorize and use maps but at the same time pleasant looking. Crowded centers are enlarged and specific features such as ring lines highlighted.
You can see all the maps here.
——
Transit Maps says:
You all know that I love an ambitious transit mapping project, and this is up there with the most ambitious I’ve seen. Jug has taken twelve of the most iconic metro maps out there — New York, Mexico City, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo — and redesigned them all using a standardised design style, font (looks like DIN) and square format.
Despite the common language, the maps still manage to look unique to their city: no easy feat! Jug has managed to impart a very stylish feel to the maps by the use of large, sweeping curves instead of tight angles. There’s some nice information hierarchy too, with Metro/Subway/U-Bahn lines getting full, bright colours while commuter rail/S-Bahn lines are rendered in muted pastel colours.
I would say that some of the maps are more successful than others (Moscow falls a bit flat for me, while New York is incredibly dense and crowded), but this is still an outstanding example of strong unifying design principles applied well across a wide variety of different transit maps.
You should definitely head over to the project website to view and compare all twelve maps; there’s also prints for sale!

Submission - Unofficial Maps: Redesigned Metro Maps of the World

Submitted by Jug Cerovic, who says:

I completed a set of new schematic metro maps of 12 cities using a common standard. I have tried to make easy to read, memorize and use maps but at the same time pleasant looking. Crowded centers are enlarged and specific features such as ring lines highlighted.

You can see all the maps here.

——

Transit Maps says:

You all know that I love an ambitious transit mapping project, and this is up there with the most ambitious I’ve seen. Jug has taken twelve of the most iconic metro maps out there — New York, Mexico City, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo — and redesigned them all using a standardised design style, font (looks like DIN) and square format.

Despite the common language, the maps still manage to look unique to their city: no easy feat! Jug has managed to impart a very stylish feel to the maps by the use of large, sweeping curves instead of tight angles. There’s some nice information hierarchy too, with Metro/Subway/U-Bahn lines getting full, bright colours while commuter rail/S-Bahn lines are rendered in muted pastel colours.

I would say that some of the maps are more successful than others (Moscow falls a bit flat for me, while New York is incredibly dense and crowded), but this is still an outstanding example of strong unifying design principles applied well across a wide variety of different transit maps.

You should definitely head over to the project website to view and compare all twelve maps; there’s also prints for sale!

Submission - Historical Map: Chicago Regional Transportation Authority, 1977
Submitted by Dennis McClendon, who has previously submitted material related to transit mapping in Chicago that I’ve featured on the site.
This map is a real beauty, and I definitely appreciate Dennis’ ability to talk about the technical aspects of cartography in the days before computers. We take computer-aided design almost completely for granted today — but map-making was a laborious, manually performed task back then, where a scalpel, a light box and rubylith film were vital parts of a cartographer’s arsenal.
I’m just old enough as a designer to have come in at the very end of this manual era of printing. My very first task in a real design studio was to cut up 48 pasteboards to mount the artwork for 24 double-sided leaflets on. I then marked up each and every board on an overlay with the colour specs for every element and instructions for stripping in photos from colour transparencies, or “trannies” (yes, really):

Tranny X - enlarge to 143%, crop as shown. Strip to keyline, delete keyline.

For every photo on every page.
But enough reminiscing about the olden days: on to Dennis’ thoughts on this fantastic map:
——
Because I’m hard at work on its modern successor, I thought you might be interested in a very curious and striking printed map from the 1970s: the famous black Chicago RTA map, first published in 1977.
This was the Chicago area’s first full-color transit map, a splashy beginning for the newly created Regional Transportation Authority that voters had approved to take over the region’s failing transit agencies and private companies. The colors used for the Chicago Transit Authority rail lines would—mostly by happenstance—be chosen 20 years later as the actual names for those lines (brown got swapped with purple for the line serving Northwestern University, whose school colors are purple and white).  Transit history geeks will understand the A and B symbols on the rapid transit stations as relating to Chicago’s skip-stop service (ended in 1995) during which alternating trains stopped only at A or B stations.
The system map exhibits several traits long associated with Chicago transit maps, such as the curving corners, dots at terminals, and bare route numbers next to the lines.  There are reminders of the era, like the Souvenir Bold Italic typeface used for points of interest.  The map was designed by Rand McNally, and the folklore is that they were hungry for the work. The same oil crisis that had boosted interest in public transit had made free gas station maps unnecessary, and that was a big part of Rand’s business. But the main design question is: why black? Printing a rich black generally requires two passes, or at least an underlayer of cyan.
The official explanation for the black is that it was a clever way to deal with misregistration of thin colored lines.  Undoubtedly there’s a lot of truth in that.  In those days of Scribecoat and photomechanical production, cartographers had to worry a lot about trapping and misregistration. So a close look at the thin blue and tan bus lines will reveal that a one point line has been photographically “spread” into a 1.4 point line that is behind a 1 point gap in the black (black is printed last in four-color printing). The method wasn’t always totally successful, and there are tiny white gaps around some of the point-of-interest names.  But an ordinary 1 point tan line would have been difficult to print, since it would be composed of a 20 percent dot each of cyan and magenta, and a 30 percent dot of yellow—all of which would need to line up exactly.  None of the colors would so dominate that the other colors could be “choked” to a narrower line that wouldn’t peek out.
Some of the printing details can be seen in the enlargement.  The rich black seems to be 100% black over 40% cyan.  The ocher-olive (not the most pleasing color, even in the earth-tone 1970s) looks to be about 60% black over 60% yellow.  A similar combination of cyan and black produces a handsome steely blue for the downtown inset.
A very curious design feature is that bus lines are never allowed to intersect.  Instead one line is always broken where another crosses it. Some of this was worked out by folks who knew the system well, and buses on overpasses, or buses making a 90-degree turn, are always shown on top of crossing lines. The others were randomized like a basket weave. The reason for this design choice isn’t obvious to me; it may be that it reinforces where lines turn a corner and where they continue straight. There doesn’t seem to have been a production rationale: at least one perfect uninterrupted crossing (Kimball and Peterson) is shown, apparently by mistake. The idea of color-coding bus lines by which rapid transit line they feed wasn’t a success.  Lots of crosstown lines reach four different lines along their lengths, and many crosstown bus riders aren’t headed to a rapid transit line at all.
But back to the main question, why black?  I never saw another example anywhere of a black transit map—except for Métro inset maps on Montreal’s maps in the 1980s, which were so obviously reproduced directly from the artwork used for panels inside the cars that they even include the warning not to interfere with the functioning of the doors.
I think the real reason was marketing. The RTA was a new agency that saw the value of graphic design to tie together the region’s disparate transit assets and build public support for them.  The maps, the signage typefaces, even the livery on locomotive, railcars, and buses was what we would today call “branding.” So while there may have been a good production justification for the striking black RTA map, I think the bigger reason was how cool it looked. Indeed, I had a copy hanging on my wall when I was in grad school a thousand miles away, never dreaming that 30 years later I’d be the designer trusted to make a new RTA system map useful and attractive. Submission - Historical Map: Chicago Regional Transportation Authority, 1977
Submitted by Dennis McClendon, who has previously submitted material related to transit mapping in Chicago that I’ve featured on the site.
This map is a real beauty, and I definitely appreciate Dennis’ ability to talk about the technical aspects of cartography in the days before computers. We take computer-aided design almost completely for granted today — but map-making was a laborious, manually performed task back then, where a scalpel, a light box and rubylith film were vital parts of a cartographer’s arsenal.
I’m just old enough as a designer to have come in at the very end of this manual era of printing. My very first task in a real design studio was to cut up 48 pasteboards to mount the artwork for 24 double-sided leaflets on. I then marked up each and every board on an overlay with the colour specs for every element and instructions for stripping in photos from colour transparencies, or “trannies” (yes, really):

Tranny X - enlarge to 143%, crop as shown. Strip to keyline, delete keyline.

For every photo on every page.
But enough reminiscing about the olden days: on to Dennis’ thoughts on this fantastic map:
——
Because I’m hard at work on its modern successor, I thought you might be interested in a very curious and striking printed map from the 1970s: the famous black Chicago RTA map, first published in 1977.
This was the Chicago area’s first full-color transit map, a splashy beginning for the newly created Regional Transportation Authority that voters had approved to take over the region’s failing transit agencies and private companies. The colors used for the Chicago Transit Authority rail lines would—mostly by happenstance—be chosen 20 years later as the actual names for those lines (brown got swapped with purple for the line serving Northwestern University, whose school colors are purple and white).  Transit history geeks will understand the A and B symbols on the rapid transit stations as relating to Chicago’s skip-stop service (ended in 1995) during which alternating trains stopped only at A or B stations.
The system map exhibits several traits long associated with Chicago transit maps, such as the curving corners, dots at terminals, and bare route numbers next to the lines.  There are reminders of the era, like the Souvenir Bold Italic typeface used for points of interest.  The map was designed by Rand McNally, and the folklore is that they were hungry for the work. The same oil crisis that had boosted interest in public transit had made free gas station maps unnecessary, and that was a big part of Rand’s business. But the main design question is: why black? Printing a rich black generally requires two passes, or at least an underlayer of cyan.
The official explanation for the black is that it was a clever way to deal with misregistration of thin colored lines.  Undoubtedly there’s a lot of truth in that.  In those days of Scribecoat and photomechanical production, cartographers had to worry a lot about trapping and misregistration. So a close look at the thin blue and tan bus lines will reveal that a one point line has been photographically “spread” into a 1.4 point line that is behind a 1 point gap in the black (black is printed last in four-color printing). The method wasn’t always totally successful, and there are tiny white gaps around some of the point-of-interest names.  But an ordinary 1 point tan line would have been difficult to print, since it would be composed of a 20 percent dot each of cyan and magenta, and a 30 percent dot of yellow—all of which would need to line up exactly.  None of the colors would so dominate that the other colors could be “choked” to a narrower line that wouldn’t peek out.
Some of the printing details can be seen in the enlargement.  The rich black seems to be 100% black over 40% cyan.  The ocher-olive (not the most pleasing color, even in the earth-tone 1970s) looks to be about 60% black over 60% yellow.  A similar combination of cyan and black produces a handsome steely blue for the downtown inset.
A very curious design feature is that bus lines are never allowed to intersect.  Instead one line is always broken where another crosses it. Some of this was worked out by folks who knew the system well, and buses on overpasses, or buses making a 90-degree turn, are always shown on top of crossing lines. The others were randomized like a basket weave. The reason for this design choice isn’t obvious to me; it may be that it reinforces where lines turn a corner and where they continue straight. There doesn’t seem to have been a production rationale: at least one perfect uninterrupted crossing (Kimball and Peterson) is shown, apparently by mistake. The idea of color-coding bus lines by which rapid transit line they feed wasn’t a success.  Lots of crosstown lines reach four different lines along their lengths, and many crosstown bus riders aren’t headed to a rapid transit line at all.
But back to the main question, why black?  I never saw another example anywhere of a black transit map—except for Métro inset maps on Montreal’s maps in the 1980s, which were so obviously reproduced directly from the artwork used for panels inside the cars that they even include the warning not to interfere with the functioning of the doors.
I think the real reason was marketing. The RTA was a new agency that saw the value of graphic design to tie together the region’s disparate transit assets and build public support for them.  The maps, the signage typefaces, even the livery on locomotive, railcars, and buses was what we would today call “branding.” So while there may have been a good production justification for the striking black RTA map, I think the bigger reason was how cool it looked. Indeed, I had a copy hanging on my wall when I was in grad school a thousand miles away, never dreaming that 30 years later I’d be the designer trusted to make a new RTA system map useful and attractive.

Submission - Historical Map: Chicago Regional Transportation Authority, 1977

Submitted by Dennis McClendon, who has previously submitted material related to transit mapping in Chicago that I’ve featured on the site.

This map is a real beauty, and I definitely appreciate Dennis’ ability to talk about the technical aspects of cartography in the days before computers. We take computer-aided design almost completely for granted today — but map-making was a laborious, manually performed task back then, where a scalpel, a light box and rubylith film were vital parts of a cartographer’s arsenal.

I’m just old enough as a designer to have come in at the very end of this manual era of printing. My very first task in a real design studio was to cut up 48 pasteboards to mount the artwork for 24 double-sided leaflets on. I then marked up each and every board on an overlay with the colour specs for every element and instructions for stripping in photos from colour transparencies, or “trannies” (yes, really):

Tranny X - enlarge to 143%, crop as shown. Strip to keyline, delete keyline.

For every photo on every page.

But enough reminiscing about the olden days: on to Dennis’ thoughts on this fantastic map:

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Because I’m hard at work on its modern successor, I thought you might be interested in a very curious and striking printed map from the 1970s: the famous black Chicago RTA map, first published in 1977.

This was the Chicago area’s first full-color transit map, a splashy beginning for the newly created Regional Transportation Authority that voters had approved to take over the region’s failing transit agencies and private companies. The colors used for the Chicago Transit Authority rail lines would—mostly by happenstance—be chosen 20 years later as the actual names for those lines (brown got swapped with purple for the line serving Northwestern University, whose school colors are purple and white).  Transit history geeks will understand the A and B symbols on the rapid transit stations as relating to Chicago’s skip-stop service (ended in 1995) during which alternating trains stopped only at A or B stations.

The system map exhibits several traits long associated with Chicago transit maps, such as the curving corners, dots at terminals, and bare route numbers next to the lines.  There are reminders of the era, like the Souvenir Bold Italic typeface used for points of interest.  The map was designed by Rand McNally, and the folklore is that they were hungry for the work. The same oil crisis that had boosted interest in public transit had made free gas station maps unnecessary, and that was a big part of Rand’s business. But the main design question is: why black? Printing a rich black generally requires two passes, or at least an underlayer of cyan.

The official explanation for the black is that it was a clever way to deal with misregistration of thin colored lines.  Undoubtedly there’s a lot of truth in that.  In those days of Scribecoat and photomechanical production, cartographers had to worry a lot about trapping and misregistration. So a close look at the thin blue and tan bus lines will reveal that a one point line has been photographically “spread” into a 1.4 point line that is behind a 1 point gap in the black (black is printed last in four-color printing). The method wasn’t always totally successful, and there are tiny white gaps around some of the point-of-interest names.  But an ordinary 1 point tan line would have been difficult to print, since it would be composed of a 20 percent dot each of cyan and magenta, and a 30 percent dot of yellow—all of which would need to line up exactly.  None of the colors would so dominate that the other colors could be “choked” to a narrower line that wouldn’t peek out.

Some of the printing details can be seen in the enlargement.  The rich black seems to be 100% black over 40% cyan.  The ocher-olive (not the most pleasing color, even in the earth-tone 1970s) looks to be about 60% black over 60% yellow.  A similar combination of cyan and black produces a handsome steely blue for the downtown inset.

A very curious design feature is that bus lines are never allowed to intersect.  Instead one line is always broken where another crosses it. Some of this was worked out by folks who knew the system well, and buses on overpasses, or buses making a 90-degree turn, are always shown on top of crossing lines. The others were randomized like a basket weave. The reason for this design choice isn’t obvious to me; it may be that it reinforces where lines turn a corner and where they continue straight. There doesn’t seem to have been a production rationale: at least one perfect uninterrupted crossing (Kimball and Peterson) is shown, apparently by mistake. The idea of color-coding bus lines by which rapid transit line they feed wasn’t a success.  Lots of crosstown lines reach four different lines along their lengths, and many crosstown bus riders aren’t headed to a rapid transit line at all.

But back to the main question, why black?  I never saw another example anywhere of a black transit map—except for Métro inset maps on Montreal’s maps in the 1980s, which were so obviously reproduced directly from the artwork used for panels inside the cars that they even include the warning not to interfere with the functioning of the doors.

I think the real reason was marketing. The RTA was a new agency that saw the value of graphic design to tie together the region’s disparate transit assets and build public support for them.  The maps, the signage typefaces, even the livery on locomotive, railcars, and buses was what we would today call “branding.” So while there may have been a good production justification for the striking black RTA map, I think the bigger reason was how cool it looked. Indeed, I had a copy hanging on my wall when I was in grad school a thousand miles away, never dreaming that 30 years later I’d be the designer trusted to make a new RTA system map useful and attractive.

Submission - Fantasy Map: The Internet Tube (worldwide submarine cable network)

Submitted by idleberg, smileandburn and others. Idleberg says:

Something I came across by accident, the “Internet Tube”, a map of the world’s network of submarine fibre-optic cables. Looks terrible to me, especially since one of the main point of interest, the geographical context, is barely noticeable.

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Transit Maps says:

While I feel that the goal of this diagram — the simplification of a vast and complex nodal network down to its basic elements — is a laudable one, the execution leaves a lot to be desired for me. If anything, it’s too simple, leaving out detail that enables you to see how the network of cables actually works.

It seems that the network has been broken down into imaginary  ”route lines” with appropriate (if fanciful) names, rather than showing actual undersea cables. While this helps to group countries together thematically, it also could give viewers the idea (for example) that there’s one single cable that runs from the U.S. to Russia to Japan via the Arctic Ocean. There isn’t (yet), and Russia’s submarine cable connections are actually far more complex than could ever be shown on a diagram like this, relying more on cables under the Baltic and Black Seas than any “super cable” that’s implied here.

My other main issue with the diagram is the use of three-letter ISO country codes instead of actual country names. This makes the diagram unnecessarily obtuse — which country is represented by VCT? Or FSM or MNE? If H.C. Beck could fit “High Street Kensington” onto his original tube map, then a clone of his map should really be able to work with actual country names. Perhaps those names could then be supplemented with each country’s top level internet domain code (.au, .uk, etc), which makes far more sense for a map about the Internet than three-letter ISO codes.

Design-wise, it’s Yet Another Tube Map Clone (YATMC), right down to the route line colours and blue type for “station” labels. Yawn.

If you want a submarine cable network map that actually gives you some idea of how it all fits together and how staggeringly, mind-bendingly complex it all really is, then I highly recommend Greg’s Cable Map. Check it out and then realise how amazing it is that you can send an email to the other side of the world in milliseconds without any effort at all on your behalf.

Our rating: Tries hard to simplify an incredibly complex network, but through thematic and design choices, creates something that doesn’t really tell us much apart from the fact that there are cables under the sea and that some countries censor the Internet. One-and-a-half stars.

1.5 Stars

Source: Information Geographics at the Oxford Internet Institute

P.S. - VCT is St. Vincent and the Grenadines, FSM is the Federated States of Micronesia, and MNE is Montenegro.