Work in Progress: McKinney Avenue Trolley Map, Dallas, Texas
Thanks to Michael Champlin for inspiring this little project. I’ve been thinking of doing a more geographically-based map for a while now to break out of the routine of always doing diagrammatic transit maps, so when he sent me a link to the actual map (PDF, 5.6MB) that this heritage streetcar system in Dallas, Texas uses, I knew that something better could be done.
So here’s a work-in-progress screenshot. Most of the hard work has been done, but I’m still toying with a few elements here and there and adding the final informational layers on top. I drew the street map by hand in Illustrator, which is time consuming but rewarding. I did actually try to export the streets, parks and rivers from ArcGIS to style up in Illustrator, but got incredibly frustrated with the poor quality of linework from the City of Dallas’ GIS files: wonky curves, non-joined road segments, etc. It’d take me longer to clean that up than just draw it myself, so that’s what I did. At least I know what I’m ending up with when I do it myself!
The main experiment here – that I think is working well – is the bounding box around the two separate northbound and southbound stops along McKinney Avenue that share the same cross street (and therefore the name of the stop). This means I only have to label the stops once!
Other notes: the background grid is in quarter-mile increments, and the typeface is Good Headline Pro, which has a nice old world “Gothic” feel, but with a bit of a modern twist. Also: huge x-height and tiny descenders, which are great for this type of labelling work. The orange line is the Katy Trail, a popular multi-use path that’s an important part of the urban fabric of this part of Dallas.
Thoughts and suggestions?
Interactive Map: Architectural Types of the Washington DC Metro
An interesting post over at Greater Greater Washington by long-time Transit Maps contributor Matt’ Johnson: a clickable interactive map that displays the location of each of the different architectural styles at stations. (That’s eleven defined styles, plus a category for those few stations that are unique). The “waffle” vaulting at underground stations may be the iconic style in most people’s minds, but there’s definitely more to be seen than just that! Even the map above gives a great idea of how the architecture evolved (for reasons of both cost and changing architectural tastes) as the system has expanded over the years: a unified central core of the original “waffle” style, with increasing diversity out along the (newer) branch lines. Matt’ promises an animated chronological map tomorrow, which sounds excellent.
Source: Greater Greater Washington
Unofficial Map: MetrôRio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by Pedro Guedes
Submitted by Pedro, who says:
This is an unofficial map for MetrôRio, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I find the official map hideous (May 2012, 2 stars), so I made this one. I haven’t yet ridden this subway, so I based my map on the maps I could find online. Because lines are hard to be distinguished if you are color blind, I have decided to put the line number on their last stations. I know that colors for the Metrô na Superfície subway bus are too close to be told apart, but I have decided to keep the original colors anyway.
I have also chosen to decrease geographic accuracy in order to make the map easier to read. The older map seemed geographic accurate, but it wasn’t that perfect: Pres. Vargas station was shown as almost on the bay, when it actually is just as far as Uruguaiana or Carioca stations.
I designed Line 1 as an open circle because I have found that it is planned to be a circular route when the system is better developed. Whether those plans are still real or they have changed, I can’t assure you, but as far as I have seen, those are the most recent ones.
I also plan on redesigning the map for the subway and commuter rail system in São Paulo, but that’ll take longer as it’s much more complex.
Transit Maps says:
This is a really nice effort from Pedro, with a lot of sound reasoning behind most of his design choices. I especially like the circular shape he’s used for Line 1 – the “design hook” that I often like to see in a diagrammatic map. I do think he could have taken this thought a little further by making the top part of Line 2 a long, curving arc instead of a straight line, but this is a good start!
The rest of my comments really have to do with visual balance and informational hierarchy – I find some elements too large (the legend box and the name of the bay, which isn’t really a hugely important piece of information in the context of a transit map) and others too small (the names of the stops on the Metrô na Superfície bus routes). I also feel that the green “Todas (all)” text box at Central station could be placed above the station label: this would allow the “Pres. Vargas” label to be placed outside the circle like all the other stations around the right half of the ring. The placement of the “Cantaglo” label is a little trickier, but perhaps the whole map could be moved upwards to help accommodate it outside the ring. Note that there’s a lot of empty space above the map, while the bottom is jammed up hard against the edge of the page.
Our rating: Better than the official map and with a lot of good ideas. Needs just a little tweaking to make it really good. Three stars.
Submission - Unofficial Unified BART/Muni Metro Map by Jamison Wieser
Submitted by Jamison, who says:
I don’t want to share this map as much as the concept behind it.
San Francisco’s Muni Metro light-rail system and the regional BART heavy-rail system share a subway under Market Street and the five busiest rail stations in the Bay Area. They share a subway, but side-by-side the system maps with radically different designs that don’t share anything in common besides the names of the station.
There are 10 lines between the two agencies and between the two maps, 4 of the colors used are duplicated. Topping that off, neither actually refers to the lines by the color. Muni lines have a letter and name, like the N-Judah. BART refers to trains by their destination, which means figuring out where a Richmond train goes means finding Richmond and backtracking along the map. Nearly every time I fly back home I meet a first time visitor who’s confused when the train is announced as a “Pittsburg/BayPoint train” instead of a Yellow line train they expect from the map.
I didn’t want to rename lines so much as just group them into color coded categories based on which subway corridors they run through in Oakland and San Francisco.
It’s exactly how Boston represents branches of the Green.
Muni’s JKLMN lines through Market Street get merged into the “Orange line” and what we called a line before becomes a branch; so the N-Judah line becomes the N-Judah branch of the Orange line. I choose orange for a couple reasons including the fact that the San Francisco Giant’s ballpark sits along it and it was Muni’s brand color at the time the Metro subway opened. The T-Third Street will be running north-south through a new subway under construction to Chinatown and for all the cultural connections and branding reasons the T was given the color red: I just dropped the letter name. At least as long as there isn’t another branch of it.
I narrowed BART from 5 lines to 3 and with only two of the lines branching I didn’t over-complicate it. The Richmond Line, becomes the Richmond brand of the Green Line. I chose the colors here so the Oakland A’s would be served by the team colors green and yellow, and like Berkeley would be served by Cal’s team colors Yellow and Blue (OK, it’s a different, but…)
I’d like you know what you think of this idea?
Transit Maps says:
There’s a lot to be said for unified transit maps — people just want to know how to get from place to place, without the barriers put in place by two (or more) separate maps getting in their way. With the Clipper Card, the transit systems of the Bay Area are becoming increasingly integrated, so some sort of joint map makes great sense.
The main problem, as I think Jamison is discovering in his working map above, is the vastly differing scales of the two networks. BART is a vast commuter/regional rail network that spreads out across the entire Bay Area, while the Muni Metro is a much more compact streetcar/light rail network that’s contained entirely within the City of San Francisco.
However, the Muni network has substantially more stops than BART, spaced much closer together. This means that it’s almost impossible to show the two networks together on the same map and keep things looking cohesive. The same problem is evident in Portland (with the MAX light rail and the Portland Streetcar) and in Sydney (with the Sydney Trains network and the new Inner West light rail). The solution is to only label “important” Muni stations, leaving out most of the street-running stops, as seen on this Bay Area map that I’ve previously featured, and on this newer version of that map.
However, I think the simplification of the multiple routes to branches of coloured routes is very solid, and works well for me. Much the same as the Boston “T” has an underlying rationale behind its colour choices (the Red Line goes to Harvard, whose school colour is crimson, for example), so does Jamison’s vision for San Francisco. Having to ride the Orange Line to the ballpark to see the Giants is bound to annoy opposition fans no end — I love it!
Submission – Unofficial Map: Regional Rail Network for Rennes, Brittany
Submitted by favrebulle, who says:
This is a proposed regional rail network for Rennes, Brittany. The map is my own work. The network revolves around a central Ring. Lines come in two types. Main lines are in bright colors, and circulate all day, every day, twice an hour. Secondary lines are in pastel colors and run during rush hours, or during special events for the Expo Arena line. Intercity and high-speed services (not detailed) are the grey, outern lines. The stations are simple, white indentation in the lines. Texts come in only two angles. Finally, the map is in breton.
Transit Maps says:
Stylistically, this map immediately brought to mind this commuter rail map from Madrid (June 2013, 3 stars), which similarly features a central ring and sharply angled corners.
I do like the interesting “half-circle” device used for stations, and the way it changes into a full circle when two lines are present, or a longer “pill” shape for three or more lines. It’s a logical transformation and is used effectively throughout.
Less successful are the pastel colours used for the rush hour services – they’re too visually recessive (the light yellow S24 line almost disappears completely), and S21 and S22 look way too similar to each other. Something that could help here would be to link the route designations in the legend to the lines on the map, so that it’s easier to work out where each line begins and ends.
Our rating: A nicely distinctive diagrammatic style of map that just needs a little more work on the usability side to make it really successful. Two-and-a-half stars!
Unofficial Map: Sydney Rail Network (Trains and Light Rail) by Ben Luke
Submitted by Ben, who says:
This is my version of the Sydney Trains map. I was inspired to try designing my own version after the introduction of the new official map which I found to be rather uninspiring. I have been learning Illustrator in the process, so thanks to your excellent blog for all the tips and tutorials.
I have used a realistic background layer which is distorted to fit around the map but maintains a sense of geographic familiarity (I’m a map geek so this is important to me!). My aim was to capture the essence of Sydney with its rich interplay between land and water without being to distracting. I have also decided to include the light rail system, which the new official map has dropped, as I’ve always been fan of multi mode maps. Other than that I just tried to keep things as simple and straight as possible.
Transit Maps says:
There’s a lot to like in Ben’s reinterpretation of the Sydney Trains map. His use of 30/60-degree angles actually helps a lot in some of the traditionally crowded parts of the map – the Illawarra Line south of Arncliffe and the North Shore Line, in particular. The reorientation of the main trunk line out to Blacktown as one long straight line on a 30-degree angle also works surprisingly well, countering the diagrammatic enlargement of the CBD nicely. There are places where the 30-degree lines look a bit awkward next to the 45-degree labels (Flemington to Granville, for example), but I can see why Ben’s taken this approach.
I also really like the “Intercity” labels that Ben has used to indicate the direction of longer-distance trains: it integrates the branding of the service more effectively than the official map, although adding some key destinations along each line might be a good idea for users unfamiliar with the system: Blue Mountains Line – to Katoomba and Lithgow works better than just the line name for me. A little more “breathing room” at the top and bottom of the map would also be welcomed, as the labels are pushed up pretty tight to the edge at the moment.
I do feel that the spacing of the stations in the western part of the map is a little big compared to other parts of the map: there’s nice, even, tight spacing up to Blacktown, then a giant gap to Doonside or Marayong, and much bigger spacing between all the stations from there on out.
I’ve gone on record as saying that I’m not the greatest fan of diagrammatic maps on geographic backgrounds – but if you’re going to do it, do it well. Ben’s done it very well here – it looks far less distorted and cartoony that the previous Sydney rail map.
Ben’s integrated the light rail system into his map – although he’s inexplicably changed it to blue from its official deep red – and has come across a pretty big problem. The sydney train network is vast and sprawling, covering huge distances in every direction – while the light rail line is much denser, with stations spaced much closer together. It’s very difficult to coherently place these two very different systems on the same map, although Ben’s put in a manful effort here. I’d probably be in favour of showing the light rail (because I like a good multi-modal map too!), but only labelling major terminus stations. Dots or ticks to indicate the number of other stations could be retained. A separate map could then be used to show the light rail system in detail, without having to show all of Greater Sydney on the same map.
Our rating: Some excellent ideas that improve on the official map in some aspects. Spacing of stations could be a little more even/harmonious, but it’s really a great effort. Three stars.
The Evolution of My Washington, DC Metro Map
Now that I’ve finally brought my DC Metro map fully up to date, I thought it would be interesting to compare all four versions – the first dating back to February 2010, way before the announcement that Lance Wyman would be redesigning the map to accommodate the Silver Line.
The first version is unique in that it includes commuter rail and Amtrak lines as well as the Metro lines, shown by a thinner light purple line, a la the Boston “T” map’s representation of its commuter rail. I was working on my Amtrak as Subway Map project at the time, so adding this type of detail was important to me. Feedback seemed to indicate that Washingtonians didn’t think that this was really necessary – knowing which stations allowed interchange between services was enough – so it was dropped from future versions.
Normal stations are indicated by a white “pill” shape that spans across the route lines. Originally, these were individual dots – one for each line at a given station – but many people seemed to find this confusing. You’ll see that the symbology for stations is the part of the map that changes the most across the different versions as I sought to find the best solution.
Innovations in this map compared to the official map at the time (and now similarly adopted into the new Silver Line map, coincidentally or not) include letter designations for each line (I use a single letter, the official map appends an “L” for “Line” to each letter) instead of the minuscule “<COLOR> LINE” text that used to run alongside each route; and the introduction of a dogleg in the southern part of the Green Line to place the Southern Avenue and Naylor Road stations more accurately in relation to the District/Prince George’s County border.
However, the type on this version is considerably smaller than any of my other maps, and the colour used for parkland is a bit too bright and overpowering. Note also that the Silver Line just runs dead straight once it diverges from the Orange Line, something I wasn’t entirely happy with at the time and would remedy in the next version.
Version 2 is my entry for the Greater Greater Washington “Design the Metro Map” contest back in May 2011. Although it won the “People’s Choice Award" and came second in the juried voting, I now think it’s definitely the weakest of the four maps. Quite frankly, I think I was trying to be just a little bit too clever with some of my design choices, and the map suffers because of it.
In a search for a way to visually depict the odd service patterns on the Red Line and the Peak Orange/Yellow Lines, I thought I would add separate route lines for these services so that a trip could be unambiguously traced from end to end. However, the explanation required in the legend was still confusing, and the additional lines on the map meant that all the route lines now became unacceptably thin and spindly. Spelling out the colour designations for each line in full was also not one of my finer ideas – “PEAK ORANGE” takes up a lot of space – and I reverted back to single letters in the next iteration. The station symbol – a white strip that cuts through the route lines – is the weakest solution used, and definitely made relating station labels to their symbols more difficult than it should have been.
On the plus side, the type for labels was now larger and the configuration of the Silver Line with its bend through Tysons Corner was something I was much happier with. I personally also prefer the 45-degree-angle configuration of the Orange/Silver lines from Rosslyn to Ballston over the previous horizontal one, although this still seems to be a bone of contention with some reviewers of my maps. In reality, the routes head in a direction somewhere between the two angles, so there’s no “perfect” solution in an octolinear map like this.
Version 3 is my response to both the draft Lance Wyman map and the other maps submitted to the GGW contest. I abandoned my extra “service pattern” route lines from Version 2 and thickened the route lines back up again, which makes the map graphically stronger. I eagerly embraced the single best idea to come out of the contest – subtitles for stations that had ridiculously long names – which helped a lot with reducing extraneous visual clutter. The single best feature that I introduced with this map was the simple but effective “walking” icon to show the free out-of-system transfer between Farragut West and Farragut North stations: a real “Eureka!” moment for me.
Station symbols are now “ticks” that point towards their labels: a big improvement over the previous devices, but perhaps a little short to be really useful.
Version 4 is the “final” product, based on the final configuration of Phase I of the Silver Line and feedback from Version 3. Station ticks are now much longer to definitively “point” at their label, which works excellently in my opinion. I’ve added parkland along the Anacostia River to match the new official map’s representation and made a bunch of other minor little tweaks and fixes.
Is it perfect? No, but that was never really the point. I always wanted to make a map that was decidedly different to the official one, to show that there are always alternate solutions to the same design problems. Thinner route lines versus thicker ones, ticks versus whiskered circles, horizontal labels versus angled labels, and so on. Each decision a designer makes affects the look and usability of the final product, and I wanted to make something that had its own unique look and feel while still serving the same purpose as the official map. And in that, I think I’ve succeeded.
Unofficial Map: Washington DC Metro Map with Silver Line, 2014
Just because I don’t like leaving things unfinished, here’s a new version of my Washington DC Metro map with the final configuration of the Phase I Silver Line shown. For reference, here’s my previous version from 2011.
Like the official map, I’ve left the Phase II Silver Line stations unnamed, which is probably a wise choice, seeing all the variants that the Phase I stations went through! Flipping the Silver Line to the southern side of the Orange Line before East Falls Church was something else that the official map got right, and I’ve emulated that here as well. Only a few other minor tweaks: a couple of station name changes and a darkening of the Red Line colour to aid colour-blind users a little more. What do you think?
Edit – Morning, August 6, 2014: Thanks to Peter Dovak for a couple of tweaks: NoMa–Gallaudet U is now named correctly, and Phase II of the Silver Line’s completion date has been pushed out (unsurprisingly) to 2018. I’ve swapped in a new image above, and I’ve updated the version over on Flickr.
Evening, August 6, 2014: Further edits based on feedback today, especially from the comments left on this Greater Greater Washington post about the map. Changes include the addition of parkland along the Anacostia River as shown on the official map, lengthened “ticks” for stations so that they’re not so “nubby”, route letters in circles instead of squares so that they can’t be confused with the parking icon, proper designation of Wiehle-Reston East as the current western terminus of the Silver Line, and a few minor fixes and clean ups here and there.
Source: Cameron Booth/Flickr
Submission – Unofficial Map: “Hyper Japan” Directory London Underground Map
Submitted by chiguire, who says:
Found this London Tube map in the Hyper Japan directory magazine. Hyper Japan is some sort of convention about the country [of Japan, held in London – Cam], but I couldn’t stop staring at this map. It’s like a car wreck, it’s horrible but you just can’t stop looking :-P
Transit Maps says:
A great example how you can use all the elements of a successful transit map and still end up with a complete mess. Obviously, the organisers of Hyper Japan didn’t want to pay a licensing fee to TfL for the actual Tube map, so they either made one of their own or paid someone substantially less than the licensing fee to make one for them.
The central part of the map actually looks eerily similar in shape to the real deal, with the (in)famous “thermos flask” shape described by the Circle Line remaining almost intact. However, things go rapidly downhill after that, and much of the system south of the Thames just looks horrible: the DLR and Overground suffering the worst. I’m also pretty certain that the southern part of the Northern Line is at a non-standard angle just so the legend can be squeezed in underneath it.
The square interchange symbols aren’t a patch on the superb interconnected circles of the actual Tube map, and the typography is lacklustre at best. If you need connecting lines between labels and the station they name, then you’re doing it wrong.
Our rating: A poor imitation that really makes you realise how balanced and aesthetically pleasing the Tube map is by comparison, and how difficult it is to make a truly excellent transit map. One-and-a-half stars.
Unofficial Map: Istanbul Railway Network by Bertan Kılıçcıoglu
I’ve already featured an excellent unofficial map of Istanbul’s transit network by Kerim Bayer (June 2012, 4 stars), but here’s a new one that’s worthy of some attention.
First, let’s note that Istanbul’s transit network has expanded considerably in the last couple of years, and there’s now finally a rail connection across the Bosphorus, as well as a new Metro bridge over the Golden Horn (with a station in the middle of the span, no less!).
Although there’s a revised official map to go along with this expansion (see the second image above), it’s pretty poor. Weird non-standard angles are employed to shoehorn new routes into the existing framework of the map and the whole thing has a very tired, amateur feel about it.
Apparently, Bertan felt so strongly about this poor, sad map that he decided to rework it in his spare time. A man after my own heart!
What’s interesting about his map, though, is that it’s not really a new design at all. Bertan has taken all the elements of the old map — the same colours, route line thicknesses, symbols, icons, and legend information — and has simply used them in a far more attractive, considered way.
Route lines are strictly limited to 45 degrees, all labelling is horizontal (and he’s taken great care to stop labels from overlapping his route lines), interchanges are shown more cleanly… and more! It’s a great example of how a little bit of care and effort can transform an ordinary map into something much more cohesive and user-friendly.
For those who are interested, the (rather nice, if a little quirky) typeface used on Bertan’s map is the open-source Google font, Titillium Web.
Our rating: Using the same building blocks as the official map in an intelligent way, Bertan has transformed this map from dowdy to diva: four stars!
Source: Bertan’s portfolio website — click through to read more about his design process, as well as see some more comparison images.