16 April 2009

The Evolution Of The TriMet MAX Map 1: The Portland-Gresham Era

2032.Along with the changes in TriMet's print collateral style comes evolution in another arena which makes several of my favorite things collide: the MAX System Map.

Each of the following graphics should be clickable for a better look.

When MAX opened in 1986, of course, there was just the one rail line, from Southwest 10th and Morrison/Yamhill to Northeast Cleveland Ave near 8th Street in Gresham.

We wags liked to call it the "Almost Orient Express".

If you like the look of transit maps you probably find examples such as the famous London Underground maps a work of art. This style, which eschews geographical accuracy for the sake of schematic accuracy, has become iconic, and its multiple colors, station icons linking to bridge more than one line, and absolute adherence to lines that are either absolutely horizontal, vertical, or diagonal have defined the style and has inspired copycats the world over.

In the beginning, though, the London tube maps were geographically more correct – and the earliest MAX System Maps were similarly geographically correct.

This first example, off the 1986 Tri Met Transportation Guide Map, is very spare information-wise – it's even still merely called Tri Met Light Rail:

Just the facts. Station name, Park and Ride, Transit Center, and Which Way Is North.

The next example, taken from a July 1993 pamphlet for new riders called Meet MAX, shows some sign of beginning to evolve. More information, appropriate for promotional flyer, has been integrated. You'll find your way to MAX with this, and have some idea where to go downtown to meet the train. Station names in Gresham have additional information to help the tyro MAX rider help them find them. A train icon now appears, and the type is a little more refined.

This map, produced about the same time for the system map and route map publications, though, really starts to bring the info. Not only do you have the route and the stations, but the standard connecting route information and icons in the style of TriMet route maps appear, as well as the by-then commonly used MAX system logotype.

The MAX system was still a very simple system, but the graphic treatment over this time suggest the attitude by the agency and the public went very quickly from "shiny new fun toy" to "just another part of the system" – albeit a very shiny, fun part of the system.

Portland sure seemed to get on board MAX, and this single rail line helped cement Portland's reputation for transit. As we all well know, MAX was only starting to grow.

Which we will treat in the next discourse.

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