01 May 2009

The Evolution Of The TriMet MAX Map 4: Say Hi To Yellow

2050.Now we move up to 2004 in our series about the MAX Map, because between 2000 and 2004 several changes obtained, culminating in the quantum leap of the debut of a new branch to the network – The MAX Yellow line, for the Interstate Avenue corridor, nicknamed "IMAX" by some wags during construction.

The MAX System now has two dendritic branches rather than just one, and the design could have kept the old theme, but my guess is someone along the line found it too sprawling and probably was a stone pain to do layout around. So, treating the original Blue line as the system backbone (as indeed it seems) and the newer lines as subordinate branches:

You can clicky the map above to embiggen, or go here (while TriMet still supports it) to see the map even better and get a PDF copy.

This is the acme, so far, of geographical simplification and abstraction. The Yamhill-Morrison downtown axis has become the center of the system, remarkably so, and the system has been laid out along a single backbone line, even to the extent of mapping the SW 1st Avenue and Steel Bridge sections completely out-of-line with reality.

But the genius of this style of mapping is that it works, and works well. Think again about the London Underground map and consider. If you get on the MAX, according to the diagram, at Yamhill District, and go three stops, you're at the Rose Quarter TC. It matters not at all that after the Yamhill District station the system hangs a ninety-degree left onto SW 1st or that it makes a somehwat-complicated dogleg over the Steel Bridge and into the Rose Quarter. The map and diagram works and delivers you exactly where you think you should go.

The time stripes along the line give you good information as to how long you expect to be on the train. And your eyes will provide you with the rest of the information (I've lived in Portland for most of my life but I can't stop looking at my town. If the mere sight of Portland doesn't nourish you I say its time for your to find another town, to be blunt).

The following image zooms in to the vital enter, and shows the maturing of several cosmopolitan design elements:

Clicky on the image above to embiggen. The big point, and my hobbyhorse thus far, is the use of the cartouche-like ovals for stations that serve more than one line. If you look at the Rose Quarter stop, you can see why this works. The Yellow Line stop is a circle which is physically adjacent to the Red and Blue Line oval. This indicates while they are physically close, you have to be at one or the other to get a certain line. That's a big story told very effectively by only two well-chosen and placed symbols.

Amongst the other changes reflected in the map is the extension of the Fareless Square area by a "panhandle" encompassing the Lloyd district (hard to see in this map because the Red/Blue/Yellow lines in that area are so typographically busy, but I don't see how the designer had any choice there really – sometimes the best graphic solution isn't exactly ideal) and the extension of the Red Line, for Airport service, to the Beaverton Transit Center.

One other interesting point is the PGE Park station. In this (and the map before), the station serving "The Piggy" has been diagrammed as two stations. And, while the station itself can be thought of as a single system access point, in reality, the eastbound and westbound boarding platforms are separated by about half a block, making them physically separate, and though they are very close physically, they couldn't be more separated by intent, so the wide separation of east and west bound PGE stations are quite appropriate.

The next evolutions, by the present day (2009) saw the addition of not one but two lines: The Green Line (serving a new route up and down The Portland Mall, Gateway, and the I-205 corridor to Clackamas) and WES-which turns TriMet's rail approach into multi-modal thing, and creates a truly exciting approach (well, I sure as hell like it!).

About more which presently.

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