16 December 2009

[maps] The Bus-Train Map Design Connection

2277.The various designs of city transit railmaps that can be found in the USA and globally are beguiling works of abstract art, the designs of which seem driven in the main by the famous design of the London Underground, with its simplified and straightened ways and absolute horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines.

Simplification is good, and it renders a map which can be used. But not always does it render a map that communicates reality. The most useful versions of these connect the abstraction of the rail routes to the reality of the bus network it is supposed to work with. But, as Michael Perkins of Greater Greater Washington correctly laments, this is not always the case:

Out where those spur lines diverge, it's often faster to take a bus between the lines rather than ride into downtown and out again. It's more efficient for the network too, since those trips route people through the congested core unnecessarily. Boston's highlights the major crosstown routes and routes reaching important destinations not served by the rail system.

Could Metro do something similar?

His post (http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post.cgi?id=4289) points out the example of Boston's MTA rail map, which actually shows key transit routes that will get you between rail lines, and does it clearly:

The style of the lines is very well done too.

He gives Portland credit for doing the same sort of thing, though the execution is somewhat different – just the route numbers, not the routes themselves, though the omission of actual routes preserves the communicative clarity given the graphic approach:

The small numbers ranged along the stations tell you exactly which other schedules you should be referring to. The crossings are not given for the city center area in the main; that presumably, with the welter of lines coming together in those areas, is a bit impractical. But in the outer areas it's immensely useful, and helps you get an idea of which route you're going to need before you get there.

It's a simple thing, but a good thing.

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Ben said...

I miss MAX.

Have you seen the nightmare bus maps up here? Students do really nice mock ups on Seattle Transit Blog, but unfortunately they haven't been contracted to the agency yet.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

No, I haven't, Ben. Thanks for the referral. I'm putting STB on my "blogs to check out very soon" list of things to do.

Bad design is almost as good as good design sometimes. Same reason I love reading bad movie reviews, I suppose.