A 1947 Diagrammatic Map of London’s Trolley Routes

Trolleybus & Tram Routes (1947)

Maps of bus, tram and trolley networks are, I think, more likely to use geographical maps of the city’s road network as their base layer than subway and rail maps. That’s not always the case—nor has it always been the case. Take this 1947 map of London’s trolleybus and tram routes, executed by Fred J. H. Elston. Cameron Booth finds that it has “more in common with modern best practices for transit diagrams than with something that’s now 70 years old.” On the other hand, Ollie O’Brien, writing at Mapping London, thinks that this map proves that “the simplicity of the tube map doesn’t translate very well to London’s complex road network. So perhaps this is why the idea almost didn’t survive for above-ground networks, and London’s more modern bus maps (now discontinued) have always used the actual geographical network.” Christopher Wyatt, sharing the map on Twitter, notes a big, Westminster-shaped hole in the trolley network that matches London’s speed limit map: “It does seem as though there is a historical pattern of aversion to transportation equity from Westminster.”

The D.C. Underground Atlas

Speaking of Washington, the D.C. Underground Atlas is a project to map all the tunnels under the city: utility, transportation and pedestrian tunnels alike, from metro and water tunnels to the underground corridors connecting congressional buildings. The maps are presented as Esri Story Maps and there’s lots of accompanying text. The project is the brainchild of Elliot Carter, who is profiled by CityLab and the Washington Post: both pieces reveal one challenge in mapping the underground infrastructure of Washington—getting past security concerns. [WMS]

Navigating New York: An Exhibition at the New York Transit Museum

An exhibition at the New York Transit MuseumNavigating New York, got a writeup in Curbed New York. “The exhibit, which has been in the works for about a year, draws heavily on the NYTM’s extensive collection of objects related to the transit system—subway maps, yes, but also cartographic tools, renderings, and other ephemera. There are also items that might be familiar even to those who aren’t transit wonks, like the New Yorker’s 2001 ‘New Yorkistan’ cover by Rick Meyerowitz and Maira Kalman.” Vignelli’s famous 1972 subway map also makes an appearance. The exhibition runs through 9 September 2019; there’s no dedicated web page for it.

New Ottawa Transit Map Goes Diagrammatic

OC Transpo

Last week OC Transpo, the City of Ottawa’s transit service, unveiled a new network map (PDF) that shows the transit routes that will be in effect after the new LRT opens, which is (at the moment) scheduled to take place in November. From a cartographic perspective, what’s interesting is that OC Transpo’s new map adopts a diagrammatic, non-geographical design after years of their maps simply overlaying transit lines over a city map (see, for example, the latest, pre-LRT transit map, PDF). The approach allows the map to enlarge the more densely served core and inner suburbs and shrink the larger, but less service-dense outer suburbs—which is exactly what diagrammatic transit maps of sprawling cities are good for.

Matthew Blackett’s Transit Map of Canada

The Toronto Star talks with Matthew Blackett, who for the past six years has been working on a transit map of Canada. In the figurative sense, not the literal sense: this isn’t a map of Canadian transit networks. Like many maps that draw inspiration from transit network diagrams, Blackett’s map imagines its subject as a giant city: it shows Canadian towns and cities as stops along transit lines that treat regions as neighbourhoods. (Thanks, Dwight.)

Vignelli in D.C.

In the 1970s, Vignelli Associates—Massimo and Lella Vignelli—made a bid to design the maps for the Washington Metro. That gig went to Lance Wyman. The Vignelli Archives recently unearthed some presentation boards and design sketches from their bid; CityLab has more details. Cameron Booth notes that these are hardly new discoveries, as they’d appeared recently in Peter Lloyd and Mark Ovenden’s Vignelli Transit Maps, which came out in 2012.

Booth has recreated a digital version of one of Vignelli’s map sketches—a hexagonal grid concept that appeared in Vignelli Transit Maps—as well as a full, modern system diagram in the same style; he’s selling the latter as a poster.

Before Beck: Perman’s Underground Railways of London

E. G. Perman, Underground Railways of London (London: Waterlo & Sons, 1928). Pocket map, 36×45 cm. David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Colour-corrected.

Mapping London takes a close look at a 1928 map of the London Underground by E. G. Perman. Perman’s map, with its use of colour, italic lettering and focus on green spaces, seems like it comes from a completely different era, even though it was published only a few years before the release of Beck’s iconic Tube map.

Previously: Before Beck: The Prior Art of Diagrammatic Transit Maps.

Before Beck: The Prior Art of Diagrammatic Transit Maps

George Dow, “Great Northern Suburban Lines Route Diagram,” 1929.

Harry Beck may have created the iconic Tube map, which substituted a schematic diagram of the network for a geographically accurate map, but he didn’t invent the diagrammatic transit map. Alberto Cairo points to a number of pieces that explore examples of diagrammatic maps that were contemporaneous with or earlier than Beck’s work: Asaf Degani’s article in Ergonomics in Design points to the influence of designer F. H. Stingemore (see p. 12); Douglas Rose’s online essay comparing Beck with George Dow; and there’s a 2005 book by Andrew Dow (George’s son), Telling the Passenger Where to Get Off: George Dow and the Evolution of the Railway Diagrammatic Map. None of which is meant to diminish Beck’s achievement (I think), but serves to remind us that no innovation ever occurs in a vacuum. [Kenneth Field]

French Rail Network Map Updated

Last October I told you about a track network map for the entire French railway network, a map I just loved. That map has now been updated for 2018, which is minor news in and of itself, but (a) I love this map and (b) it’s an opportunity to point at the firm that produced the map, Latitude-Cartagene. Also to point to their other SNCF-related work, including these technical maps of the SNCF’s network and this interactive map of the network in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. All links in French. [Transit Maps]

A Look at European Bus Map Design

Transit map designer Jug Cerović has reposted a look at the state of the art of European bus network maps. “I have studied more than 250 European cities and their bus maps, and have also designed a few. Here are some observations about the state of the practice.” He groups bus maps into three categories, based on how they use colour: maps that use colour to show the technology used (bus, metro, subway); maps that use colour to indicate individual lines; and maps that use colour and width to show bus frequency. Now Jug shows examples of each, and goes through the pros and cons, but he does have some skin in this game: he’s a fan of frequency maps, which he suggests solves the problems of the other two kinds, and in fact has produced frequency maps for Luxembourg (above) and Utrecht. Definitely worth a read if you’re interested in transit map design.

Previously: INAT London Metro MapOne Metro World.

A Fantasy TTC Subway Map

There have been plenty of fantasy transit network maps—maps that imagine the subway, rail or bus system they think their city should have. BlogTO points to a good one: a map that reimagines the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway network posted to Reddit by architecture student Henry Lin. BlogTO calls it “one of the most ambitious and beautiful (like, if you’re into that stuff) yet. It’s the subway map Toronto deserves to have—though we probably never will. I mean, if a one stop subway extension costs $3.35 billion, this system would cost a few trilly to build, at least.” Lin’s done a few maps like this one that seem be modified from the original maps (see, for example, Ottawa’s or Montreal’s); the point of exercises like his, though, isn’t the originality of the design, but imagining the expanded network.

Pictorial Railway Maps

Vilelms Griķis, “Apcelo savu Dzimto Zemi!,” 1938.

At Retours, a digital magazine about railway history and design, Arjan den Boer looks at pictorial railway maps.

In the mid-20th century pictorial maps in cartoonish styles were a popular way of promoting travel and tourism. In contrast to objective, realistic maps they appeal to emotions such as romance, fantasy and humor. They are used to tell anecdotes about a region’s history, culture and landscape in a way attractive to old and young. These illustrated maps are meant to inspire, not to provide travel information.

Pictorial maps or Bildkarten seem to be the opposite of the schematic metro-like maps of railway networks from the same period, composed of straight lines and without any details. Schematic and pictorial maps share one thing though: they are only loosely bound to geographic reality. Their common goal is to convey a message—either the straightforwardness of a journey or the attractiveness of a region.

Lots of maps featured here, mostly from European rail services. Since much of the study of pictorial maps focuses on the United States, as well as Britain (especially in re MacDonald Gill), this is a refreshing filling in of the gaps.