Mark Ovenden has launched a YouTube channel focusing on transit map design—which is what you’d expect from the author of Transit Maps of the World (along with other books on transit system design and transport maps: he is by no means a stranger to this blog). It launches today with its first episode, an on-the-ground look at the history of the Madrid metro system and its maps.
Benjamin Tran Dinh’s interactive isochrone map of Europe showing how far you can go by train in five hours (previously) has a new variant that does the same thing for 1911 France. Getting closer in time and place to those original isochrone maps. [Maps Mania]
Jay Foreman’s look at the history of London’s Tube map is presented as part of his Unfinished London series, rather than as an episode of Map Men, of which he is half, so it’s in a slightly different mode. Slightly. It’s also just the first part.
Benjamin Tran Dinh (previously) has built an interactive isochrone map of Europe that shows you how far you can go by train from a given station in five hours (assuming a connection time of 20 minutes, which is an approximation: generous if same-station, less so if you have to cross the city). The map updates as you move the pointer across it, which is a lot of fun.
The isochrones are generated from data from the direct.bahn.guru site, a site that is worth looking at in and of itself: it shows all the direct connections from a given station, i.e., everywhere you can get to on a single train. That site, in turn, gets its data from the Deutsche Bahn via a legacy API that is necessarily incomplete and only covers destinations reachable from Germany. But there are no complete datasets of European transport routes, so this’ll do. [Maps Mania]
Transit is an entirely different paradigm, and transit systems and their data are more complex and less standardized: these are among the reasons, Reece argues in today’s RMTransit video, why using your phone’s mapping app to navigate while using transit is a less satisfying experience than it is when driving, or even walking or cycling.
Transport for London are doggedly clinging on to Beck’s iconic map, and continue to attempt to crowbar 18 separate lines/modes and 510 stations onto the map. It’s not just the additional infrastructure, but the additional demands by various stakeholders to include fare zones, accessible access detail, walkable elements, and now the location of IKEA stores due to a sponsorship arrangement. […] I’d contend the map is already an advert—of London. It’s recognisable and synonymous with the city. It’s just not particularly useful as a map any more.
His solution is fairly straightforward:
I’m not going to go through every issue I see with the map. […] Instead, I’m going to make a single appeal: dump the map. It’s no longer fit for purpose as a means to give people a clear, simple way to navigate London. Change it. Redraw it. Start over, and create a new map. It’s no longer a map of the ‘tube’. It’s a map of all the various interconnected transit systems in one of the world’s densest major cities with a fantastic public transport network. We need a new map to reflect the city.
A new version of London’s tube map dropped a couple of weeks ago. It incorporates the new Elizabeth line—as well as IKEA logos indicating which stations are near their stores (IKEA paid £800,000 to sponsor the map). The Evening Standard talks with Transport for London chief designer Jon Hunter about the new design, which apparently took 18 months.
To say the least there’s been a bit of pushback from certain map design circles: yesterday’s MapLab has a good summary of the criticism. The map has been called out for being increasingly complicated in recent years, and this redesign doesn’t help. The interchanges in particular seem to be singled out as examples of egregiously poor design: see Diamond Geezer and Cameron Booth. Others, like Kenneth Field and Mark Ovenden, think the map needs nothing less than a complete redesign. Gareth Dennis is even willing to think the unthinkable: that “it’s time to retire the Beck-style Tube map and start again.” (On the other hand, Cameron doesn’t think the current map is all that Beck-like.)
Plenty of cities’ subway maps have been reimagined in the style of the London Underground map. Cameron Booth, for example, has redone New York’s subway map in that style. But a map posted by a graphic designer named Sean to Reddit does the exact opposite: it reimagines the London Underground map in the style of New York’s subway map. Bringing the design language of Michael Hertz to Harry Beck’s sovereign territory is probably blasphemous in some quarters, but as a pastiche of the New York style? Cameron says: “Sean has absolutely nailed the New York Subway map style, and perhaps even improved upon it in places—I note with pleasure that all of his station labels are set horizontally, instead of the many varied angles used on the official NYC map.” His bottom line? “One of the best style mash-ups I’ve seen: technically excellent, well-researched and actually really informative. Wonderful!”
It’s available as a print on Etsy, because of course it is.
Reece Martin of RMTransit has some thoughts about transit fantasy maps. These are maps that imagine a different transit network for a city, usually greatly expanded (often to the point of implausibility, with lines having nothing to do with where demand actually is or where available transit corridors exist). Reece’s main concern is that the wishful thinking of some of these maps can get in the way of advocating for better transit, but that presupposes that anyone is taking these these maps seriously; this is more his explanation of why he doesn’t talk about them on his channel than anything else.
(I’m reminded of similar fantasy intercity train network maps that expand or restore service to places that don’t have the demand—or the tracks—any more.)
Previously: Why Transit Maps Mislead.
This roundtable discussion about The New York Subway Map Debate, a book about the April 1978 Cooper Union debate over the design of the New York subway map (previously) and related subjects, featuring John Tauranac himself (who participated in the 1978 debate), alerted me to the fact that an audio recording of that debate is available online. (A discussion about a book about a debate: this all feels a bit recursive.) [Kenneth Field]
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is experimenting with new network maps that adopt a diagrammatic design that harkens back to Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 design, or (frankly) to designs used by most other transit systems. The new maps appear in nine subway stations side-by-side with geographically accurate maps of the MTA system, and embed QR codes so riders can submit feedback. If the maps are positively received, they could replace the MTA’s current network map—but New York being New York, and New York’s map wars being what they’ve been for the past fifty years or so, it’s anyone’s guess how this will shake out. More at Gizmodo.
Back in 1978, Massimo Vignelli and John Tauranac debated the future of New York’s subway map. That debate—which in many ways never quite ended—is now the subject of a book coming out later this month. Edited by Gary Hustwit, The New York Subway Map Debate includes a full transcript of the debate and subsequent discussion (thanks to the discovery of a lost audio recording), plus contemporary photos and new interviews. Paperback available for $40 via the link.
The Google My Maps Android app is being closed down in October. You may remember that My Maps is a feature allowing users to create custom maps on the Google Maps platform relatively easily. To be honest I wasn’t aware that it had its own Android app; once that’s closed it will be available via the web. Andro4all worries (Spanish) that this is a sign that My Maps could be discontinued, which on the one hand seems a bit premature, but on the other, well, Google does have a track record. [Alejandro Polanca]
Meanwhile, Google Maps has expanded its feature that predicts crowdedness on transit lines—useful when it’s still very much not a great idea to be in a packed subway car—to 10,000 agencies in 100 countries. [Macworld]
San Marino is the fifth smallest country in the world, but it’s large enough to have a bus network, for which Jug Cerovic has created a map. It’s a network diagram that includes not only San Marino’s domestic bus routes, but its connecting bus line to Rimini, Italy (where you can connect to/from trains and planes) and its funicular railway (Wikipedia: Transport in San Marino). It’s also something we almost never see in a transit map: an oblique view. Adding perspective makes total sense: with San Marino and its hills in the foreground and the Adriatic Sea in the distance, we get more detail where it’s needed and connections to the rest of the world in the distance.
This interactive map, created by Sean Marshall, compares the extent of Canada’s passenger rail network in 1955 with what was left of it in 1980 after decades of service cancellations and line abandonments. By 1980 the various railways’ services had been taken over by VIA Rail; VIA’s network would face the first of a series of cutbacks the following year (there’s a lot less of it extant today), so this map represents the public rail network at its maximum. More about the map from Sean here.