A Map of the London Underground Track Network


A freedom of information request sent to Transport for London in 2013 turned up this 2009 map of the London Underground’s track network (17.1 MB PDF)—complete with sidings, switches and yards. Among other things, you can see how a train can cross from one line to another. CityMetric picked up the story last week and it’s gone seriously viral since then: Boing Boing, JalopnikWired.

If this is the sort of thing that fascinates you, you should go look at Franklin Jarrier’s maps of urban rail networks (which I told you about in 2011). These aren’t official maps, but they do for many systems around the world what the map above does for the Tube.

Cameron Booth’s Amtrak Subway Map

Amtrak Subway Map, 2016

Cameron Booth has released an apparently final version of his subway-style Amtrak network map, which he’s been working on for the past few years. In this version he’s reworked it to improve spacing and lettering; routes do not overlap one another, which also improves clarity. It doesn’t reduce well to a single screen (he does sell prints), but it’s no small achievement to show the crowded Northeast Corridor and the rest of the network in one go and still show all the lines and connections clearly. Wired coverage.

I’ve featured Cameron Booth’s projects here before: see The New York Tube Map and Redrawing the London Tube Map.

Tube Maps with Walking Distances


The Tube map, like other diagrammatic transit network maps, does not show distances between stations very well: two adjacent stations on the map could be right on top of each other or miles apart. Last November Transport for London released a map showing walking times between each station (PDF); news stories at the time connected it to imminent strikes by Tube workers. Now they’ve released another walking map, this one showing the number of steps between each station (PDF), which is presumably mainly of interest to people with activity trackers (pedometers, fitness bands and smart watches) that count their steps. News coverage from the Daily Standard. [Map Makers]

Anthony Denaro’s Map of All of NYC’s Transit


Never mind research that suggests that a single map adding bus lines to an already complicated subway map is cognitively overwhelming. Anthony Denaro has created a map of the New York City transit system that shows bus as well as subway routes—basically, a map of every means of transportation accessible by Unlimited MetroCard. Complex? You bet. Difficult to produce? Unquestionably: Anthony takes us through all the design choices he had to make. Difficult to use? Impossible for me to say (I haven’t even visited New York), but as Anthony points out, this map isn’t for tourists; it’s for frequent users. And no doubt it’ll be yet another engagement in the ongoing New York Subway Map War. [CityLab]

Indian Railways Reachability Map


Sajjad Anwar and Sanjay Bhangar have been playing with train, station and schedule data from Indian Railways, one result of which (so far) is this reachability map—all the destinations reachable by a single train (i.e., without a transfer) from a given station. [Sajjad Anwar]

Previously: A Map of India’s Railway Network.

Konovalov’s Paris Métro Map


Designer Constantine Konovalov and his team spent more than two years creating this reimagined map of the Paris Métro system. Its design is based on circles: lines 2 and 6, which encircle the city core, are presented as a perfect circle, and the tramlines that follow the Péripherique form a circular arc as well. It’s quite well done; don’t miss the video on the site that timelapses through every iteration of the map’s design. Could someone navigate the RATP’s network with this map? I think so (though it’s been 19 years since I’ve been to Paris). See also Transit Maps’ analysis of the map.

The New York Tube Map

New York Tube_v2

Cameron Booth’s latest project is a New York subway map in the form of the London Tube Map: “A little while ago, someone asked me on my Transit Maps blog whether I had ever seen a map of the New York subway system in the style of the London Underground diagram. Rather surprisingly, I hadn’t actually come across one, so I decided to draw one up myself.”

I’m surprised someone hasn’t done one already, but then there’s the problem of service pattern complexity unique to New York, which Cam handles by simply not handling it—making this a design exercise rather than a usable map. “The map certainly looks attractive, but the Tube Map’s style is ill-suited to the intricate working complexities of the New York subway system.”

Previously: Redrawing the London Tube Map.

Ellen Harvey’s ‘Network’ to Adorn Boston’s South Station


Ellen Harvey’s Network, envisaged as a hand-made glass mosaic depicting Boston’s transportation network, has been chosen as the permanent art installation to be installed at Boston’s South Station. From the proposal:

NETWORK will consist of a hand-made glass mosaic map of the surroundings of South Station juxtaposing the three principal forms of land transportation (rail, subway and road) with the older water-based routes into the city. Each form of transportation is coded a different color—black for subways, dark grey for rail, light grey for roads and silver for water. As travelers descend the stairs, they move towards the ocean where a small mermaid inset in the silvery sea of Boston harbor surveys (literally) the land. NETWORK imagines a world in which the mermaid escapes her destiny of romantic frustration and temptation and decides to take on the land, just as perhaps now we need nature to lead our transportation decisions, rather than to be subject to them.

Harvey, by the way, has the best quote: “There is no romance in your soul if you don’t love a map.” [via]

New York Subway Line Posters


Andrew Lynch has created posters of individual New York subway lines. Each poster contains ridership and historical data, and the lines are geographically accurate but are otherwise blank.

When I look at the subway map I always want to know where the lines really go. The VanMaps take this wish to a ridiculous extreme. A fully geographic map would be cluttered and difficult to read. I stripped that all away. All you have now is the essence, the subway itself and nothing else. In trying for the most geographic accuracy the map now becomes totally abstracted. The subway line exists on a blank plane. Totally accurate, totally useless. But damn does it look good.


Are Transit Maps Too Complicated?

Are transit system maps too complicated? Human beings can only process a finite amount of information at once (eight bits, or yes/no decisions—on maps that would mean 28 or 256 connection points); researchers examining the transit systems of 15 large metropolitan areas found that many trips exceeded that eight-bit limit, especially when multi-modal trips (e.g. subway plus bus or tram) are involved (subway-only trips tended to fall under the limit). System maps with too many data points are overwhelming. “We have found that, in the largest cities, the addition of bus routes with maps that are already too complicated to be used easily by travelers implies that the cognitive limit to urban navigation is exceeded for multimodal transportation systems.” A single map, in other words, is no longer sufficient or useful in such cases. [via]

Redrawing the London Tube Map

Back to Beck Tube Map

Designer Cameron Booth wondered whether London’s Tube Map could simply be drawn better. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the current iteration of the Tube Map is a diagram that’s almost completely forgotten that it is one. There’s very little rhythm, balance or flow to the composition of the map outside the central ‘thermos flask’, and there’s shockingly little use of a underlying unifying grid. As a result, nothing really aligns properly with anything else anymore.” His solution included getting rid of fare zones, redrawing accessibility icons, rejigging alignments, and lots of other changes. Read his post and his follow-up post for the end result (or results: he’s continuing to refine the map).

Previously: INAT London Metro MapA Geographically Accurate Tube Map.