A Mongrel of a Map?

I think Boston were also the pioneers in calling commuter railway line “the purple line”. The subway and surface/subway lines are Red, Green, Blue, and Orange.

The actual names of the various lines are not by colours, but the colours used on this map has been adapted by many as a convenient way of identify them.
The actual names are as follows:

New York City is a mix, a Subway train might be called the “Lexington Avenue Line”, or by its number (Ex, 1,2,&3), or by color. Most riders don’t know this now, but they also used to be called by the name of the company that owned the line before it was all brought under one system, even well after the change.

I prefer the NYC map, which, though very not to scale, included geography. It’s much easier to picture where you’re supposed to be going, what General cardinal direction, etc.

If I wanted to go to say, Battery Park, to get on the Staten Island Ferry, and I’ve never done it before, I’m going to have a hard time figuring out what subway station to go to without all that extra information.

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That seems true to some extent but, from my point of view, a map is used for information. A complex map has more information then a simple one. The subway map assumes what information users find most useful and leaves out what is not.

A typical road map shows information someone traveling by car might want. In the woods a topographical map, or a soil or forest timber type might be more useful.

The maps I use here are frequently ones I have created myself with just the information for a particular task.

Well he may not have designed the MRT system in Singapore, but he certainly played a major role as Project Director during the construction of the first stage of the North South Line. (from Marina Bay to Yio Chu Kang):

He was a great admirer of Lee Kuan Yew and the system of government he had developed in tiny Singapore, who few if any thought would survive more than a couple of years as an independent country with no natural resources.
Look at it now, with a GDP per capita exceeding that of it’s former Colonial Master, all other European nations and even mighty USA.

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One reason is speed. If the train is at the platform you want the least amount of information possible for your brain to process so that hou can make your decision quicker.

Also typface is important… and there is more room for clear type on the second map.

Here’s a great book on the subject:

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But people LOVE these transit maps. They put them on purses, posters, shower curtains, t-shirts, phone cases, advertising. The easiest way to make a New Yorker smile is to ask him for transit directions. They have everything memorized and they are very proud of it.
In Vancouver, our skytrains are great, but we really only have three lines… its not worth memorizing unless you’re a nerd. And they picked stupid colours: light blue, dark blue, and gold (orange ones aren’t actually trains, they are buses only included to puff up the drawing), and silly names: Expo, Millennium, and Canada. Why not: Surrey, Sea Island, and PoCo?
Singapore’s MRT is best ever. That place is lovely, but it’d be a drag without its trains. The trains are the best part. Tropical cities without trains are like… how did my life come to this? Tropical cities with trains are like… I must be dreaming, please don’t wake me up.
Chicago in the summer, the same way. There is so much art to see from the trains in Chicago. Its the only way to see the city. That down-town loop is iconic.

Paris without trains would be a sprawl. Each neighbourhood, maybe nice enough, but as a city? impossible.
train_paris (153.0 KB)

And Shanghai. What a strange adventure. The city’s ok, but their trains are unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

But this one is my favourite train map. London. A system so great that entire novels have been inspired by it. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, Arguably Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. Fantastic. Back when I didn’t know anything about cities and the great metropolis of Edmonton left me slack-jawed, I tried to walk from Heathrow to the centre of London. I have seen dystopia, and its name is Hounslow. Dumb bunny: take the train.

Sure, people love maps. But for every person who has a T-shirt how many hundreds or thousands just use them to get where they are going without a thought?

People in Maine love the Maine Gazetteer to the point they’ve written songs about it: Keep your hands off my Gazetteer

As far as I know just about everyone in Maine has at least one copy.



It’s a road map and a topo map.


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The important information that’s harder to get from the NYC map is which stops are on the express lines.

You don’t need it in Manhattan. Almost all of the stops above Greenwich Village are named for the street.
Unless you don’t even know the intersection you’re looking for, the worst you will do is go one block in the wrong direction.

You could take a wild guess and go for the one with “ferry” in the name, i.e. South Ferry.


When I first came out to NYC as a kid from the hills in California, I thought that trying to figure out the NY Subway system would be difficult. The NYC map made it easy, to be honest. I haven’t had any problems with the London Underground schematic, either. Maybe being an engineer makes it easier for me to comprehend. When you are riding the subway, you don’t need landmarks or the other reference points of a geographical map.

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When inside the system you just need to understand the local scheme. To use the train at the airport you only need to know your destination is “Terminal C” for example. Once you are inside the correct terminal you can forget that and just look for your gate, then your seat.

Highways have route and exit numbers.

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Examples of Beautiful Maps

Here is a good one: The Atlas of Canada Map of the North Circumpolar Region


Anyone into map porn?