Greater Greater Washington

See the redesigned Metro maps and vote for your favorite!

17 people entered our Redesign the Metro Map contest. Now, you can see the entries and vote on them!

Eric Fidler and I created a voting application that lets you browse each map and drag them into a special ballot, where you can rank as many (or as few) choices as you like. We'll then use Instant Runoff Voting to pick the winners.

You have until 11:59 pm on Friday night to cast your votes. Just one vote per person, please. We will announce the winners the following week.

Many of the maps came from readers and a few from contributors. We've removed all of the identifying information so that the voting can be totally anonymous. That way, people will be voting for the best map, not one whose author they happen to like based on posts or comments. If you submitted a map, it'd be great if you can help keep it that way by not identifying your map. When we post winners, we'll also identify and thank all of the submittors.

A distinguished jury of transit experts, journalists and designers is also going to be making their own picks this week. The jurors are:

  • Barbara Richardson, Assistant General Manager for Customer Service, Communications and Marketing, WMATA*
  • Chris Zimmerman, former WMATA Board member from Arlington and current chairman of the Arlington County Board
  • Zachary Schrag, Associate Professor of History at George Mason University and author of The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro
  • Michael Schaffer, editor of the Washington City Paper
  • Bob Thomson ("Dr. Gridlock"), transportation columnist for the Washington Post
  • Kytja Weir, transportation reporter for the Washington Examiner
  • Justin Young, designer and proprietor of ReadySetDC
Barbara Richardson is helping us judge, but this is not an official WMATA contest. The winning map does not get to become the new Metro map; WMATA has hired Lance Wyman, the original map designer, to revamp the map. They might draw some inspiration from elements of the entries, but this contest is strictly for fun.

Cast your votes! Feel free to post your opinions in the comments, but we encourage you to go vote before you read everyone else's opinions.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

Comments

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The maps are taking forever to load? Can they be reuploaded at 72 DPI or assembled into a PDF for easier downloading and viewing?

by MDE on May 16, 2011 10:43 am • linkreport

Seconded, please!

by Alison on May 16, 2011 10:47 am • linkreport

I'll see what we can do. But these maps are already scaled down to 1/16 the size of what we asked people to submit; smaller and we lose detail. We might be able to set it up so it can download a lower res version first and then a higher res one or something.

by David Alpert on May 16, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

Seems odd that all the maps that show park space Do show Rock Creek, Arlington Cemetery, and the Mall, yet Don't show Anacostia Park and the Fort Circle Parks. Makes it look like there are no parks east of the Anacostia river.

by David Garber on May 16, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

Some of these look really great. I wonder how many people will pick their favorite map (as opposed to the official map) to give to friends, visitors, etc. who come to DC and ask for a map of the Metro system?

by Rob P on May 16, 2011 10:52 am • linkreport

I've reviewed many of the maps and find that many of them do not accurately represent the current service plan. I really hope people DON'T start giving out copies of these to their visitors.

I think it would be interesting to have each map-maker submit a one-paragraph statement of what they were trying to do with their map, what the motivations were. What the trade-offs were, etc. You can somewhat glean that from maps themselves, but I'd like to know why/how someone choose to sacrifice, say, the iconic look with wide lines for, say, geographical accuracy.

by MDE on May 16, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

I was surprised by the both the variety of designs... and the difficulty of reviewing them all. This is not a user-friendly contest! The ability to make comments on each entry would be wise, as even the winning entry is likely to need tweaking.

by CCKagan on May 16, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

First off, great job all. *applause*

I was torn between Maps K and F, but I chose F as my first choice. The thicker lines, bilingual text, and the cool use of a QR code to link to other languages' maps won me over.

(That said, it could use a different font when it goes into production. The Verdana or DejaVu Sans or whatever just irks me...but I understand that someone did this for free and didn't want to buy fancy fonts from Adobe.)

by Matt T on May 16, 2011 11:14 am • linkreport

:)

by thedofc on May 16, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

We actually made a very conscious decision not to have explanatory text or comments. We asked mapmakers to give us some text, but then decided not to include it.

The reason was that when people look at the Metro map in a railcar or online, they don't get the benefit of the designer explaining why they did what they did. Instead, they just see the map. So we were thinking they should stand on their own, using just what's on there.

I don't know if that was the right call or not, but that's what we decided to do.

by David Alpert on May 16, 2011 11:23 am • linkreport

Seconded Matt T. F is a very strong map. I really like the use of figure 8's to identify transfer stations as well.

by smax on May 16, 2011 11:24 am • linkreport

@David Garber:
Actually, of the 17 maps, 12 showed park land. 5 of those maps omitted Rock Creek Park. 1 also omitted Arlington Cemetery.

The primary reason that I assume none of the maps included parks East of the River is because the current Metro map does not include those parks. But the mapmakers may have had other reasons, as well.

by Matt Johnson on May 16, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

@CCKagan:
After the winners are announced, each of the maps will be posted, and you will have plenty of opportunity to comment on the design decisions.

by Matt Johnson on May 16, 2011 11:36 am • linkreport

Stuck between B and C but chose B first preference. I didn't like that F was bilingual, it's too cluttered and I don't think we should be producing maps in languages other than English.

by Phil on May 16, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

I like the simplicity of the K map, though the folks at the Tube might sue for trademark infringement. I'm not seeing how to sort my top picks though. Maybe a browser (IE 7) issue?

by Matt W on May 16, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

Matt W: If you drag around the items on the list at the right, do they change order?

by David Alpert on May 16, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

David, no, they snap back to the order in which they were initially pulled from the left.

by Matt W on May 16, 2011 11:45 am • linkreport

Only two of these maps make any attempt at providing service frequency, which should be mandatory. Several maps also use varying thickness, which is very confusing and bespeaks a poor understanding of the purpose of such a map.

by reader on May 16, 2011 11:45 am • linkreport

Our hosting company just cranked up our bandwidth allotment, so hopefully the maps will now start to load faster. I'm also going to re-upload them with more compression. Thanks for everyone's patience.

by David Alpert on May 16, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

Phil,

I wasn't really bi-lingual. It offered a link to download other maps in other languages to a smart phone. Nice idea.

by RJ on May 16, 2011 11:58 am • linkreport

Many of the maps look good at the zoomed-in, small scale of individual stations. But fewer look good at the zoomed-out, overall scale -- many are cluttered and overly complex, or possess the all charm of a circuit diagram. A strong design has to work well at both scales: fine detail and overall image.

And I agree with CCKagan that even the winner will need tweaking. A fun exercise would be a second round, where the best maps each go through a redesign using the strongest elements from all of the top entries.

by Laurence Aurbach on May 16, 2011 12:04 pm • linkreport

The conceptual maps might be appealing to urban planners but would probably about as useless as you could get for Metro maps' main consumers, tourists. I don't think I really used the map at all after only two years of living here. I love the map with the bus routes, and it's really probably the only one I think that even comes close to being good enough to be considered as a starting point. It needs some design tweaks to make it look less busy around Metro Center, but it's a great way to get everyone to be more comfortable with buses.

by Dave on May 16, 2011 12:22 pm • linkreport

They REALLY, REALLY, REALLY need to go back to the original concept of simple, one- or two-word station names.

by Mark on May 16, 2011 12:37 pm • linkreport

Mark, totally. And starting multiple stations in a row with the same name is just begging for trouble.

by Colleen on May 16, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

Agreed. Please note that one of the contest criteria was that mapmakers can't change the names of the stations. It was a design contest, not a station-naming contest; when he does the official map, Lance Wyman won't be able to change the names either.

by David Alpert on May 16, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

It was a little difficult trying to remember the sequence of maps since they weren't in ascending order. I kept forgetting which letter I was on. Or maybe it's me being slow.

Of them all, I like F best. One main reason is that it clearly identifies the WH and other landmarks while some of the others have the icon/image hidden behind other lettering.

Some of the others, like w/the bus lines, are too much to take in @one time.

by HogWash on May 16, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

I am surprised how few have included the purple line...

by Jasper on May 16, 2011 1:16 pm • linkreport

@Jasper:
The contestants were *not* asked to include the Purple Line. It is not even through the planning process yet, and is probably not appropriate to put on the map.

Nobody put the separated Blue Line on, either. At this point in time, the Purple Line is far from a sure thing.

These maps are not intended to be "fantasy" maps. They're intended to be designed so they could go in railcars next summer when the new Blue Line "split" goes into effect.

by Matt Johnson on May 16, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson,

You are right - but my point was more that many show parkland - and yet no large parks in SE are shown in any of the maps. Obviously something that would be easy to fix, but it's disappointing to not see in any of the redesigns.

by David Garber on May 16, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

@David Garber:
It would be easy to include the parkland in Southeast, yes. But why?

Do we expect that large numbers of Metro riders are going to those parks? Do we expect that by showing those parks, that more people would visit them?

I think showing the National Mall is important not because it's a park, but because it's how people orient themselves on the map. Arlington Cemetery and Rock Creek Park, less so, but few people visiting the region and using Metro are going to be helped by the context of seeing Fort Dupont Park.

So I suppose my question is, if I were designing a map, what would be the legitimate reason to include parks in Southeast, and what might the tradeoff(s) be in doing so?

by Matt Johnson on May 16, 2011 1:25 pm • linkreport

Only voted for two. And the two I voted for both had fairly obvious errors, though I let that slide because they were, IMO, far more readable than the others.

by Froggie on May 16, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson,

it's more an issue of people looking at the map and saying "oh look at all the nice parkland in NW, SW and Arlington." I agree that the Mall should be on there, but if Rock Creek is on there, there is absolutely no good reason to leave off Anacostia park, Fort Circle, and even the Arboretum.

If there isn't a good reason that parks should be on the map, then all large parks should be left off. If there's a good reason for them to be included, then all should be included.

by David Garber on May 16, 2011 1:42 pm • linkreport

I really like how Map N handled our long station names. The map bolds the important part of the name, and leaves the rest of the name unbolded, smaller, and on the next line, e.g.

U Street
African-Amer. Civil War Memorial/Cardozo

Archives
Navy Mem'l/Penn Quarter

Woodley Park
Zoo/Adams Morgan

by Eric Fidler on May 16, 2011 1:49 pm • linkreport

Definitely none of them are perfect. My main complaint about the current map is that station/line distances on the map aren't representative of the true distance. e.g. Shady grove is shown to be south of glenmont, when in reality it's miles north. I voted for Q but I understand some compression at the ends would be necessary to make the inner stations legible.

Maps should definitely have major landmarks like rock creek park and the mall on them.

by Brian on May 16, 2011 1:56 pm • linkreport

Here are some properties of maps that I like:
- thinner route lines (allows more room for station names, easier to read generally)
- relatively less distortion from the geographic routes (e.g. don't pretend the silver line runs north-south or that it runs right next to the Potomac River)
- show Amtrak/VRE/MARC routes within the map's scope in black, in addition to noting the transfer stations (helps with inter-modal public transport)
- show the airplane symbol at commercial airports (IAD, DCA)
- indicate boundaries between (i.e. DC, MD, VA) and also between counties/independent cities (e.g. Fairfax County, Arlington County, Alexandria) on the map (helps with traveller orientation)
- show the Potomac River as this helps with traveller orientation
- show major park areas in light green (e.g. National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, Rock Creek Park) as this also helps with traveller orientation
- show major highways (e.g. Beltway, I-66, I-95 south in VA, I-95 north in MD, 270, 295).
- at multi-name stations, bold the most important name only
- show the larger military bases (e.g. Ft McNair, Ft Myer, Navy Yard, Bolling AFB) in a light grey. These have lots of travellers; showing them helps orient travellers.

by Anonymous Coward on May 16, 2011 2:07 pm • linkreport

@ Matt Johnson: the Purple Line is far from a sure thing.

Didn't know that. I thought the decision to build it had been made. Perhaps not all the details, but then again, neither have all the details for the silver line been decided. Especially considering Phase II.

by Jasper on May 16, 2011 2:08 pm • linkreport

@Jasper:
The Silver Line phase II is actually in design. The number of stations and their basic locations are fixed. Funding is mostly in place.

The Purple Line hasn't even finished the study phase yet. Station locations might change. The alignment itself might change in places. Heck, the mode could still change (although the LPA is light rail). And there is no funding in place. It is a line that may never happen (although I hope it does).

That's why the contest rules did not ask that it be included.

by Matt Johnson on May 16, 2011 2:11 pm • linkreport

@David Garber:
Fair point.

by Matt Johnson on May 16, 2011 2:22 pm • linkreport

Interesting maps. I'd say almost all of them are too cluttered with information and shrink down the map and signage until it is too small. Any map with bus information is misplaced on a Metro Subway map. It just confuses the eye and given the lareg number of tourists that travel DC that almost entirely ride the subway portion of the Metro - simplicity is best.

by Burger on May 16, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

I voted for G and ranked the others that I at least found acceptable behind it (I think 8 in all). I'm surprised how offended I got at some of these maps. My two biggest issues were maps that tried to show too much information and thus made the maps confusing, and ones that strayed too far from the traditional iconic design, which I think is a powerful image for Metro (I mean, I own the shower curtain version of the map).

by Steven Yates on May 16, 2011 3:14 pm • linkreport

Also, I just noticed something. There are 17 maps entered, but 18 are represented in the graphic in this article. Looks like the on on the bottom row furthest to the right (the one with the cross looking transfer stations) is missing from the contest.

by Steven Yates on May 16, 2011 3:19 pm • linkreport

Yes, one person submitted multiple similar entries. We worked it out with that person to select one. But to make the graphic look nice, I stuck in a thumbnail from it anyway.

We'll post all of the multiple entries when we post all the maps with comments next week.

by David Alpert on May 16, 2011 3:26 pm • linkreport

Great app; lots of fun. One thing that would really help though is an indicator on either the main map or the map list letting you know which map you're currently viewing. You could either mark/shade the thumbnail or put the map letter indicator in the main window. From a thumbnail view they all look the same. Thanks!

by jyindc on May 16, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

Mass transportation maps do not need to be to scale. There is a reason that downtown DC is larger on the current map than it would normally be.

by thedofc on May 16, 2011 3:36 pm • linkreport

At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, the creative effort here is really remarkable. I have my favorites, but I found something to like in all of them.

That said, this exercise also illustrates why the original Wyman map is so well loved and so usable after all these years. It will be interesting to see if he simply tweaks the current map or starts with a clean slate.

Congratulations to all the contributors for a job well done.

by c5karl on May 16, 2011 3:38 pm • linkreport

@David Garber

There's a perfectly good reason to include the Mall and Rock Creek but leave off Anacostia and the Arboretum - those latter two don't offer anywhere near the same navigational benefit as the former.

DC has several key geographic features that divide the city - the two rivers are one of them, Rock Creek's valley is another, and the Mall is yet one more that provides a distinct barrier between North and South. They are on the map to provide that context, not to tell someone which quadrant has lots of park space.

More people orient themselves within the city in relation to the Mall or to Rock Creek than to the Arboretum or any of the Fort Circle parks. Including them on a Metro map would be extraneous information that I don't think would be useful for travelers. Remember the primary purpose of this kind of map is to navigate the Metro system, not to show where the parks are.

Even calling it a map is somewhat of a misnomer - this is a diagram of the metro system. Any map cannot be all things to all people. It must prioritize some information over other information. A metro diagram prioritizes the navigation of the system above all else, as it should.

by Alex B. on May 16, 2011 3:52 pm • linkreport

N is probably my favorite, though I feel it's bordering on the verge of being a bit too cluttered/busy with the bus routes as well. B might be decent if the lines were a little thicker. But I still vastly prefer this map:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b3/WMATA_Thin_Silver_Line_Map.jpg

by Aaron on May 16, 2011 4:22 pm • linkreport

@thedofdc
I understand the map can't be completely to scale or the downtown stations would be way too close together but it should be as close to scale as practicable. In the current map, the two ends of the red line appear WAY too far apart and the outer stations of the west side of the red line are way too far south. At least extend it to the boundary of the map.

by Brian on May 16, 2011 5:40 pm • linkreport

I love the map that is clearly inspired by the MBTA map, N, with the bus routes. But I would go one step further and put less bus routes, only the busiest. And id add marc.

I also love the geographically accurate map, and think that should be placed in stations (but not on trains). Theres lots of free space in the station lobbies, use it to educate your riders!

I voted for 5.

by JJJJJ on May 16, 2011 6:03 pm • linkreport

Features I liked and other comments:
-Bilingual with QR code for additional languages. We get a lot of international tourists, and a lot of people here do not speak English as their first language.
-Bold/shortened station names. WMATA should seriously consider updating station names to be shorter or at least consistent with - vs. /
-Map Q's good attempt to more accurately portray station distance differences. Maybe a bit too much "map" and less "diagram" than it needs to be, but Metro's current map really irks me with the total lack of relative distances further out and some easily fixed geographic oddities, like having Potomac Ave Station north of Eastern Market. Why? I understand a bit of geographic inconsistency for easy readability, but a straight-line there serves the same purpose with less distortion.
-I liked the cross-shading of Map P at first glance, but it may be too confusing to tourists.
-Map E's bold cardinal-direction-based labels seem like a much easier way to illustrate the directions/endpoints of the lines, but could get confusing since lines have differing endpoints. (Though for most tourist destinations, a different endpoint doesn't matter, and consistency could be less confusing. Today I had to explain to a family that a Blue line to Huntington would get them from Potomac Ave to Cap South. They couldn't figure that out from the archaic straight line list of stations on the metro post, which didn't include Huntington.)
-The "blue" line that travels north along the yellow line track should be labeled as a yellow line train with an alternate southern end/starting point; to do otherwise would be more confusing.
-I like the bus lines on Map N. They're light enough a tourist can ignore them. Some cleanup needed, but would be really nice to have that info on a train where it's currently not available. (and it fixes my geographic pet peeve in near SE)

Great contest and comments!

by Grace on May 16, 2011 6:21 pm • linkreport

SERIOUSLY DUDE, no one is going to vote if they have to sit through each map loading. Also the ones that i've seen are pretty bad. Why can't they just alter the one we already have? Or at least get a real good info graphic designer to do one. I mean really DC some of these look like they were done in MS Paint. Sorry to be so harsh.

by pat bee on May 16, 2011 9:51 pm • linkreport

Ok...sorry, didn't see that this was just for fun and here I am being a jerk. Many apologies. But seriously some of these really do look like MS Paint bad info design makes me act crazy. Oh yeah, and jpgs please.

by pat bee on May 16, 2011 9:56 pm • linkreport

Condorcet voting?

by Michael Perkins on May 16, 2011 10:04 pm • linkreport

Having looked at the maps in the contest, I got some ideas and figured out what my ideal map would look like. I'd prefer starting with the current WMATA map and modifying it.

First it would have 4 different types of lines for normal service, future service, peak-only service, and off-peak only service. The first two already exist, the last two would have to be added. They'd have to be easily distinguishable. I think I'd prefer having off-peak-only service have a thin white line inside the thicker colored line and the peak-only service be just a thin colored line.

Second, I noticed that one of the maps used blue for the peak-only West Falls Church to Largo Town Center service. Another map used green for the Franconia-Springfield to Greenbelt service. Going with these two choices instead of orange and yellow means that one can understand exactly from where to where these peak-only services run from just looking at the map without having to read an information box somewhere. The other option for this would be to draw a whole line (from one end to the other) for just these peak-only service like map C does. Going with blue and green is simpler. BTW, to illustrate why going with orange and yellow presents a problem, consider someone going from Huntington to College Park. At first they might think "great the Yellow line goes all the way to Greenbelt at peak hours, I'd just have to get one a train that goes out that far". It'd be only by reading a call out box or information box on the map that they'd realize that won't work. It'd be a similar case for someone going from Dunn Loring to Morgan Boulevard. The reverse could be worse. I could imagine someone at College Park or Greenbelt endlessly waiting for the Yellow line to Huntington.

Third, I would have two red lines on the map. One for Grosvenor to Silver Spring service (with off-peak only service to Shady Grove) and another for the full Shady Grove to Glenmont service.

Fourth, the lines would obviously have to be thinned but 2/3 thickness should work OK, I think.

In all this would result in seven lines:
RED: Shady Grove to Glenmont (all solid)
RED: Shady Grove to Silver Spring (hollow to Grosvenor, solid the rest of the way)
SILVER: Route 772 to Stadium-Armory (all dashed)
ORANGE: Vienna/Fairfax-GMU (all solid)
BLUE: Franconia-Springfield to Largo Town Center (all solid), with a branch from Rosslyn to West Falls Church (all thin line)
YELLOW: Huntington to Fort Totten (solid to Mount Vernon Square/7th Street–Convention Center, hollow the rest of the way)
GREEN: Greenbelt to Branch Avenue (all solid), with a branch from L'Enfant Plaza to Franconia-Springfield (all thin line)

BTW, I'm thinking the section listing the service patterns should have two columns, one for service during peak hours and one for service during off-peak hours. That should cut down on having a big list with some having "(peak only)" and others having "(off-peak only)" on them.

by Mario on May 16, 2011 11:01 pm • linkreport

There seems to be a wide verity of thinking as to how the map should look feel. Many chose to think out of the box. Many chose start with the original Lance Wyman design and tweak it to make it thier own.

The thing I like the least about many of the maps in the use of balloons to convey information specific to a given line. It is my opinion that such information should be in the legend.

by Sand Box John on May 16, 2011 11:05 pm • linkreport

I liked the idea seen on map "F" of using a QR code to allow people to access other-language versions. I don't necessarily think the map itself needs to be bilingual because I think the Spanish could just as easily be linked via the QR code. (If we were living in Miami or Southern California or Texas I might concede otherwise.) I also liked the way map "F" contained icons for the sports venues. Those are major destinations for people who may not be regular Metro users. I think, however, that using the "Verizon Center" logo is less than ideal because of the possibility of a name change in the future. Perhaps the idea of using icons in the form of a football, baseball, soccer ball, puck, and basketball might be better.

I liked the effort made by the designer of map "Q" to help give a sense of scale. But I don't think map "Q" is effective on the whole because the result of the scale is that the downtown core is too small and hard to read. While proportionally it's true that in real life that area IS small compared to the whole DC area, it's perhaps the most important part of the map for most infrequent riders and it needs to be legible.

I haven't even tried to rank all the maps in voting because it would simply take too long, but one thing that occurs to me after looking at all of them is that if the map redesign is intended to communicate some fundamental changes in the way the system operates, then it's important for the new design not to be too similar to the old one. Otherwise, long-time riders won't pause to look to see the changes simply because it looks like the same map they've known for 30+ years. In this respect, therefore, while map "G" is a clean design and is easy to follow (no doubt I'm biased because I'm accustomed to New York's use of dashed lines for part-time service), it's too close to the current one. It doesn't grab my attention by making me think here's a new map I haven't seen before.

The other one I wanted to mention is "N." The idea of showing bus lines that link two Metrorail stations as an alternative to using the train (say, to link the two ends of the Red Line, or Alexandria to Falls Church) makes sense. But I'm not sure adding other bus lines is helpful because I think that with bus service, geographical accuracy--giving a sense of place, if that makes sense--is far more important than it is with the rail service. That is, I'd guess that most Metrorail riders use some other form of transportation at one end of their trip (not counting walking), be it driving to the subway, being dropped off by a spouse, taking the bus, taking a cab, whatever. The Metro stop is sort of a hub in a sense. The mode of transportation you use to and from the subway is thus something for which geographical accuracy is more important. Put differently, if all you showed me about the Fairfax Connector's 231 loop is that it stops "in Kingstowne," I'd never use it--Kingstowne is too big an area and I'd have no idea whether it stopped anywhere near where I live. That's why geographical accuracy is important on a bus map--it helps give you a sense of whether the bus stop is within an acceptable walking distance or whether there's some other viable way to use it.

by Rich on May 17, 2011 9:57 am • linkreport

I left off a thought on the end of my third paragraph above because I got interrupted. I was going to add something along these lines at the end: "I'm the type of person who will look at a new map, even if it's of a familiar place, simply because it's new and different and I want to see what changed. I recently stopped at AAA for some other things and picked up a new Fairfax County map while there just to see how different it looked from the old ones. But if the Metro map looks essentially the same as the old one, I'd probably just give it a quick glance and move on."

by Rich on May 17, 2011 10:01 am • linkreport

The best new map wasn't shown at all: Metro sharing data with Google Maps.

by Brock Howell, Transportation for Washington on May 17, 2011 10:32 am • linkreport

I have no idea how you would show this on a map, but doesn't it make more sense to just have trains' colors based on where they terminate?

For example:
The peak service between WFC and Largo should be BLUE when heading towards largo, but ORANGE when heading towards WFC.
The peak service between Franconia/Springfield and Greenbelt should be YELLOW when going to Greenbelt and BLUE in the opposite direction.

It seems to me this would be much more intuitive when you are actually standing on the platform. You don't have to think about whether the Orange line train that's arriving will go to Largo or New Carrollton, all Orange trains go to the same place.

Are there other transit systems (worldwide) that have service patterns like this (lines that overlap and split multiple times), and how do they handle it? I'm looking into this.

by MLD on May 17, 2011 10:55 am • linkreport

MLD: Metro did something like this in the early '80s:
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/1298/what-was-up-with-the-one-way-orange-blue/

But the problem is that most people aren't going to the terminus. If you're at L'Enfant and upstairs is a Blue train to Franconia-Springfield (which is going to go via Smithsonian, Metro Center, Rosslyn) and downstairs is a Blue Line train to Franconia-Springfield (which is going to go over the bridge to Pentagon), people will be very confused.

New York has lines that split and join multiple times. They have letters for each. The colors are the same for lines that share a main trunk line in Manhattan; so "green" trains (the Lexington Avenue line) split up in the Bronx into 3 different lines, one of which (5) joins up with a "red" train (2) for a while.

by David Alpert on May 17, 2011 10:59 am • linkreport

"New York has lines that split and join multiple times. They have letters for each. The colors are the same for lines that share a main trunk line in Manhattan; so 'green' trains (the Lexington Avenue line) split up in the Bronx into 3 different lines, one of which (5) joins up with a "red" train (2) for a while."

From a hypertechnical standpoint--and I realize this is truly a transitgeek historical issue that isn't observed much in practice today--your point illustrates the difference between a "service" (or a "route") and a "line." Traditionally the "line" referred to the physical track over which the "service" ran, such that a particular "service," such as the Lexington Avenue Express and the Seventh Avenue Express cited in your comment, could run over several "lines." (To use the example of the trains I rode most often when I visited my grandparents growing up, the RR ran the Broadway Local service over the Fourth Avenue Line in Brooklyn, the Broadway Line in the city, and the Astoria Line in Queens--the latter has since been changed.) The example you cite of the 2 and the 5 is an outstanding example, though, of how New York handles services that split off and come back together, because the 2 and the 5 run together in the Bronx, split off for the trip through the city with the 2 going down the 7th Avenue Line and the 5 using the Lexington Avenue Line, and then come back together in Brooklyn to their terminus on the Nostrand Avenue Line. The colors in New York reflect the colors assigned to the "trunk lines" in the city (with the exception of the Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown, i.e. the GG, which never enters Manhattan), so even though the 2 and the 5 use the same tracks and terminate at the same place in Brooklyn, they bear different colors on the map and on the rollsigns to help the rider know that the train goes to a different place en route.

The notion of attempting something like that in Washington raises some problems for a couple of reasons. First is WMATA's internal designation of the lettered "routes" (as seen on Sand Box John's schematic)--how do you determine the trunk designation? Second and more importantly, the use of colors as the predominant designation for services would make it difficult to assign services across divergent routes unless you came up with some other designation (letters or numbers, for example; nobody in New York refers to the services by color and you mark yourself as a tourist if you do), and the DC ridership base would likely resist that because the simple system used here has worked well for a long time. I think if the services are to be made more complex, it may be time to consider whether the simple use of color might have to be augmented.

I don't pretend to know what the solution is and I think no matter what they do, some people are going to be confused. Heck, WTOP reports that people are being confused by the simple traffic pattern change on Telegraph Road and Kings Highway from a left-turn at a traffic light to a right turn via a ramp that flies over Telegraph, and that's a pretty simple change. People were baffled for years by half the Beltway being I-95 and half being I-495, or by there being two separate George Washington Parkways (one in Virginia and one in Maryland). I think ultimately whatever WMATA does will have to start from the acceptance that some portion of the population will always be confused and that the goal simply has to be reducing that portion to the minimum acceptable level.

by Rich on May 17, 2011 11:32 am • linkreport

Identifying the features people want to see (thinner lines, more geographic fidelity while maintaining readability, show major landmarks etc.) could be a very useful outcome of this. Perhaps followed by a second round.

by Brian on May 17, 2011 11:55 am • linkreport

The current Metrorail map is one of the greatest such things ever designed, which is why to me the miles-in-front winner among these designs is G. Map A makes me dizzy and a little sick.

by Herschel on May 17, 2011 12:24 pm • linkreport

No one told me about this! Here's my time-scale version of the current Metro map: http://theresnowhereelse.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/washington-dc-metro-map/

by peter on May 17, 2011 2:21 pm • linkreport

peter, that is a pretty cool idea. My one concern with it is that it condenses the core somewhat.

by NikolasM on May 17, 2011 3:27 pm • linkreport

BTW: Map B mixes Arlington and Fairfax up on the west side of town...

by Jasper on May 17, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

This is further confirmation that the suits do nothing but marginalize design... print, web whatever. They're tired of paying folks with tattoos and scooters real money. So what better than to exploit young design students? Great idea. Maybe you'll be the lucky unknown designer that wins a WHOLE HUNDRED DOLLARS! Don't spend it in one place now!

by E-Dogg62 on May 17, 2011 4:28 pm • linkreport

E-Dogg62: This is not an official Metro contest. They are not exploiting any free labor because they aren't going to use the maps; they're paying the original designer, Lance Wyman, to do the real version and I'm sure they're paying him a professional rate. This was our idea on our own and not affiliated with Metro.

by David Alpert on May 17, 2011 6:44 pm • linkreport

I voted for those which had the most accurate spacial representation based on geography. I LOVED the one that looked like an actual map, although its text is small. I'm guessing there'd be an inset for downtown stations. I only voted for Q, B and K.

by Tom A. on May 18, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

I don't understand the fixation on geographical accuracy? What do the extra turns and space do for metro users?

by NikolasM on May 18, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

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