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WMATA makes new diagrammatic bus maps

Do you find the Metrobus maps very confusing? There's hope. WMATA has created new bus maps that emphasize key routes and show a more stylized design, like the Metrorail map does.

Portion of the new bus map around DC's Mid-City area. Images from WMATA. Click for full version (large PDF).

The current bus map shows every route with the same weight line, whether it's a rush hour-only route that only runs twice a day, a bus that comes every 30 minutes, or one of the highest-frequency lines in the system.

WMATA has responded to rider feedback and suggestions from bloggers and created a new set of maps. Today, they posted draft versions of these maps to get input. They'll collect feedback until early October, then go back and make changes in the hope of releasing the maps officially in December.

These maps emphasize the most important and high-frequency bus lines with large, red, very visible lines. Other buses are get narrow lines in other colors. In addition, the route lines don't hew precisely to geography. Instead, routes follow straight lines and illustrated curves in the stylized form of most subway maps. The result is still fairly close to geographically accurate, but the simpler routes make reading the maps easier.

When a major trunk bus line splits into several individual lines, the thick red line divides into a number of thin red lines. For example, the S buses split up from Alaska Avenue to Silver Spring, as do the Q buses west of Rockville, or the H buses west of Rock Creek Park.

The big red lines generally correspond with the most frequent lines, but WMATA didn't use a single frequency threshold to decide which ones qualify. In DC, most of the routes with thick red lines have service at least every 15 minutes, but there are so few 15-minute all-day services outside of DC that the map wouldn't have many red lines there. According to head bus planner Jim Hamre, WMATA primarily looked at the line's ridership and its span of service, such as how many days per week the line runs and how many hours per day.

You can click on each of the small versions of the maps here to access the large PDFs. On the DC map, an insert will show the downtown area, but WMATA has not finished creating that yet.

District of Columbia


Montgomery County

Prince George's County

Many features are a big step forward

Good maps have a visual hierarchy. If you look at them from a distance, you can see the most important features and information. As you look closer, more details come into focus.

Look at the old and new DC bus maps at a small size below. What can you see?

The only hierarchy in the old map involved the jurisdiction borders, water, Metrorail lines, maybe parks, and the different color for downtown. The first 3 are important elements to have at the top of a visual hierarchy, but they don't provide any information about the bus service. Looking at this map, you basically learn nothing about buses, except maybe the general density of lines (which isn't that useful).

On the new map, jurisdiction boundaries, water, and parks are still very visible. In addition, a number of bus lines "pop." In DC, you can see the major trunk routes, like the S buses on 16th, the 30s on Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and the 90s going around downtown.

People who don't already ride the bus regularly need to know which routes will be the most likely to serve them conveniently. On the old map the rider might see 5, 10, or 20 different routes that could work, but has to cross-check each with the schedule to see which actually run at the time and which run more often. This map helps simplify that. If there's a big red line bus going where you want, take that. If not, take one of the others.

People who look at the bus map also pick up general knowledge about the buses they can use in the future. Maybe someone looks at the map and sees that there is a major bus route between Woodley Park and U Street. Sometime later, when they need to make that exact trip, they'll remember that bus exists.

Road maps have long worked that way. Every road does not appear the same. Instead, freeways appear most visibly, then major arterials, minor arterials and local streets. Interactive maps like Google Maps even automatically elide the smaller local streets at more distant zoom levels. The hierarchy of buses on this map plays the same role.

A few changes can make them even better

Buses from other agencies besides WMATA don't get thick lines, even if they offer frequent service. The Circulator gets a thin orange line on the DC map, but its 10-plus-minute headways make it as frequent as many major Metrobus routes. It shouldn't lose out on prominent billing on the map just because a different agency operates it. Same for the King Street trolley.

Metro could set a standard for such lines and only include those that meet that standard. Maybe when these lines share part of a route with a major Metrobus, they could merge into one thick line, just like multiple Metrobuses do, or these could be thick lines in a different, perhaps somewhat lighter color.

Likewise, while there's a nice hierarchy of routes in many places, there's almost no hierarchy in Reston, Centreville, Springfield, Gaithersburg, or Germantown, where there are a lot of Fairfax Connector and Ride On routes. That makes individual routes difficult to distinguish in those areas. Are some of those lines much more significant and frequent than others? If so, it would help riders to see those more prominently, even if they aren't as prominent as a Metrobus thick red line.

Here are some additional smaller design suggestions:

  • When lines terminate in the downtown area, they peter out into arrows approaching downtown. But lines that continue through downtown have the general route path on the full city map. It would help to show some general paths for all of the lines, or at least the thick red ones.

    It makes sense to have a call-out for downtown, because the lines are very densely packed and it wouldn't be possible to show the actual routes they all take. However, that doesn't mean the larger map can't have some information so that not every rider has to switch back and forth between the call-out and the larger map. Even if it's just for the major routes, it would be very helpful to see that the 42 goes to Metro Center, just like the map already shows the 30s continuing through downtown.

  • The Green Line and 70 buses do a strange do-si-do between Mt. Vernon Sq. and Shaw. Why? Both are actually just continuing straight on 7th Street. It seems that the Green Line could stay to the right of the line for the buses, and cross over where the line turns west toward U Street.
  • Some outer Metrorail lines are very straight, while others appear very wiggly, regardless of the reality. The western Red Line in Montgomery County appears on these maps to be due north-south and then change to due northwest-southeast at Grosvenor. In fact, it makes more of a gradual turn along the whole route.

    On the flip side, the Blue and Yellow Lines in Alexandria, and the Orange Line in Arlington, wiggle far more than in reality. Around Braddock Road, it goes from south-southwest to due south and then to southwest. Same at King Street and Huntington. The real tracks don't curve so sharply, and this creates a lot of unnecessary visual clutter.

    I'd go with straighter Metrorail lines over wigglier ones. The frequent curves make the map look very busy. People don't need to know whether a Metrorail line has changed its angle slightly, since you don't get on and off Metrorail lines outside stations anyway. Best to make them straighter and help the rider pay more attention to the bus route turns which they might actually need to know about.

  • The 9S is missing from Crystal City. It's actually one of the most frequent routes, though it also has a shorter span of service, making it potentially not quite eligible for a thick red line. It's slated to turn into a BRT line next year, so it's definitely important.
  • The DASH bus color seems too similar to the red color of the major routes, at least on my monitor. The DASH routes blend with major Metrobus routes more than, say, the Fairfax Connector in gold. A lighter pink would work better.
Overall, this is a visually stunning set of maps. If WMATA finalizes and releases them, they will help riders better understand the bus network, and frankly also just make the bus network look a lot more sexy than the current maps do.

Give WMATA your feedback in the comments, and let's help them make these maps the best they can be.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Great map.

Where say an E-W bus line crosses a N-S one, have one of the two lines show a "break" - makes it even simpler to determine that both continue on in their same directions.

Obviously can't do that where line(s) merge or change directions.

by jay76 on Sep 19, 2012 10:11 am • linkreport

This is infinitely better than the old map. Even w/o any further improvements. Just wow!

by John on Sep 19, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport

Only other Metro system I am familiar with is Paris. This looks like the map for the bus lines in and around the Paris Métro.

by John Muller on Sep 19, 2012 10:27 am • linkreport

Wow, an amazing step forward. Of course, it still appears that the region won't have one bus map.

A few thoughts:
>Express buses should probably use a dashed line to indicate that you can't board them just anywhere. Examples on the Prince George's map include the 15X and the J4.

>In cases where a bus makes a one-way loop, it would be helpful to show arrows. For example, Prince George's Transit route 11 in Greenbelt, east of the BW Parkway.

>Showing Shuttle-UM routes in College Park is a nice touch, but unless you have a student ID, you can't ride any other than the 104 (which qualifies as a frequent route, btw).

>It would be helpful to show line families in a way that makes sense more temporally. For example, the G13/G14/G16 is *one* route. It runs from Greenbelt to New Carrollton via NASA Goddard. These buses never operate at the same time. For example, the G13/G14 operate additional service east of Good Luck Road to an office park. This service stops around 6:30p. After that, it's replaced by the G16, which makes the same route, except that it does not serve the segment east of Good Luck Road. (The G13 operates before 9:00A, and bypasses Beltway Plaza Mall, which isn't open that early).

On the map, though, the whole length of the G13/G14/G16 is the same color, including the "badge" for the G14, which shows that segment as "full time". I don't know how to show this, but I feel like part-time segments of routes should be indicated, not just entire routes that operate part-time.

At any rate, this is a great effort, and I look forward to seeing other improvements.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 19, 2012 10:35 am • linkreport

Looks great for those familiar with the geography of DC, but for new residents and visitors the lack of street names prohibits basic navigation to and from the bus. If people have to use a second map for that I'd bet they're less likely to use the bus.

by jeff on Sep 19, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

How about also working to make the routes make sense? I, for one, don't understand the current system of very similarly numbered routes that go to completely different places. The whole system would be a lot easier for me to use if I was more confident about which routes I could ride. Improved maps would help, but so would just simplifying and better explaining the routes.

by Gray on Sep 19, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

I really like the new map, but I have two pieces of feedback:

1) In addition to making the Circulator easier to see, it also needs to be corrected. The map does not include its route through Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights when it's returning south.

2) Something I've always found complicated is figuring out which bus goes where when routes intersect and overlap. When all the secondary routes are the same color, this makes it particularly confusing. Could perhaps slightly different shades help make some distinctions?

by Zack Ford on Sep 19, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

wow- there is a lot to like about this.

My biggest issue is that other agencies -- which use SmartTrip and are of little difference to most customers which agency they're riding -- are still all equally weighted. I'd love a bigger effort partnering w/ other agencies for a more universal transit map.

A smaller issue, to me, is that at the moment it skips out on some finer details. Like where, exactly, do the 63 and 64 diverge from 11th Street? While I know this just from living there; from this map I wouldn't be too sure whether I can catch a ride from the front of the skatepark or if I'll be waiting for a bus that'll never come.

As for that Shaw do-si-do: it appears to be intended to increase the separation from the 70/79 and the 63. Personally I'm OK with it as-shown.

by Bossi on Sep 19, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

Now when can we get these posted at bus stops? Most of the stops I visit have great big digital posters of soda and iced tea but there's no map to be found. This prioritization is frustrating to me; imagine how someone unfamiliar with bus routes feels.

by Nilsson on Sep 19, 2012 11:01 am • linkreport

Is this the job of WMATA or the locals (DDOT, for instance?)

Does it makes sense the run the rail lines - as opposed to labelling stations?

It makes me wish we had streetcars up Glebe and Rt. 7 in Virginia.

by charlie on Sep 19, 2012 11:01 am • linkreport

I'm not sure how I feel about the maps. On the one hand, they're a big improvement or the existing maps and show a clear distinction between different services and types of services. I especially like that the most frequent routes are the thickest - and I'm okay that there's no set "threshold" for frequency, because while a rider in DC might think 5-minute headways are frequent, a suburban riders used to much less service might say 30 minutes is frequent.

That said, I think the diagrams, particularly for MoCo, Prince George's and NoVA, aren't very elegant. A lot of the angles seem really arbitrary - if you're going to ignore the actual geography, you might as well go all the way and do 30/60/90 angles or something (like on Peter Dunn's gorgeous H Street spider map.

It may also be worth exploring ways to better distinguish lines within the suburban systems, perhaps by frequency. For instance the 21 Ride On Bus in MoCo only comes at rush hour, and even if the route number's a different color, the line looks identical to other lines that run throughout the day.

Finally, I wish natural features had more hierarchy, especially because they help for visual organization. There are a lot of big parks in MoCo - Rock Creek Park, Northwest Branch Park, Seneca Creek State Park - that serve as boundaries between communities (for instance, they form a greenbelt around Germantown). Showing them on the bus map would help riders locate themselves more easily.

by dan reed! on Sep 19, 2012 11:05 am • linkreport

This is a tremendous improvement - it will definitely help me use Metrobus more frequently.

I would like the map to include another insert with a stylized Metrorail/Circulator map (like David created for this post:

by John on Sep 19, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport

Not shown on this map, but the proposal to transfer the southeastern portion of the E2 route to the D4 sounds like a good idea. A continuous route east of the Red Line between Union Station and Fort Totten, without the stopover in the no-man's land of Ivy City. Though I will miss seeing that destination sign on buses.

by Frank IBC on Sep 19, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

I recently tried to use the WMATA trip planner to find a bus to get to Georgetown university.

What a nightmare. Specific addresses were repeatedly labeled as "not specific enough" and it wouldn't accept "Georgetown University" either.

Maddening. I ended up driving because of the weather.

by Capt. Hilts on Sep 19, 2012 11:22 am • linkreport

The new maps are definitely easier to read. But I'm not sure I like the idea of completely eliminating the list of buses terminating at a given metro station or other point.

Also, it would be a good idea to indicate the direction on one-way streets.

by Frank IBC on Sep 19, 2012 11:40 am • linkreport

Dan Reed,

That said, I think the diagrams, particularly for MoCo, Prince George's and NoVA, aren't very elegant. A lot of the angles seem really arbitrary - if you're going to ignore the actual geography, you might as well go all the way and do 30/60/90 angles or something (like on Peter Dunn's gorgeous H Street spider map.

You can only put so much lipstick on a pig. The suburban angles might not seem elegant, but that's because the street patterns aren't particularly elegant, and therefore the bus routes that use those streets are also inelegant in their geometry.

The H St spider map sort of proves the point - all of those nice clean angles follow the nice, clean angles of the L'Enfant plan.

In short: don't blame the map for inelegance when the underlying service is the real challenge.

by Alex B. on Sep 19, 2012 11:40 am • linkreport

@Capt. Hilts, much easier to just use google maps, which does a pretty good job of using WMATA data to tell you how to get there.

by David on Sep 19, 2012 11:42 am • linkreport

@Alex B.

don't blame the map for inelegance when the underlying service is the real challenge.

Somehow, the Maryland MTA was able to make a regional bus & rail transit map for Greater Baltimore using 45 and 90 degree angles, and they had to deal with Columbia, where orthogonal streets are practically against the law. Like I said, if we're going to ignore geography, we might as well make it pretty.

by dan reed! on Sep 19, 2012 11:48 am • linkreport

I like what I see, definitely. Just wanted to second the need to differentiate the non-Metro lines. Looking at the Ride-On lines in Germantown for example, it would seem like everything is exactly the same. In reality, the 100 is a non-stop shuttle between the Germantown Transit Center and Shady Grove, running every 10-15 minutes most of the time, the 55 runs every 15 minutes, as does the 97, and all three of these run until no earlier than 11:30 PM during the week (the 55 runs that late every day). Everything else runs every 20-30 minutes, usually 30. The 74 and 75 don't run on weekends (and stop running weekdays around 7), and the 98 doesn't run on Sunday. But, if you look at the map, you would have no way of knowing that.

I do like how Metro has differentiated their routes, but some of the suburban routes run as frequently (if not MORE frequently; I'm looking at you, Ride On 15) as the emphasized Metro routes, so I would like to see the same level of differentiation given to the suburban routes. Though, I wonder how they'd handle PG's The Bus, where nothing runs after about 8 PM during the week, and never on the weekends...

by Justin..... on Sep 19, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

I love Peter Dunn's spider map - I'm sorry I didn't see it when it was published last year.

It raises the question - is it really necessary to have the D's on K St. NE, when H St. is just 2 blocks south?

Maybe it would be better having the D's on H St. and then connecting to Trinidad on 12th or 13th Sts. NE.

by Frank IBC on Sep 19, 2012 11:53 am • linkreport

Like I said, if we're going to ignore geography, we might as well make it pretty.

I don't know about that.

BeyondDC did his bus route that was super geometric, and I don't think it was nearly as useful as what WMATA has shown here - precisely because the angles here, while simplified, retain enough relation to the underlying geography.

Pretty maps are great, but if you're prioritizing 'pretty' over 'useful' or 'accurate,' then that's not a good thing.

by Alex B. on Sep 19, 2012 12:00 pm • linkreport

@David: Of course, the frustrating thing about google maps is that it doesn't include many of the area agencies that are included in Metro's trip planner. Not as much of an issue within DC (or are Circulator buses not included in google maps), but definitely an issue when, say, one end of my trip requires that I go through Tysons and I have to decide whether to use Metrobus or FFC.

by Gray on Sep 19, 2012 12:16 pm • linkreport

Yeah, that do-si-do is bound to confuse the heck out of bus riders who will think the bus route swerves for some reason even though 7th Street is actually straight as an arrow all the way from I Street SW up to Florida Avenue. I'd be scratching my head trying to figure out if I need to go over to 6th Street or something in order to get on the bus north of the convention center, since the only place where "7th Street" is written on the map is south of the do-si-do. I'd see that "5th Street" marker for the P6 and notice that the 70/79 line north of it seems to be halfway between the "5th Street" and the "7th Street", so the 70/79 must be going over to 6th Street, right?

(Sure, "Georgia Avenue" is indicated up further north, but not everybody knows that Georgia Avenue is a continuation of 7th Street -- and even if you know the area, you might figure the bus cuts back over at Florida Avenue because 6th Street peters out in LeDroit Park).

Better to adjust the location of the Green Line on the map so that bus lines can be kept straight, since, as you say, the underground routing of the Metro lines between stations isn't something riders need to be concerned with, whereas the routing of the bus lines on the streets is vital information for anyone who wants to figure out where to go to get on the bus. Maybe just keep the Green Line to the left of the 70/79 the whole way from Gallery Place on up -- it looks like it would fit just fine that way. I'd prioritize this change over absolutely anything else on the draft DC map because I just know it's going to drive people bonkers if left as-is.

by iana on Sep 19, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

Oh, this is much, MUCH better. Kudos to Metro for making a very good first draft.

A few thoughts:

1) Love the quadrant explanation.

2) Non-WMATA buses should get thick lines if they run frequently all day, and accept SmarTrip. For that matter, let's just take all of the non-SmarTrip services off of the map.

3) Make an off-peak/night bus map, and consider better coordinating night service better throughout the bus system. Presumably, the map would be much simpler, and could be smaller.

4) Actually make sure those frequent corridors are running frequently, and that the "All Day Service" claim is accurate. Does the 96 really run that much less frequently than the 90/92?

5) Show where bus lines end with a dot (or something).

6) Highlight the portion covered by the downtown inset better. I can barely see the gray lines, and it's confusing to see so many lines disappearing into the abyss.

For that matter, I don't think anybody would complain if WMATA made some detailed neighborhood spider maps and placed them in those areas. You could also include CaBi, etc. on those maps.

7) Read your style guide, and color the Metro stops consistently. (Yes, this is very OCD, but details count)

by andrew on Sep 19, 2012 12:26 pm • linkreport

One thing missing from the key (or one key thing I've missed) is the difference between the light writing on dark background and dark writing on light background. I.e N2/N4 from N3/N6; I know the N2/4 are daytime bidirectional but the N3 is 'with' commuters and the N6 is nights and weekends only. How does this map convey that? Or am I dense?

by David F-H on Sep 19, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

Oh, I think they also ought to include the quadrants for the numbered/lettered streets, at least for the ones close to a quadrant boundary. For example, look at that "2nd St" marked just north of Catholic University -- if you didn't know the area well and didn't notice the "North Capitol Street" marker further up on the map, would you be able to guess right away that that's 2nd Street NE and not NW?

I wonder if the "I St/H St" on the 30s north of the White House will confuse anyone? I had to think about it for a second to remember that it's a one-way street pair and that's why it's marked that way, and I only remembered that since I live near there. Maybe a better idea would be to have "H Street" below the line and "I Street" above the line, with little arrows to make it clearer they're talking about a one-way pair and not a mid-route street shift? Perhaps even divide the line down the center somehow as a clearer visual indication?

by iana on Sep 19, 2012 12:39 pm • linkreport

Question: Is it WMATA's job to delicately map differing levels of service for other bus operators in the region? Or is it enough that WMATA acknowledges that they exist, shows where they go and sends you to their map/schedules for more information? Doesn't WMATA have enough work in front of them describing their own 300+ routes? Why is it their job to display their own service, let alone all the other 8+ local operators?

Maybe COG/TPB or someone should own making a fully regional bus map?

by MDE on Sep 19, 2012 12:42 pm • linkreport

3) Make an off-peak/night bus map, and consider better coordinating night service better throughout the bus system. Presumably, the map would be much simpler, and could be smaller.

andrew, this is a great idea and would complement this map well.

by Colleen on Sep 19, 2012 1:18 pm • linkreport

@MDE: Would it be hard to contact the jurisdiction and ask them how they think their routes should be depicted under the three categories Metro has selected? Probably what would happen is that a few routes would get the thick line treatment, and everything else would stay the same.

Metro has a special role in the region, not only as the operator of the vast majority of public transit in the region but also as the regional integrator (especially fare collection technology and information) and overall standard bearer.

Plus, all these jurisdictions happen to fund metro to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Surely part of their funding could be directed to making sure the customer has valuable information they can use the regions transit systems easily.

by Michael Perkins on Sep 19, 2012 1:24 pm • linkreport

Very attractive.

@FrankIBC - H Street is maxed out for buses IMO (hence the streetcars...) The D buses seem to get a lot of ridership right where they are, as well.

by H Street LL on Sep 19, 2012 1:27 pm • linkreport

Agreed with most of the comments up here.

The biggest problem for me is that points of interest and park & rides don't always intersect the routes that serve them. So you have the Reston East Park & Ride, and you can infer the buses whose lines seem to pass it use it, but there's no way to know. How about Judicial Center in Fairfax? Is that served by the unnamed CUE? What about the nearby lines?

One way to help ameliorate the problem of what bus stops where is to have the points of interest (park & rides, points of interest, metro stations, etc.) listed at the bottom with what routes serve each. That way you don't have to guess, you know.

Similar maps are:
- SF Cityscape's unofficial Major Transit Routes (PDF) map of San Francisco
- Maryland TA's Regional Bus Map (PDF)
- Los Angeles' suite of maps

by OctaviusIII on Sep 19, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

OK, I learned something today - until now, I had never noticed that there is no continuous bus route along King Street in Alexandria between Braddock Road and Carlin Springs Road. It really stands out when the main routes are highlighted.

by Frank IBC on Sep 19, 2012 1:43 pm • linkreport

I'll concur with those who thing the map for DC is a huge improvement over the existing map, but the maps for the suburban jurisdictions got worse. There are so many false representations of geography that I would almost certainly need a detailed street map at hand next to me to figure out where I was going, whereas DC's is more true to life. Granted DC has the benefit of being mostly a grid and the Counties are a curvy mess. Maybe they can show a more true to form route for the Counties because there is less route density in general? At least they labeled the road segments the routes are supposed to represent.

by Gull on Sep 19, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

@Capt Hilts

The best bus for getting to Georgetown U. is the university's own bus called GUTS. It runs frequently during peak periods from Rosslyn station and i think dupont too.

by Falls Church on Sep 19, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

Falls Church, I was told that GUTS is for faculty, staff and students only.

I'm none of the above. The 31 gets closest, but in a driving rain, as predicted yesterday, it's a bit of a walk.

by Capt. Hilts on Sep 19, 2012 2:37 pm • linkreport

Ok, that SF cityscape map is fantastic, especially the presentation of headways at the bottom left corner.

by Michael Perkins on Sep 19, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

@ Capt Hills: I was told that GUTS is for faculty, staff and students only.

It is officially. My guess is that they need to maintain that they check IDs for regulatory purposes. Officially, there is a $1 fee for university guests. However, since IDs are rarely checked, they can't find out you're a guest. And even when you announce you're a guest, only grumpy drivers will demand the fee.

by Jasper on Sep 19, 2012 3:03 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the info, Jasper.

I'll give it a try.

by Capt. Hilts on Sep 19, 2012 3:09 pm • linkreport


Looks great, but I -promise- the font across the WHOLE set of maps is supposed to be Helvetica Neue! Looks like some PDF, somewhere along the way, dropped the character set and replaced it with Myriad or whatever.

As part of emulating the strengths of the rail map, these bus maps are supposed to re-introduce Helvetica, at varying weights.

Stay tuned...

by Neil G on Sep 19, 2012 3:48 pm • linkreport

Wow. I really like the headway diagrams on the SF map, as well as the map itself... I have no clue why the SF agencies don't post that map publicly... it's much better than the official one!

by andrew on Sep 19, 2012 4:24 pm • linkreport


The SF map is for frequent service corridors only; other bus routes are omitted.

by OctaviusIII on Sep 19, 2012 4:50 pm • linkreport

On other bit of inspiration from the West. There's a map on p. 2 of this collection (big PDF) might serve as a model of an uncluttered call-map of downtown DC. Rather than show the routing, it shows what buses stop where, while page 4 shows information for all the agencies serving the downtown area.

This would eliminate the need to show the thicket of routes individually, instead allowing people to find out easily what buses stop where. If WMATA did want to show the thicket, it should definitely be done in a highly stylized manner so each route could be identified without it getting as messy as it easily could become.

by OctaviusIII on Sep 19, 2012 5:07 pm • linkreport

This is awesome!

I don't mind that I'll need to use another map or app to get specific details. I like that this map gives me a good sense of the general shape of the bus system. We can all kind of visualize what the Metrorail system looks like (even if some of the details are a little off), but now it's a lot easier to visualize the bus network as well (at least in the District).

I also don't mind the arrows ID'ing busses that end downtown, though it would be helpful to ID the ones that cross most of the CBD first. DC's CBD is so wide that just knowing that a bus goes downtown isn't all that helpful. Most of the arrows seem to do a good job at pointing right at their endpoints- so I have a good idea of about where to look for them on the downtown map- but I can't tell from the map that the 52/54 (for instance) goes all the way to the far south of the CBD before terminating.

I agree with earlier comments RE Peter Dunn's spider maps. Maybe someone should start a kickstarter campaign to fund a few more of those.

@Octavius: thanks for the links to other maps! I had to laugh when I saw the Caltrain station area maps, though... those 5-minute walk radii don't seem all that helpful.

by Steven Harrell on Sep 19, 2012 6:38 pm • linkreport

WMATA should have any interactive map on their site that covers the whole service area including Dulles Airport and BWI that allows a user to pinpoint stops, intersections, transfer points, etc.

Its a start and all but I think there should be 2 or 3 versions of the maps for Metrorail and Metrobus.

1 Similar to above

2 Showing all streets in jurisdiction with bus routes layered over that so you can correct pinpoint what street a route crosses.

3 Giant PDF or Interactive map on site that shows all bus stops for each route pinpointed on map.

4 Realistic map that shows Metrobus and Metrorail

Bad issues

1 All routes same colour for the most part

2 Doesn't do a good job of addressing all routes, some are not visible. If this is to be the map than there needs to be a second one

3 Does not point out where buses end; example would be 34 by the map ends at Eastern Market but it goes to Archives in reality

4 Does not designate one way routes

by kk on Sep 19, 2012 10:10 pm • linkreport

MDE wrote:
Question: Is it WMATA's job to delicately map differing levels of service for other bus operators in the region? Or is it enough that WMATA acknowledges that they exist, shows where they go and sends you to their map/schedules for more information? Doesn't WMATA have enough work in front of them describing their own 300+ routes? Why is it their job to display their own service, let alone all the other 8+ local operators?

Maybe COG/TPB or someone should own making a fully regional bus map?

I think that WMATA should indeed do this. WMATA is the only regional agency in a good position to. To most riders, WMATA is still synonymous with transit. Yes, other jurisdictions run transit, but WMATA runs most of the transit, and is funded by the jurisdictions to run joint transit.

Riders aren't interested in bus service by a particular operator, they're interested in bus service. Every agency should put out maps that provide information about all service, but especially WMATA, whose maps will get the most attention.

I also think that when the DC streetcar or Purple Line open, WMATA maps and wayfinding ought to point people there. We need all agencies to think broadly about how to get people the best information, not necessarily to just focus on their own stovepipe defined by a somewhat arbitrary

As for COG/TPB, let's say they made a fully regional map. Would WMATA then adopt it as the/a main bus map in stations and on its website? Because if not, then you have the same problem, that the main transit agency which runs most of the transit and which people associate with transit is not making it easy for riders to find other information.

And why isn't WMATA the COG/TPB of transit? WMATA is an interstate compact organization with a board made up of all the jurisdictions. I see no reason it couldn't or shouldn't play this role; if jurisdictions are willing to have WMATA do a regional transit-related task, it seems entirely appropriate.

In fact, with the Regional Transit System Plan the planning group at WMATA was working on (I wonder what's up with that now, anyway?), they were explicitly playing this role and answering big regional questions whether or not the answers were transit services operated by WMATA itself. We needed that big, non-stovepiped thinking and I am glad WMATA was (still is?) doing it.

Someone has to be the regional transit planner and regional transit information provider. TPB has not historically filled that role and doesn't seem poised to. WMATA should do it, because otherwise nobody will, and that's worse for riders.

by David Alpert on Sep 20, 2012 7:58 am • linkreport

Great effort overall, but it's hard to tell when major bus routes and Metrorail lines run parallel to each other. For example, the Q and Y buses in Montgomery County run along Georgia Avenue, and the Red Line runs underneath Georgia from Forest Glen to Glenmont. However, the new map depicts them as two separate corridors. This could confuse riders who don't know the area well - and it could be very confusing during rail service disruptions (I know, when does THAT ever happen??) when riders are stressed and looking for quick, clear info on bus alternatives.

I wonder if they could make a second version of the map showing just the Metrorail stations, not the lines. As long as a rail map is nearby - either physically at stations and bus stops, or side by side on the web site - riders should be able to compare them easily. (Using the same station icons on both the rail and bus maps might help.) Alternatively, they could put an interactive map on the web site that can toggle the rail lines on and off.

by Andy W. on Sep 20, 2012 8:28 am • linkreport

@ Andy W. - Yes, it makes it look like the Forest Glen and Wheaton Stations are about a quarter mile away from Georgia Avenue.

by Frank IBC on Sep 20, 2012 1:43 pm • linkreport

I wanted to chime in again - yeah, the principal problem with this map is that it doesn't show where the bus lines interact with important features, like metro stops, park & rides, and points of interest. It shows them separate, meaning there are only buses that go near points of interest but never intersect them.

The other major problem - not showing other systems in a similar hierarchy - is really secondary to this concern.

by OctaviusIII on Sep 22, 2012 2:29 am • linkreport

Oh, also: it leaves off Glen Echo park, which is definitely a point of interest.

by OctaviusIII on Sep 22, 2012 2:32 am • linkreport

I like the new maps!! It is easier to see the frequent corridors and connecting area bus service without overlooking a non-Metro route to another connecting area service marked the same color. This is similar to MTA Maryland’s system map that pinpoints major-transfer points and the routing design is straight-forward of a corridor and not trying to be accurately realistic, showing all bus lines’ whole routing.
Missing parts:
*Route terminus labels a locations (Make a key box in corner of map with label numbered)
*Major connecting streets not served by a bus route
*Bring back border outline with routes crossing counties or states (Eliminate arrows at end of routes)
*MetroExtra routes need “white dots” locating stops
*Mark and color neighborhood parks
*Peak-hour routes labeled with “hash-marks” on it’s individual routing (When not sharing route with frequent service) on map
Revise the route schedule maps to appear more like WMATA than some other transit service. Route be closely similar to system map, but keep same features as current schedule maps and branch routes are colored differently, example: Virginia’s Route 16.

by Marlon Hall (MJofLakeland1) on Sep 22, 2012 3:59 am • linkreport

These look great. Much improved.

One tiny nit: On the DC map, Somerset (Md.) is in the wrong place, It should be above the Friendship Heights station. The area labeled Somerset should be Brookmont.

by Mike Sullivan on Sep 25, 2012 5:42 pm • linkreport

Great work WMATA. Love these so much. Here's a link to a blog post with my thoughts, and here are some specific suggestions:

1. Add a middle thickness line weight and use it to highlight non-WMATA frequent routes, as well WMATA routes in the suburbs that need to be called out as “major”, but that don’t offer really frequent service. This will better illustrate the important non-WMATA routes, and improve the visual hierarchy in suburban areas, which are currently shown with either too many or too few highlighted routes.

2. Add more geographic clues in areas with a lot of homogenous routes that are difficult to distinguish, such as Gaithersburg and Germantown.

3. Add names to MARC and VRE station labels.

4. Make a single regional map available. I can see why you'd want to keep separate maps for DC, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Virginia, but there’s no good reason not to publish a single overall map as well.

5. A really great next step would be to make these interactive maps, instead of pdfs. I’d love to be able to see individual routes highlighted separately whenever I hover my cursor on them, and then go to the timetable with a click.

by Dan Malouff on Sep 27, 2012 12:11 pm • linkreport

Wow I generally love the idea, looks great. Last time I was visiting DC, my trip was a huge mess, no idea what bus or metro to take or how to get where I wanted. I got so annoyed after some point that me and my friends rented a car and went on visiting like that, it was much more effective,although it took some time to find a good map for that as well. A group of youngsters from Europe, you can imagine the fuss :D anyway the best DC map we got was from here
We needed something printable as we were traveling offline most of the time and this one was really cool although it seemed like quite an investment but actuall really good one so if anyone travels by car, definitely recommend. And next time I visit US, Im gonna try this WMATA and lets see how good it really is.

by paty88 on Oct 4, 2016 9:40 am • linkreport

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