Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Maps


Rural Virginia leads eastern US in cars per household

This map shows US counties, colored according to the average number of cars owned per household.

Map by Vizual Statistix on Tumblr.

Several broad trends are visible, most of them not surprising to anyone. But it is surprising that so many counties in Virginia stand out, with higher rates than otherwise comparable counties in nearby eastern states. What's different about the Old Dominion, versus West Virginia or North Carolina?

The map is from Tumblr blog Vizual Statistix, which has a lot of interesting data visualizations. It's worth a read.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Where are Capital Bikeshare's 300 stations?

Last week Capital Bikeshare installed its 300th station. Quite an accomplishment! With stations now spread from Shady Grove to Alexandria, I thought it would be interesting to map their distribution, to see which parts of town have the most.

Bikeshare station distribution. Image by BeyondDC, base map from Google.

Crossposted to BeyondDC.



All northeast US passenger rail on one awesome map

This map shows every Amtrak, commuter rail, metro, light rail, and tourist rail line from Maine to North Carolina, to scale.

It comes from, and you can even download it in a fully-editable Adobe Illustrator format.

Image from

Image from

Cross-posted to BeyondDC.

Update: The map's author has requested that you "like" their page on Facebook. Please help them out and do that!


New frequent transit map makes navigating Baltimore easier

Headed to Baltimore any time soon? If so, use this new frequent transit map, showing bus & rail routes that come at least every 15 minutes.

New Baltimore frequent transit map, by Marc Szarkowski for Envision Baltimore.

Compared to DC, Baltimore can be a difficult city to navigate via transit. But it's getting easier thanks to the Charm City Circulator, weekend MARC, and the magic of frequent transit maps.

In 2011 Envision Baltimore produced an initial version of a frequent map, now they've updated it, and it's better than ever.

The new map borrows heavily from WMATA's 2012 bus maps that use a thick red line for more frequent routes. For Baltimore the thick lines are blue, but the effect and overall look is quite similar.

Close view of the area around Baltimore's Penn Station. Map by Marc Szarkowski for Envision Baltimore.

I've added this new map to the list of all known US frequent transit maps on BeyondDC.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Google Maps now shows Metro lines, and 1 that doesn't exist

The Google Maps transit layer now includes WMATA rail lines, but not bus lines.

Google Maps with DC Metro. Image by Google.

Google has shown transit in many other cities around the world for years, but its data has never been complete. Some transit agencies provide detailed information, and some don't. So while all buses and trains in San Francisco are visible, New York only shows subway lines, and Philadelphia shows nothing at all.

Google added some WMATA information back in 2011, but as far as I can tell, the rail lines didn't show up as a visible layer until recently.

Clearly there are still some issues with the layer, though. Unless there's a 2nd Orange Line I don't know about.

What's that between Metro Center & Stadium-Armory? Image by Google.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


What if the new Metro map were to scale?

Graphic designer Peter Dovak has created a geographically accurate version of the new Metro map that WMATA released last week.

Map by Peter Dovak.

Peter's map matches WMATA's style as closely as possible, except it's to scale. It looks stunningly like it could be an actual WMATA-produced map.

While this map is wonderful and fun, it also strongly illustrates why Metro opts for a more abstract official design. There's so much empty white space in the suburbs, and the core is so cluttered, that a less accurate diagram is easier for riders to read.

See more at Peter's website.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


WMATA releases its next rail map

WMATA has released its next Metrorail map, proposed to go into trains and stations in time for the Silver Line to open.

Proposed new map. Image by Lance Wyman for WMATA.

A new map is necessary to fit the complete Silver Line, which will run all the way through downtown DC and into Prince George's County. The existing Metrorail map just shows the portion of the Silver Line that's currently under construction, but the route will actually join with the Orange Line and run through DC.

The new map will also show Phase 2 of the Silver Line, extending all the way to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County. Phase 2 won't open for several more years, but work on it recently started, and showing it on the map will help riders to become familiar with it sooner rather than later.

The new map incorporates several of the elements proposed in designer Lance Wyman's draft from March, which was then refined in May. The new map is Wyman's most graceful and streamlined yet.

Wyman narrowed the line thickness, lightened the station symbols, and changed the placement of the Silver Line in central DC, to be between the Blue and Orange Lines rather that atop them both.

The "whiskers" at stations where the 3 lines all share track are now white instead of solid black. The "pill" option for those shared stations, from the May draft, has been abandoned.

Overall, these changes make the map lighter and airier-looking, compared the March draft which was clunky and cluttered, especially in the DC core.

One thing missing from this map is DC's H Street streetcar, which should open for service about the same time as the Silver Line. Although the streetcar won't be operated by WMATA, it will certainly be an important rail service in the District.

As streetcar and BRT plans throughout the region move forward, WMATA may want to follow Boston's lead, and show surface transit on its map as well.

But that's a problem for another day.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


Tell Arlington how to build a better bike map

Arlington's bike planners are designing a new bike map that will highlight the most comfortable routes, instead of focusing strictly on infrastructure. They want your help, to figure out the most important things to show on the map.

A portion of Arlington’s existing bike map.

Most bike maps focus on infrastructure, with separate symbols for things like bike lanes, cycletracks, and trails. But another school of thought suggests they should focus on rider comfort, putting more emphasis on mixed-traffic roads with slow-speed car traffic, and doing more to call out things like hills.

To help strike the right map balance and illustrate the right things, planners are asking bike riders in the region to take a short survey. The survey has 13 questions and should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.



Google Maps loses transit icons

Google Maps has gotten another makeover, and this one isn't exactly an improvement. At most zoom levels, transit station icons have vanished from satellite view. This makes it difficult for users to find transit stops or see other stations in context. Freeway labels, of course, are omnipresent.

Google Maps. What is missing from this picture?

Metro station icons do still appear on "map" view as they used to. But for people looking at "satellite" view, finding subway stops just got a lot harder.

Even turning on the "transit" layer doesn't help. This layer isn't available in Washington, but in other cities, like New York, where it is available, it turns on rail lines but not rail stations.

If you zoom in far enough, you will eventually see the station icon. But at that zoom level, you really already need to know where the station is in order to find it.Even entering the address for the Gallery Place station, at 630 H Street NW, isn't enough to see the icon, because the default zoom level for seeing addresses is too far out.

Image from Google Maps.

In fact, this is the zoom level where the different galleries in the National Gallery of Art National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum appear. We've zoomed in so far that we can tell that art about the Civil War is in the northeast corner of the building. And that's the first zoom level where we can see that there's a Metro station across the street.

But at this zoom level, the map is only about a block tall. It's nearly impossible to see the city in context. Where are other stations? Is a different stop more convenient?

Transit stations are a fundamental thing to show on maps. For those already taking transit, it helps them know where they can find the station. For those who haven't decided on a mode, it might make them think, "hey, there's a Metro stop across the street, maybe we can take the train."

For years, Google Maps has set a very high bar by providing excellent interactive maps. But this change is a huge step backwards for transit users.

Clearly, the designers have lost sight of where transit information needs to appear in the hierarchy of map data. (Hint: it's much more important than the location of Civil War art in the National Gallery Portrait Gallery).

Google should at least revise their satellite view so that transit station icons appear at the same zoom levels as they do in "map" view.

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