While Chicago has wavered for years on what style they want their map to be, as they are now starting to shift back to a geographic look within the stations but have kept the schematic look with added street grids elsewhere, McClendon says that the schematic style makes the train system clearer. Much clearer.
With such a tightly knit grouping of stations in downtown make the need for schematic even greater and a pull-out box depicts the heart of downtown. “It goes back to Harry Beck’s London map that says people in the system need to see how to get to other points in the system and how that relates to the geography outside is less important than understanding the transfer points within their rail system,” McClendon says. “That is an arguable point in a city like Chicago where the rail and bus systems have been so tightly integrated.”
That is why the downtown inset can be so important, because it “doesn’t do any huge violence to the geography of the city.”
To help understand the geography, most stations are already named for cross streets. McClendon says that putting Lake Michigan in becomes “sufficient” for Chicago geography since everything in the city is oriented to the lake.
After all, the map is mainly about the stations. McClendon says that is how it should be.
End users designed the simplistic Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system map in San Francisco, says Lleyton Johnson, BART spokesperson. The map isn’t for cartographers and designers, it is for customer route planning.
The BART map has morphed over the years, from the first schematic produced in the 1970s to a geographic look in the 1990s. The system has come full circle to a schematic look with the effort of navigating the BART system the only focus. “Removing a lot of the additional geographical information that was displayed on the original map was the best way to do this,” Johnson says.
Although the diminishing of geographic elements included a slight reduction in water—although a first-time viewer of the map sees plenty of water—it still plays a major factor in the way the Bay Area navigates its transit system.
The subdued, simplistic style is also easily reproduced on multiple platforms (web, small brochures and large-scale station posters) and in multiple lighting conditions.
Individual transit maps are based on the culture of the city and the transit maps then help define culture. The designs that mesh culture with function prove to be the most effective diagram. It isn’t all about colored lines and pretty dots, but it does have to start somewhere.