Tuesday, November 17, 2009

and the squiggles are....

Maps and I go well together. I always have a map of any new city I'm visiting.
These particular maps from yesterday fascinate me.

For the way they take something that is so familiar and mess with your brain by leaving out certain details.

Yet, manage to make it more accurate.
A legendless map.
I grew up in Toronto, always seeing the city as lying on a straight east-west axis with Yonge St running straight due north. Just as the map indicated.
It is not. We are on an angle.

Subway (Metro) maps are notorious for their distortion.

The iconic London Tube map was designed for simplicity, not geographical accuracy. Note how the Beck map (designed in 1933) has lines that are only vertical, horizontal and at 45 degree angles. It is also not to scale.

This is a more geographically accurate depiction.

Not nearly so pretty, is it?
That Beck design has been copied and used throughout the world, though.

New York's subway system presents a unique challenge in part due to the size of the land in Manhattan and the number of lines running though it. I could go on, as it has a fascinating history but, I won't. Don't want to bore you. And it is again a beautiful sunshiny day (ironic as I am writing about undergound rail transport that rarely allows the light of day in....) and I need to finish this and get myself outside.

Again, one could be forgiven for getting a little confused as to which direction one was actually travelling. And, this doesn't give an accurate description of how many rail lines are involved on several levels with each colour coded line.

I am not as familiar with Montreal's system, Maybe Jazz can expand on it's deficiencies.

I am also not familiar with Chicago's system, but to me this looks pretty darn close. I included this one as I thought it might be recognizable by a couple of you (as it was!)

I included Moscow's map, just because I like it and I have always wanted to see their Metro Stations

So thanks for playing and for your guesses!


  1. I'm often witnessing tourists getting totally lost in the historic downtowns of Belgian cities,
    with their cute but ever so confusing meandering roads and byways,
    holding on to a map that resembles the grid-like freebies from the tourist office ;-)

  2. Actually the Montreal map looks pretty accurate (except maybe for the bottom half of the orange line - and the fact that the "official" map is wrongly oriented...

  3. :) i wish we had a metro line here. i love riding them when i'm in dc.

  4. Oh my, I've been to Moscow and took a ride in their metro, too. It is the fastest metro I have been in! And some of the stations are really beautiful, but not all of them.

    But don't worry about Finnish -it is easy. You'll learn! Even a child can speak it =)


  5. Ohhhhhh. That was very cool. Maps never ever occurred to me.

  6. Peter: and I remember being in Brussels and trying to follow the map with French and Flemish street names - which are not the same!

    Jazz: it seems most of these maps are wrongly oriented, which hurts my brain.

    Char: they are a much faster way to get around, but one misses so much of the above ground scenery.

    Paivin: still, there are enough of the beautiful ones to make the trip worthwhile, yes?

    Ruth: surprises are good.

  7. The wonderful London Underground schematic is the model for all that followed. It's almost a magnificent piece of art in its own right. I have it on a teatowel, a T-shirt and a mouspad.

  8. I used to ride the London underground a lot at one time and it didn't help me get an idea of London and what was above me at all but it was a great way to get around.

  9. Maps! Lots of them...quite a collection.

  10. You can't beat maps for fascination! have a look at Sydney's for simplicity!

  11. NOW I get it! Like Ruth, maps never occurred to me (and I had no idea what else to guess).

    I've been on the Moscow metro system too, and I can confirm what Päivi said, that the stations are lovely. But I only saw a few, so maybe you shouldn't take me seriously.

  12. I would never have thought of subway/train maps because I rarely think of subways or trains. They keep trying to expand the rail transit here and get more people to use it. I've only used the train once and it was very confusing, whereas I took a subway in New York and it was very simple.

  13. Those simplified and stylised maps are wonderful. What an imaginative post.
    I was thinking I had little experience of subways but now realise I have travelled on the London, Rome, Milan, Washington and New York subways. In New York I needed to know what is was like outside before venturing underground. Milan was scary as the doors open for only 11 seconds!
    Sydney does not have a metro system although one is planned nearby. there is a lot of local opposition to it and I wonder whether it will ever eventuate.

  14. I would never have thought of metro maps! Very clever! London's is so very clear to read and use - provided you don't think it is geographically accurate! I used to live in London, and used the Tube every day. Usually running down escalators because I was late!!

  15. Ian: Mr Beck's rendering of the tube map has indeed been the inspiration for almost every other subway map in the world. I do like the linear look of it, and the colour coding was brilliant.

    Berni: my first experience of London was trying to use the tube while following a street map. Very confusing. I'll not easily forget the time I paid to get on the train, only to reach my destination mere blocks away; what could have been an easy and enjoyable walk but looked much more complicated.

    Sistertex: I have a drawerful of outdated maps!

    Goosebreeder. Toronto is built on a grid system and the first city I lived in outside of Toronto was Amsterdam, built in a [semi] circular system. I was constantly confused and waliking in the wrong direction!

  16. Pinklea: I will use any excuse to see the glories of Moscow (before they all fade)

    geewits: I am impressed that you found the NY MTA subway system simple!

    With a land mass as huge as ours, it is a shame that the rail system is not better designed and used.

    Persiflage: thank you.
    At least you have rail service connected to your airport - something Toronto has been talking about for about 50 years and is nowhere near accomplishing. it would have been nice to have that in place now that we have the PanAm Games coming.

    Gilly: and what long, long, escalators they have!

  17. I'm a map lover too. It helps to see an overview of a place before exploring the streets and subways for real.

    You certainly have been to a few interesting places!

  18. Stine: even if I had a GPS (which I don't want) I would still use a paper map. I like to see where I am in relation to its surroundings. and I like to veer off in various directions on a whim for new discoveries.

  19. crazysheeplady: this was fun to do, if a bit taxing to get the photo inserted properly!

  20. Whew, catching up!

    I like maps, ut what really intrigues me arwe globes. There's something about holding a lttle imitation world with all the countries and so on identified, and tracing around where I've been that fascinates me.

  21. SAW: and you have certainly done some travelling! your last trip sounded sooo relaxing.

  22. Add Washington, DC to your list of Metro maps that are not to scale. And a good bit of Washington area subway is above ground - there have been days when it was shut down due to snow! I suspect that if you grew up riding a subway, you just knew which line went where and geographical accuracy did not matter. I have a map of the NY subway on pocket cards that my youngest gave me (she worked near Times Square for awhile). They were convenient to carry, but certainly an eye test to read. Great Guessing Game!

  23. Maybe you should take some of the to a chemist and see what they give you!

  24. Lew: yes, we have trouble with our commuter train service during the frozen months. I bet none of the maps are to scale.

    Sagittarian: that is a scary proposition!!

  25. Hey these are great! I always wondered about the London tube and how far apart the stations actually were!

  26. Scott: Toronto has only 2 lines - east-west and north-south so all those lines criss crossing each other I found very confusing.


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