Table of Contents
Prior to working on the Metro Route Atlas, I spent years working with maps and graphic design, starting out with the New York City Subway in an image editor before moving to Scalable Vector Graphics. On this page, some sample works can be found. Do note that some of these were made for projects that I reserve rights to and so may be heavily watermarked. In addition, maps reflect the time they were created. Maps of existing cities may be out of date.
This page serves as a formal replacement of Transit Maps by Sparen (Tumblr). Maps are listed from oldest to newest, by start date.
Projects [10 19] (2014 May - 2015 July) - NYC Subway PNG
My first major project was a map of the New York City Subway, a project that lasted well over a year. Inspired by a number of sources, the project went through two distinct phases involving tracing the existing MTA map (though converting to a 30/45/60 degree system) and building map components by scratch. Later on a custom font system was employed.
This project was undertaken during my time as a NYC-based railfan and so maintains numerous elements from that time period.
Project X1 (2014 Sept - 2014 Dec) - Coylé City PNG
After getting accustomed to the work on my NYC map, I applied the same design system to a preliminary map of a city I was building for a story. With the express purpose of replacing a placeholder map, I began work on my first real attempt designing a city from scratch. As one of my first major projects not tied to the real world, I had the ability to make things convenient for myself and to an extent, I did so.
This project was also undertaken during my time as a NYC-based railfan and so many concepts used in the New York City system made their way into the map, even if they wouldn't necessarily be practical in the network I designed.
Project  (2015 March - 2015 Nov) - Shanghai PNG
During the late phases of my initial raster map era, I began work on a map of the Shanghai Metro using the systems employed during the later components of the original NYC Subway map. However, I did not adequately futureproof the map and so as new lines were considered, it became increasingly difficult to integrate them into the map without significantly redoing much of the existing work. As my raster era was dominated by difficult-to-move map elements, this resulted in abandonment of the project.
This project taught me firsthand the necessity of futureproofing and planning maps holistically so as to not require heavy reworks for minor but inconvenient changes to the map.
Project X2 (2015 June - 2015 November) - Coylé City SVG
During the evolution of the project involving Coylé City, I reached limitations with the existing map and decided to use a 'fun tool' called SVG to build a new map. This experience tossed me into a new world of pain as the map was forced to be geographic for the city. As a radial city, it featured many strange angles and curves and its usage included showing district boundaries as well.
This experience involved spacing stations based on absolute positions of avenues and streets whose positions were determined prior via other lines having equal spacing of stations, and all of this was complicated by the fact that I was writing SVG in a text editor rather than using software such as Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape. However, it was a good learning experience. In addition, this was around the time that I began following Transit Maps, from where I gained exposure to many good (and bad) practices.
As a final note, this project also saw the creation of my first strip maps, something that would come back much later when I began work on the SVG Strip Map Generator and the Metro Route Atlas.
Project  (2015 November - 2016 February) - NYC Subway SVG
After Coylé City, I decided that it was best to take another shot at a NYC map, though this time with SVG. I got pretty far and did a decently futureproofed job. However, doing the borough boundaries became problematic, as did the way I was handling curves and especially multiple parallel lines on curves and angles. In the end, my obsession with getting numbers done to multiple decimal points reached a tipping point when I needed to thread the Manhattan Bridge lines into downtown Brooklyn, at which point I gave up.
Project  (2015 September - 2015 December) - Tokyo Metro SVG Strip Maps
My interest in Strip Maps hit a high when I began working on strip maps of Japanese metro lines. Route icons, through running, vertical text, icons, map keys, etc. The main drawback was the way I handled the maps - manually crafted by hand, with manual spacing and a fixed size format. That combined with other aspects of the project resulted in only a few maps being done to completion, but this project laid the groundwork for the entire SVG Strip Map Generator.
Project [23A] (2015 December 17) - Bylik
As I experimented with SVG and the NYC SVG map, I began working on a number of small scale maps. Bylik was one of them - thrown together in a single day. Looking back, I'm not very proud of it, but the way I handled line terminal icons in this map would become my de facto standard for years to come.
Project [23B] (2015 December 23-24) - San Francisco MUNI
Continuing on with experiments, I built a map of the San Francisco MUNI metro system. Here I learned quite a lot as well - namely, the reason why MUNI doesn't name all of the stops on the streetcar portions of its network. Still, it was a good experience to build, especially given that I was still using the curve system from NYC (though with five parallel lines in this case). This was the map that first featured on my Transit Maps by Sparen Tumblr blog.
Original comments from blog:
Anyways, to start I have a throwaway map I made of the MUNI Metro system of San Francisco, California. I made it shortly before my trip there, and I can see why the official map doesn’t attempt to list all of the street-level stops - there are quite a lot of them.
Colors are from Wikipedia. Unfortunately, it was my first time having so many parallel 45 degree angle lines and my manual SVG didn’t like that. As a result of that and some other issues, the map is not future-proofed. The Central Subway and any possible Geary Light Rail probably won’t fit, for better or for worse.
Project [24A] (2016 January - 2016 April) - Xi'an
After the entire mess with curves settled down, I decided that I wanted to revisit my Shanghai map or at least the style, and so I began work on my map of Xi'an's metro.
The entire project was a mess due to lack of information. Before then I never really understood the full extent of the chaos that can accompany Chinese metro construction - until the shovels are in the ground and even after, you can expect alignment changes and line renumbering galore. With the limited knowledge I had, I began work.
The main advancement from this project by far was a common map standard. The number of pixels between lines, the location of station name text relative to a station icon, the location of terminal bullets relative to stations, etc. In addition, the transfer icon nightmare where I tried to generate complicated transfer icons began here, on a map that wasn't exactly too complicated...
Project X3 (2016 March) - Delucape-Slatebluff
While writing another story, I began to develop a concept for a new metropolitan area and decided that the best way to integrate things together was to build a map of the city. What resulted was the founding of a map key standard that I would end up using for years - the grandfather of the Metro Route Atlas map key standard, if you will. Columns of services with Bylik-style terminal bullets and station icons, usage of DIN, and clean angled lines with well-defined rules for multiple lines turning at a certain point.
The map ended up being one of the most infuriating projects I ever worked on due to my insistence on transfer icons. I insisted on transfers having colors from both lines... except when more than two lines met (Esplanade being the main challenge), things got ugly really quickly from a code perspective. All in all, it remains one of my proudest maps.
Original comments from blog:
Today I finished a three day project, creating a map of an imaginary set of cities (for a Pokémon fanfic, but that’s besides the point).
Although I didn’t intend to, I ended up using colors similar to that of the Düsseldorf Stadtbahn for the light rail and the Delucape side ended up looking like what San Francisco might have been like if Market St didn’t exist.
Overall, I’m satisfied with the project. It’s built to my usual 8-16 spacing scale and the station icons are quite sufficient (inspiration taken from Urbanrail.net). Transfers look nice as well, although some things were squashed in due to space restrictions.
DIN worked well as a font too - I think I prefer it over Source Sans Pro. And in the end, I only had one portion of the map at a 45 degree angle for anything other than a curve, which I believe to be a success (reason being that my station icon can’t handle transfers gracefully on a 45 degree angle).
Project [25A] (2016 April) - Caracas
While browsing the world of transit maps, Caracas caught my eye as having one of the most confusing, and so I sought to rectify the problem... only to sink into the mess known as its service patterns. In the end I maintained the same transfer icon system as Delucape-Slatebluff, which made things worse than they needed to be. But the map key and upper left-hand corner title box was here to stay.
I'm not proud of the map by any means. It's unbalanced, has an unhealthy fear of 45 degree angles, and had Venezuela spelled incorrectly when I first submitted it to Transit Maps. However, as with all projects, it laid the foundation for future projects to come.
Original comments from blog:
Finished a 5 day project where I made a map of the Rapid Transit system of Caracas, Venezuela. I used the same style as with my Delucape/Slatebluff Map, but Caracas posed a very different set of challenges.
Caracas’s official map is a complete mess. It’s hard to explain just how much of a mess it is, actually. Their system as a whole is a mess. They branded a one station of Line 4 as Line 5, broke a single service (Metro Los Teques) into multiple ‘lines’ with different route colors, and their official map is a royal pain to navigate, with two different transfer icons, one of which looks like an extension of the line (see any of the Metrocable lines or Las Adjuntas). Oh, and the official map got Las Mercedes and Bello Monte mixed up - which is a shame, because it was a well-advertised extension of their metro system (a new ‘Line’).
Simply put, their official map is a mess. So I sought to make a better version.
In the end, I couldn’t decide between geographic and diagrammatic, so it’s quite sloppy and otherwise meh. But at least I didn’t post lines that don’t exist yet with the same line width and color as those that do. So there is no problem with someone deciding to ride Metrocable Antimano with my map. Of course, they would probably think the Carapita II was a separate station from Carapita, but that’s a whole ‘nother story altogether.
One of the things I debated was how to portray the Line 2/4/5 mess, and how to use 45 degree angles, if I was to use them, since my current square transfer icons don’t nicely work with 45 degree angles. Colors should be pretty similar to the official map, though I settled with one color for Metro Los Teques instead of three. There was also a problem when I tried to shove Line 7 into the map, because it butchered the downtown area, but everything there is still… legible.
Project [25B] (2016 July - 2017 April) - Seymyr
Seymyr was my next attempt at a map. Being a map of a nonexistent city, I had a lot of leeway. Most of the map was done in a three-day period at the end of July, but it took almost a year before I returned to finish the last bits of the map. Successfully cured of complicated transfer icon syndrome for now, my map style came together as I integrated national rail lines with other design components. Perhaps not my best work, but from a city design perspective, it was an interesting project, especially since it was the first map where I showed parallel lines with different modes - something that is incredibly common in the real world.
Original comments from blog:
A random thing I began late July 2016. Worked on it for three days, left it unfinished. Today I decided that it was time to finish it up, so here it is.
Project [25C] (2017 September - 2018 April) - Ternavale
Ternavale was an experiment for how to nicely show interlining different colors, but ended up being a complex project with different modes and companies, with complex terminal icons and other complications. In the end, it turned out to be a work that I could be proud of. As an imaginary city, it was up to me what to do, and with my parallel line standards set, it was a project that went relatively smoothly. Suburban rail, multiple modes, and more.
Original comments from blog:
Another map of an imagined metro area. Work started in September 2017, but slowed down until it was rebooted February 2018 and finished by March.
The two main things I experimented were on this map were a new set of terminal stubs and having different colored lines merging. I think I was moderately successful with both.
Project [25D] (2018 March - 2018 June) - Darvine-Desselvale
By far the best map I made prior to beginning work on the Metro Route Atlas, the Darvine (later Darvine-Desselvale) map features long, straight corridors and clean exchanges of services. Naturally, I made the transfer icons incredibly annoying to work with, but I combined multiple modes with new background covers where lines crossed rivers and other lines and light rail/surface sectors. In addition, although it wasn't supposed to be multinodal, the city eventually became so, and the format I use for the Metro Route Atlas's terminal bullets originated here. The biggest 'innovation' on this front was showing which *direction* a terminal icon represents, as where multiple lines share the same color and path, it becomes necessary to distinguish which service is terminating in which direction - something that other sites like Urbanrail do not do (and something that many transit operators do not do as well - case in point being the New York City Subway's system for including weekend terminals on the main map). In addition to this, the system was designed in such a way to maximize service on the core on every line, something that was necessary to consider on this map.
This was the last map posted on my blog but it wasn't the end of my map-making.
Original comments from blog:
Today I present another map of an imaginary metro area. Work began in March 2018 and concluded yesterday, June 20, 2018.
This isn’t my most complex map, but it was interesting to make - using strong corridors to provide defining geometry, ensuring that crossings were minimized and that it was always clear which line went where, etc. Overall I’m pleased with the result.
Project [26-01] (2018 November - 2018 December) - Theria City
For yet another written project, I began work on a new city map. Unlike Coylé City and Delucape-Slatebluff in the past however, I numbered this project with the same format as the other mapping projects.
This time I reinherited transfer station syndrome to my detriment (as some stations just became painful to make transfer icons for). In addition, this project marked the adjustment to the Legend system used as a template for early iterations of the Metro Route Atlas. Overall, it's a project I enjoyed working on and one that has served its associated project well.
Unfortunately, due to concerns over the names used in the map, I cannot show it here.
Project [27-0001] (2019 January - Ongoing) - MRA Buffalo
Link: Buffalo, New York, USA
Buffalo was the first city tackled for the Metro Route Atlas. It was the first shot at using the template, and although it was an incredibly simple system, it set the standards for what I wanted the rest of the project to be like. Based on geography, yet not tied to it. Simple and easy to use, yet informative beyond the wayfinding itself. Focused on the urban environment, leaving out infrequent long-distance services. Naturally, the map evolved over time as new standards came into play later, but as the first stepping stone for the Metro Route Atlas, it deserves its rightful place.
Project [27-0002] (2019 February - Ongoing) - MRA Miami
Link: Miami, Florida, USA
I chose Miami as the second testing city for the Metro Route Atlas, thinking about its simple branched system. In that thinking, I entirely forgot about the Metromover.
Miami had a lot of firsts for the project. Line crossings, river crossings, text on water, commuter rail, and most importantly, the inset with directed services, text-labeled services, and the metromover as a whole. It turned out to be an incredibly challenging project but one that I was satisfied with in the end.
Project [27-0003] (2019 March - Ongoing) - MRA Washington DC
As the nation's capital, Washington DC was the third city I chose for the Metro Route Atlas, and it was rife with challenges. A dense downtown, extensions far into suburbs, and geography strictly tied to its administrative boundaries. It was a necessity to use a diagrammatic map for this project, and so geography was distorted readily to make way for all of the stations. And on that note, I used smaller fonts here in order to fit things in the downtown. However, after it was all done, I found myself quite proud of the map, which shows nearby commuter services as well as the metro. It was the first map to necessitate considering weird service patterns (though I ended up not showing them) as well as under construction projects. It was also the first project where the Legend got in the way of services rather than the other way around.
Project [27-0004] (2019 March - Ongoing) - MRA Baltimore
Link: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Compared to DC, Baltimore was incredibly simple to set up... except for the geography. As a city where the downtown and relevant transportation options revolve around the layout of a harbor, it was surprisingly difficult to work the harbor into the map in a way that worked, but I feel that I achieved that well.
Project [27-0005] (2019 April - Ongoing) - MRA Charlotte
By the time I had reached Charlotte, most of my standards were in place, allowing for me to speed through the map's development in a single day. Here the main concerns were station spacing, as well as text placement due to the streetcar having incredibly long station names.
Project [27-0006] (2019 April - Ongoing) - MRA Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City was the first project where properly handling geography ended up messy. Unlike DC, where I could squeeze and stretch however I wanted, keeping things neatly aligned in this map, especially with so many parallel lines, was difficult. It was also the first map to feature a bus service of any type, and that required some adjustments to the templates. To be fair, I could have left it out, but I felt that it was an important enough corridor to show on the map even if it wasn't proper BRT. In addition to this, Salt Lake City was the first time the metropolitan area's name quite mattered (Wasatch Front), and so I decided to incorporate that into future templates.
Project [27-0007] (2019 April - Ongoing) - MRA Cleveland
Link: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Disclaimer: Due to more stringent minimum standards for definitions being imposed during Jan 2020 site maintenance, the Cleveland State Line and MetroHealth lines were removed from the map entirely due to the former requiring a timetable to use and the latter due to incredibly low frequencies on branches and no BRT or rapid bus features. The original content of the post here has been maintained for archival purposes.
Cleveland posed a number of challenges. Distances, fitting in the light rail's streetcar portion, and dealing with the HealthLine were the most pressing.
In the end, I chose to used small angled font for the streetcar portions, and I decided to not show the HealthLine stations - after all, when there are uptown only, downtown only, and seasonal stations, it can get hectic, not including the sheer *number* of them. I also ended up showing some of the other less-BRT services with some timetabled stations. Otherwise much of the map would have felt empty. Overall not my worst job for sure.
A few months later, as standards for the MRA changed, I went back and showed all the HealthLine stations. It required a bit of reworking but I feel that it's definitely more useful for people using the map now that the information has less room for ambiguity.
Project [27-0008] (2019 April - Ongoing) - MRA Atlanta
Link: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Atlanta was by far one of the simplest major systems to implement. No water, only one major transfer point, and a streetcar that barely goes anywhere. Five Points was by far the most challenging part of this project, and I think I handled it in a relatively nice way. After all, I'd use the same system again...
Project [27-0009] (2019 April - Ongoing) - MRA San Juan
Puerto Rico's capital ended up being a fairly simple map, unfortunately. A single line that doesn't go to downtown, and a map where most of the work went into water features.
Project [27-0010] (2019 April - Ongoing) - MRA Seattle-Tacoma
Seattle and Tacoma currently have separate systems. However, in the future, plans call for connecting the two. In addition, far to the north of Seattle in Everett, light rail extensions are planned. How to handle this? My answer was to put both in the same map - and one giant map at that. The Seattle-Tacoma map was the first non-square map of the Metro Route Atlas project and the geography became a problem very quickly. How to balance the necessity of detailed geography in Seattle's core while not distorting things too much? A difficult design decision indeed. My insistence on including the streetcar stops also contributed to a congested downtown with some geographic license taken. However, I still feel that the map is pretty good... for now.
Project [26-02] (2019 May - 2019 June) - Squamatarn City
For the same written project as Theria City, another map. This time I drew out the entire thing on paper, and in the end it became the first time I had faithfully taken a paper map of a nonexistent city and turned it into a digital map. And wow was it a complex project. I designed icons, created new advancements in Legend design, made S-Train standards, and implemented an incredibly complex map. Merging single-directional loop services, all kinds of modes and services, dealing with a gigantic legend that got in the way of the lines... all of it was there.
Project [27-0011] (2019 June - Ongoing) - MRA New York City, Newark-Jersey City
When this map came up next on the to-do list, I was filled with dread. I had already failed once. But this time I was prepared. My scope was large. And so I did everything I could to prepare. Ample spacing between lines. Separate local and express services. A smaller font for every station. Route identification. Commuter rail integration. A massive endeavor that came out pretty well, even if I had to do geography distortion on a level I had never done before. But in the end, I had a map of New York City and North New Jersey, with variations for service changes and weekend service.
Project [27-0012] (2019 July - Ongoing) - MRA Hempstead
Link: Hempstead, New York, USA
Originally I never planned to do Hempstead. However, the RPA recommended converting two LIRR branches to light rail, and the commuter rail here operates pretty frequently. Well, at least that's what I thought going in. The end result was a map almost free of line crossings, with Jamaica station turning into a... thing. I had to do an uncomfortably large amount of research for this map since service patterns on the LIRR are a mire of looking in different places, but things turned out pretty well in the end.
Project [27-0013] (2019 July - Ongoing) - MRA Phoenix
Link: Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Phoenix was challenging due to spacing issues. The streetcar wouldn't fit, and the stations on the eastern branch wouldn't fit. So I brought back diagonal text, and made some geography-defying adjustments to the streetcar. But in the end, it was a breath of fresh air to get the Phoenix map done so expediently.
Project [27-0014] (2019 July - Ongoing) - MRA Norfolk-Virginia Beach
Even though building the SVG map for Norfolk only took 45 minutes, I had a deep focus on system expansion and had long internal debates about how much futureproofing I wanted in the map. The reality is that the distance between Norfolk and Virginia Beach's population centers is not that far, and they are all part of the same metro area. The right of way being used for the light rail is there, ready to be converted should funds be available. And so I debated whether or not to include Virginia Beach, and if so, how much. In the end, I settled for dropping most provisions. If they decide that they want to expand service, adjusting the map isn't too difficult.
Project [27-0015] (2019 July - Ongoing) - MRA Pittsburgh
The biggest issue with Pittsburgh's map was how to treat its busways. When considering how to handle the map, I considered a number of solutions - one of which involved using different line widths for on-street vs. on-busway. I used a similar solution for Darvine-Desselvale, and it's similar to what Urbanrail.net does for Stadtbahn services. However, that's not as good for a map that's targeted at potential riders.
I eventually settled for full width lines, with small station icons to represent (most of) the stops off the busway. I had provisioned those for this very purpose back when I initially added support for BRT into my template, but in Salt Lake City I simply put an asterisk and a note since the Magna Loop would have looked terrible if I had placed the actual street stop icons.
My final solution works, I feel. It sets a decent enough precedent for what comes next, but doing what I did here caused me to revise my Cleveland map as well as detail my map standards better.
Project [27-0016] (2019 July - Ongoing) - MRA St. Louis
Link: St. Louis, Missouri, USA
By the time I had gotten to the St. Louis map, generating maps had pretty much become a routine. Copy the template, update the legend, add notable water features, and take existing sketches, adapting them into lines on the map. Of course, the real challenge comes in station spacing and manipulating geography.
In this case, a la Seattle, I thought it would probably be OK to include the stations for the Delmar Loop Trolley, since there aren't that many. In the process however, the area got reworked about ten times as I moved lines and stations until things were able to fit. Due to The Pageant's name being long enough to cause problems, the entire line goes farther west on the map than it really does, and there are some mildly annoying adjustments that were made. But in the end, things are pretty decent here.
Project [27-0017] (2019 July - Ongoing) - MRA Houston
Link: Houston, Texas, USA
When working on the Houston map, I was finally forced to make a decision that I had actively avoided in the past - showing highways on the map. Like many other cities in the USA, Houston has a highway that loops around the city core, and without many geographical landmarks to help position things, I decided that showing the surprisingly rectangular I-610 loop would be good for wayfinding and general positioning. The Buffalo Bayou was approximately the same location as I-10, so I decided that the river (stream?) was sufficient for that aspect of wayfinding.
Aside from the highway loop, the biggest challenge was the Uptown BRT line. Finding reliable information on the project was surprisingly difficult, though I hope that information will be easier to come by once the project opens to the public.
Project [27-0018] (2019 Sept - Ongoing) - MRA Minneapolis-St. Paul
Minneapolis and St. Paul have a rapidly expanding network, and now equipped to handle BRT with my new template, I expected the map to be fairly simple to set up. To be blunt, I was quite wrong, as the Twin Cities have their rapid services on different streets and don't have actual BRT (yet). In addition, they have a lot of lines under construction. It became a question of how much to simplify in order to fit everything on the map while adequately futureproofing to avoid having to make major changes down the road, and I think I did a decent job, though things will undoubtedly change soon as new routes open.
Project [27-0019] (2019 Sept - Ongoing) - MRA Los Angeles
Of all the cities in the USA, Los Angeles is the one with the largest rail expansion. As of the making of the map, they were building a Gold Line extension, the Regional Connector, and Crenshaw LAX as well as doing preliminary studies for a number of other corridors. In addition, they were transitioning to lettered lines from colored and named ones in a process that would result in a number of service changes.
The biggest issue when making the map was simply FITTING everything. Currently, the urban rail and rapid bus network is heavily concentrated on the west side of the river, while the east side of the river is primarily commuter rail. However, a lot of planned expansion is in the east, so I couldn't just focus on the western part. And so Union Station ended up sort of centered, and I had to move the name of the city to the middle in order to allow for the Orange Line to fit.
The Regional Connector was probably the biggest problem when trying to fit things. Normally I don't like using lines to note station names that aren't directly adjacent to the stations. However, that's preferable over covering a line with a station name or ambiguous name-station matching. And so the Regional Connector ended up with many of those extensions. This is, of course, ignoring possible eastward extensions of the Red/B and Purple/D Lines, or shoving the West Santa Ana Branch inside the map. It would be possible, but I'd probably end up shifting the river to the east and moving the Gold Line stations closer together.
Overall, the Los Angeles map was a worthwhile project. Not on the same level of New York City in terms of complexity, but definitely the third most complex project in the US. The second? The San Francisco Bay Area. Now THAT will be a good challenge to map in a user-friendly way.
Project [27-0020] (2019 Sept - Ongoing) - MRA Denver
Link: Denver, Colorado, USA
In the USA, Denver is probably the light rail network with service patterns closest to those of legacy tram networks, with incredible focus on transfer-free point-to-point services. This heavy interlining means that a different route is attached to every service pattern, resulting in a large number of different services on what is physically a few different lines of track. In terms of map making, dealing with this kind of thing will be the norm when I begin covering cities that never tore up their tram networks, so it's some good practice. Regardless, the interlining was the most hectic part of the map, but since there aren't actually that many stations, it wasn't too bad to make.
Project [27-0021] (2019 Oct - Ongoing) - MRA Chicago
Link: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Chicago is known for the Loop and for its street grid. Given that my map was to be restricted to multiples of 45 degrees for angles, something had to give.
This map was challenging - not only to align as many streets as possible even with Commuter Rail going at awkward angles, but also to fit the loop in without an inset. Unlike Miami, there's nowhere good to fit the inset, and I kept readjusting the rivers and lake on the map in order to crush the entire thing in. My insistence was on showing the entire loop without an inset and to an extent, I succeeded. However, it meant that geography got pushed and text labels struggled to fit. In addition, the transfers at the loop are an incredible mess, with four commuter rail terminals and nearly every line shoving their way into the same small area. However, I believe that I still managed to clarify which transfers are free and which ones are not by connecting only the lines that were relevant.
Overall, although the south side had all of the north-south streets misaligned, I feel that I did a pretty decent job.
Project [27-0022] (2019 Oct - Ongoing) - MRA Hartford
After doing multiple complex networks consecutively, I decided to grab a project from the simpler side... except that Hartford's busway is a trunk line busway like Pittsburgh's Yellow Line/South Busway. As a result, I was torn with regards to which services to show. Do I just show the trunk line? Do I show a specific service? In the end, I chose to show the 101 local service, ignoring all others. It's the one you'd take for the busway most of the time anyways (102 is the other all stop service, but comes much less frequently). I also had to do some messy things with the two street stops, but I think it turned out OK.
Project [27-0023] (2019 Oct - Ongoing) - MRA Philadelphia
I knew Philadelphia was going to be moderately complicated. However, with its almost-an-S-Bahn and numerous trolley routes, making a map turned out to be a heck of a lot more complicated than anticipated.
The subway lines are easy to map out. However, the streetcar lines and regional rail form a mass of stations in the southwest, resulting in incredible cramping. I chose to show all streetcar stops, though labeling names was a lost cause for the most part since they effectively stop at every. single. intersection. It was an experience similar to marking every single bus stop in a citywide network, and by locking myself to a 45/90 degree system, I was forced to have misaligned streets.
It was, however, the stations and the way the regional rail system works that threw everything into chaos while making the map. The 36 streetcar gets actual platforms when it transitions to a dedicated ROW near the airport, while the Sharon Hill line has two random streetcar stops (which I ended up leaving as stations for consistency). However, this was nothing compared to the regional rail network. Space was valuable, and I ended up doubling up lines whenever possible. However, it was on the Glenside Combined portion that I faced the most trouble. Fox Chase and Chestnut Hill East split off after Wayne Junction and don't show up in the timetable for Glenside Combined, but there was no real way to fit them in while also having enough space to show the strange stopping behavior at North Broad and the separate North Philadelphia stations for Chestnut Hill West and Trenton. The Glenside Combined itself is a remnant of poor decisions made years ago where there was a line imbalance between the east and west sides, resulting in most Airport trains going to Glenside (on paper) and Warminster (in reality). I didn't want to include it but it made life easier while designing and the key reflects the change. Of course, the *actual* interlining is much more complex than listed in the map key, but I think I nailed down... some of it, at least.
Overall, the Philadelphia map made the trouble I had fitting stuff into the DC map look like a joke. When the densest parts of the network aren't in the central part of the city, things can get a little hectic.
Project [26-03] (2019 Nov) - Chelicerant Town
In the same category as Theria and Squamatarn before it, Chelicerant Town's map was made with complete freedom, so I took the opportunity to experiment with a few things. The actual design was originally made on paper with the expectation that it would be adapted, and it was a much smaller map in terms of content to be put in the same space, so I had more freedom to fit things in. After a few hours I went all in and swapped the color palettes over to the dark side, which showed the lines much more clearly, and gave it a Montreal vibe (to an extent). In addition, I tried out the 'have a colored bar at terminal stations' concept, and decided that it wasn't worth it, even though I left it in the final version. Overall, an interesting project.
Project [27-0024] (2019 Dec - Ongoing) - MRA Boston
Boston was one of those cities where I was very worried about whether or not it was going to be possible to shove everything into one nice square. The main challenges with Boston were the Green and Silver Lines - the Green Line should not dominate the entire map, and the Silver Line's idiosyncrasies had to be taken into account
In the end I think I reached a manageable series of tradeoffs. Both the right and left sides are cramped at the center due to the Green Line but pretty much everything managed to fit. And I adjusted the geography in order to get some extras to fit in, such as the Stoughton Branch. Overall, not necessarily my best work (and definitely not ready for the North-South connection if that ever becomes a reality) but not my worst.
Project [27-0025] (2019 Dec - Ongoing) - MRA Las Vegas
Link: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Like usual, I did hours of research into the page and the routes. However, once I got started making the digital map, it took a grand total of 68 minutes to complete it, including referencing a book and multiple other sources since Transport Politic doesn't have the SDX's alignment. Astonishingly smooth and a testament to how efficient mapmaking can be with smaller systems when focusing exclusively on the rapid transit lines.
Project [27-0026] (2019 Dec - Ongoing) - MRA San Diego
I have no idea why I left most of the Californian systems to the end of the first phase of the Metro Route Atlas. Perhaps seeing multiple interlined lines terrified me at the time? Regardless, San Diego's map suffered for the same reason as Chicago - forcing my map to lock to 45 degree angles and a compact downtown resulted in some rather unfortunate behavior on the Orange and Green Lines. Still, getting some of the stations more or less lined up eastwards was more important than producing equally spaced stations for this map, so I went that route even if I violated it for most of the map. Overall, a moderately challenging map to round out the year.
Project [27-0027] (2020 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA Sacramento
Sacramento was the first map of 2020 and was difficult for the sole reason that the downtown area is full of one way stations and routes. One of the design decisions I had to make was the treatment of the Green Line and in the end I chose to show it separately instead of overlaid over the Gold Line. As a result, six lines go through downtown in the map, not unlike in Denver, which had it worse. The catch here is that the stations are asymmetric, and station names are long. In the end I made the single-directional stations have a smaller font, and that generally solved the issue.
I've done plenty of maps before so this one wasn't any more challenging, but there are always decisions to make. And in this case I think it's not a bad job.
Project [27-0028] (2020 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA Richmond
Link: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Richmond is a very asymmetric city, with a quick cutoff at the east end of the city. In addition, this was the first map where I didn't draw a draft prior to making the vector map. In retrospect, making the draft probably would have been a good idea. Then again, it was a fairly simple project. One line with a little jig.
Project [27-0029] (2020 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA Dallas
Link: Dallas, Texas, USA
Of all of the tram-train style light rail networks in the USA, Dallas has the most extensive. As of the time of writing, it has the longest network in the USA. However, this is achieved by the light rail lines diving deep into the suburbs, covering vast distances along expressways and railroad rights of way. I made the decision to not group Dallas and Fort Worth into the same map, and I feel that it was the right decision. With such a sprawling map, it was necessary to make it partially diagrammatic, and some of the simplification feels more arbitrary than usual. Then again, the official maps don't seem to follow a standard either.
This map was challenging - a highly compressed downtown with far reaching lines in every direction. Downtown streetcars had to coexist with a regional light rail system, and so something had to give - in this case, the M-Line Trolley's stops. Overall, not necessarily my best map, but a worthwhile challenge.
P.S. This was the first time I actively included easter eggs inside the map. Kudos for those who manage to find them.
Project [27-0030] (2020 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA San Bernardino
To be honest, the most difficult part about making the map was trying to adapt the angle of the northern portion of the line while internally complaining about how the timetable shows the green line in blue. There are more lines than one might expect since I ended up including Riverside, but it's a self-explanatory, fairly simple system. I did choose to not show the detour needed to get to CSU San Bernardino or the loop at Loma Linda. Overall, a good breather project in between Dallas and Portland.
Project [27-0031] (2020 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA Portland
Link: Portland, Oregon, USA
Portland is a city providing incredible challenges when it comes to making a map. The light rail and streetcar do not operate nowhere near the same scale, yet in downtown they have stations everywhere. This is complicated by running the different directions on parallel streets, meaning that there are three separate trunk lines running on different pairs of streets.
The geographic manipulation was quite intense with this map, even after extending it to take into account the eastwards and westwards stretching. However, by making a rule of using smaller text sizes for any stations within the streetcar loops, I actually managed to get every station's name to fit in the map in some form (some streetcar stops at transfers just use the light rail station's name). A good challenge, and one that will hopefully be eased in a few months when they begin closing nearby stations in downtown to improve the operational speed of the light rail.
Project [27-0032] (2020 Feb - Ongoing) - MRA Fort Collins
Finally, after having made maps for around 6 years, I finally published one consisting of a single straight line.
...Though to be fair, this is probably the absolute straightest mass transit line I've ever had the pleasure of making a map for, and it's for what is arguably one of the best bus lines in the entire USA.
Project [27-0033] (2020 Feb - Ongoing) - MRA Detroit
Link: Detroit, Michigan, USA
Detroit lacks a citywide rapid transit network, having only a stub of a streetcar and a downtown people mover. As a result, focus had to be on downtown and downtown was therefore appropriately enlarged for scale. That being said, I chose an interesting time to do the map for Detroit. That is because the people mover, which currently runs clockwise, will reverse direction in a month. As such, this was the first map I made of a future service pattern without that service pattern being 'under construction'. Going forwards, it will be interesting to see how I handle these types of situations.
Project [27-0034] (2020 Feb - Ongoing) - MRA Eugene-Springfield
Eugene's BRT system threw a wrench into my map strategy like nothing I had experienced yet. How? Literally a week before I began working on the map, they merged their BRT lines together into one continuous service.
I expected that I would do my first real through service when I hit a city a la Tokyo, since Japan is notorious for using line names rather than service names. Instead, it hit with the EmX. Now, I had planned from the get go to separate the Eugene and Gateway lines on both the page and map, so this left me wondering what to do. It wasn't the first time they had combined the service, and they had split it prior. Still, I didn't want to make Springfield look like a through station since for all practical purposes, it was a terminal that the buses reversed out of. In the end, my solution was to simply show the lines separately. If the service change proves to be permanent, perhaps it will change. But for now, Eugene and Gateway will stay separate.
Project [27-0035] (2020 Mar - Ongoing) - MRA San José
The problem with mapping the San Francisco Bay Area is scale. There are lines running across the region in addition to local lines. While this is more challenging for mapping San Francisco and its dense network of routes, Caltrain stations are actually pretty close together, and so in my map for San José, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to comfortably fit all the stations up to San Mateo in the map. Since I had the space, I also plugged the stations down to Gilroy in too.
The biggest challenge in the map was the way the Orange Line curves as well as how to handle the downtown area of San José. The former did allow for some interesting station name spacing, with Reamwood being the station that had the greatest impact on the spacing of stations since its name was so long (comparatively). For the latter, I made the decision to not separate out the directions. This is for multiple reasons. First, the stations on opposing streets are not branded/named differently the way they are in cities like Portland, Denver, or Phoenix. Second, as I learned from Denver, trying to take multiple services and showcase the single directional track *really* clutters the map. In this case, there wasn't a loop service either, so there was no reason to do so. Third, I've done it before, though in smaller cases (e.g. Houston). Finally, I need to set up a precedent for other cities that do this kind of thing.
Overall, not the most challenging map, but one that had its fair share of interesting problems to solve. Now the *next* map is where it gets hectic...
Project [TTD-002] (2020 Apr - 2020 May) - Bennpool
Link: Bennpool, OpenTTD
Bennpool Transit was the name of the company of my second OpenTTD map and the first OpenTTD map where I created a corresponding transit map for my network. As I was still getting into OpenTTD, there are some network inconsistencies and other issues, some of which made it into the map (one way tram stops, calling my metro an S-Train even though it was definitely a metro, unlabeled buses, ambiguous branding between which buses were important enough to make it onto the map key). Part of this was not understanding the game mechanics well and part of it was simply an internal debate on how things should be reflected in the map.
An additional challenge: Unlike all maps I had ever done before, this map was done for a rapidly changing and expanding network. Since making the map was considered a few sessions in, I had a head start on spacing and structure. However, expansion resulted in constraints. As a result, the map is fairly compact, perhaps too much so.
Project [TTD-003] (2020 May - 2020 May) - Fefinghill
Link: Fefinghill, OpenTTD
On this map, the transit map and the game map were one. They were fully created in parallel, with the transit map reflecting changes quickly and also being used to determine what to do next in the game. This time, spacing and having a diagrammatic approach were important until they caused problems - the core region of the map was spaced out well, but geography eventually bit back and forced realignment of lines.
I also ran into the hard decision of whether or not to combine services on the map. At the start it was useful to do so and in the middle I found it easier to distinguish the service patterns. However, at the end it heavily complicated things in the southwest and caused more problems than it solved.
Project [TTD-004] (2020 May - 2020 June) - Trindston
Link: Trindston, OpenTTD
This map was made with the intention for things to be diagrammatic, and tied to the ingame map very strongly. Terminology updates, a structured side legend, and starting with plenty of space were all built in. The main change from prior maps was dropping the transfer station icon - since these maps show buses, nearly every station ends up being a transfer station and so having separate transfer and regular station icons proved redundant.
Like the prior OpenTTD maps, most of the work was readjusting the existing map to support new lines. In the end, the map grew so large that things ended up being cramped anyways. It also ended up being very complex. The main benefits came from a potential new way to handle one-way service (which is currently superior to the way it is handled in the Metro Route Atlas in every way except for how much space it requires).
Project [27-0036] (2020 May - Ongoing) - MRA San Francisco-Oakland
In part due to the scale of the map, the COVID outbreak, and other duties, this map took a very long time to make. It involved many difficult design decisions and while not my proudest work, remains one of the most complex networks I've ever mapped.
Most of this comes down to one simple fact - I chose to map each MUNI and BART service with separate lines. This turned Market Street into a behemoth, with four BART lines, the entirety of MUNI Metro (5 services if K and T are combined), and the F Market & Wharves all taking up a massive amount of space.
Geography was not my friend on this map and the amount of geographic distortion I needed to do to enable some form of street grid while providing enough detail on both the west and east sides of the bay was much more than I expected. I had to expand the peninsula multiple times in order to get everything to simply fit. Dense surface stops and my choice to put the names of every cross street clashed with BART's long distances between stations and the need to vertically crush the majority of the Bay Area in to a small space. As a partial casualty, I didn't add stop names for the F Market & Wharves along Market St and on the curbside shelters in the wharves.
Overall, not the most difficult map I've done - that still goes to NYC. However, a major challenge and the last until the next major metro area to cover - Toronto.
That being said, a few months later in August, MUNI Metro restructured, and I chose to shave off a line on each side of the MUNI core to provide spacing between MUNI, the F Streetcar, and BART. I think it isn't too bad.
Project [27-0037] (2020 June - Ongoing) - MRA Indianapolis
Similar to the maps of other cities with simple one-line networks, Indianapolis's map was fairly simple to make. Not as simple as Fort Collins's map, but definitely one of the easier ones.
Project [27-0038] (2020 June - Ongoing) - MRA Albuquerque
Similar to Fort Collins's MAX, the vast majority of ART is on a single arterial/right of way. There are two differences though - one, Central Ave is not straight west of downtown with a strange little jig, and the BRT system doesn't run on Central through downtown. In a situation that I will see more of, the two routes use two one-way streets in downtown, creating a minor mapping issue since *technically* the Downtown station is a transfer point with the New Mexico Rail Runner Express (which is a perfectly straight line on this map due to it being... pretty much a straight line through Albuquerque).
I do like how I was able to have a really nice pair of structured lines that gave a lot of form to the network, though if any extensions come to fruition, that may change.
Project [27-0039] (2020 July - Ongoing) - MRA El Paso-Juárez
I didn't actually plan to do a combined map, but unlike the horizontal straight-line border between San Diego and Tijuana, there was no way to show either El Paso or Ciudad Juárez's systems without showing a good chunk of the other city. Of course this all began the moment I decided to show Brio on the Metro Route Atlas and not just the historic streetcar.
The Metro area for El Paso and Juárez is quite tall due to the way the cities are structured, and I had to showcase the streetcar in higher detail if I wanted to show the way Brio weaves through downtown. This resulted in downtown El Paso being blown up a little bit, though on the Juárez side things were only compressed along Zaragoza, where the dimensions of the map and the angle of the avenues forced a tighter spacing if I wanted to have anything to remotely line up on a North-South axis between the two cities (Note: Things don't line up).
Overall, turned out fairly decent in my opinion. This might not be the last time I do an international map of this sort either, so it was a good introduction to my continuing work across North America.
Project [27-0040] (2020 Aug - Ongoing) - MRA Tucson
Link: Tucson, Arizona, USA
Tucson, coming straight after El Paso, is one of the many cities coming up that heavily features single track loops for its streetcar systems. Overall, it wasn't much of a challenge outside of having to fit the station names in, though it'll be interesting to see how the system changes if the north-south corridor gets built.
Project [27-0041] (2020 Aug - Ongoing) - MRA Kansas City
Unlike many modern streetcars, most of the KC Streetcar is actually on the same street, without extra loops deviating off of the main route. This means that more time was actually spent on the river than on the line, as far as the map goes. The initial map was completed in half an hour, though it's worth noting that unlike El Paso, Kansas City's rapid bus (MAX does not even meet standards for an Arterial BRT line) didn't make it onto this site - its inclusion would have dramatically increased the complexity of the map.
Project [27-0042] (2020 Aug - Ongoing) - MRA Cincinnati
Link: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
One of many single track loops, the Cincinnati Streetcar faces the same issues when making a map. There exist other transit plans for the region but they are all regional in comparison to the short streetcar, with its frequent stops. In the end, I fit everything in, but since I snuck the parts of the Cincinnati Subway that actually got built onto the map, the streetcar ended near the bottom instead of centered. That's still accurate given the city's geography though. Overall, not too challenging but not the easiest.
Project [27-0043] (2020 Aug - Ongoing) - MRA Oklahoma City
Very similar to Cincinnati, except there's no half constructed subway. A standard loop streetcar with a short turn option. Not particularly challenging but it'll be interesting to see how things progress in the future should their commuter rail, rapid bus, and streetcar extensions get funded.
Project [31A] (2020 Aug) - Reykjavík (Fantasy)
On August 23, 2020, a post on the NUMTOT Facebook page showcased an old version of the Reykjavík Bus Map and challenged map makers to create a hypothetical rail-based map for the region. At first I did a little research, not knowing the geography. I got a little too into it though and that snowballed until I spent an hour and a half (post-planning) making an actual SVG map for it. Overall, it's one of the cleanest maps I've made in a while. But then again, I designed the network. Of course I did so not knowing *anything* about the city or what corridors are highly populated. Either way, it was an interesting exercise and the official bus map made things much easier because I could copy-paste names from there instead of trying to locate the symbols that aren't easily accessible on a US keyboard.
Project [27-0044] (2020 Aug - Ongoing) - MRA Tampa
Link: Tampa, Florida, USA
A return to a coastal city where quite a bit of the coastal detail matters for geography due to the streetcar's local nature. The line itself is simple, but I originally wanted to include the entire Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area on one map. Naturally, that didn't happen because they are actually quite far apart and their cores are offset somewhat. Also, St. Petersburg's BRT isn't ready yet, and it's not a certain fact that I'll make a page for it. Overall, surprisingly easy to make the map, though I had previously sketched it out (including the curves of the river and the level of detail I wanted for the downtown), so it wasn't too hard to bring it to reality.
Project [27-0045] (2020 Aug - Ongoing) - MRA Little Rock
Another loop-based heritage streetcar line map! This one was, however, a lot more difficult than the others simply due to the fact that some of the station names are... long. "2nd Street & Rock Street/Central Arkansas Library System Main Branch" long. That and the way their part time service works (though I was prepared for that).
Overall, it came out a little cleaner than expected, though figuring out a better way to handle the long station names would have been preferable. Of course I did lock myself into this situation by showing the entire city in the map and not limiting my system map to the service area, but I still feel that doing so gives a better sense of how the services serve the city.
Project [27-0046] (2020 Aug - Ongoing) - MRA Milwaukee
The main difference with the other loop streetcars so far is that Milwaukee's has a spur that crosses over itself. This makes for an interesting visualization, though the spur has yet to open. Besides this, the map was relatively simple, as there is no commuter rail service and the arterial BRT line is still a whiles away, if I even include it.
Project [27-0047] (2020 Sept - Ongoing) - MRA Memphis
Link: Memphis, Tennessee, USA
And so we arrive at the cities in the US I deferred until the very end due to major infrastructure damage - the first of which is Memphis. Trolleys are not supposed to catch on fire, and restoration of service has been problematic. Of course they do actually plan to restore service, so it made sense to include the pre-shutdown lines on the map. I decided to use the existing 'Under Construction' designation like I did with Philadelphia for this scenario and I think it worked OK.
Another thing to note with this map was that I didn't know if the Mud Island Monorail still worked. Everything pointed to a "no it's not operational" with the official website having stripped all mentions of it. Regardless, given that Mud Island is sort of like a theme park, I didn't plan to include it to begin with.
Project [27-0048] (2020 Sept - Ongoing) - MRA Provo-Orem
Link: Provo-Orem, Utah, USA
Salt Lake City was the sixth city I made a map of. It was the first to feature a bus route. It was made during the start of the Metro Route Atlas. And it always bugged me slightly that I was featuring a line that was so far away from the others on the page that it wasn't even on the map.
But lo and behold Google Maps updated Satellite view and I took a look at the Provo-Orem area on a whim. At the time I made the Salt Lake City page, I was blindly following the ITDP's scorecard and since the corridor hadn't been rated and wasn't updated on satellite view I assumed it was just a bus line with a nice splash of paint on the buses. How wrong I was. After seeing the updated satellite view, I realized that there was probably more BRT infrastructure along this one line than there was in the entirety of Las Vegas. At the very least, there was much more than the 35X.
The map itself was not hard to make in the slightest. The UTA has an excellent geographic map and I've gotten used to handling lines that go straight but at a non-45 degree angle thanks to Chicago. And so the map was completed in about half an hour.
Project [27-0049] (2020 Sept - Ongoing) - MRA Jacksonville
When considering Jacksonville's map, the thing that stood out the most was the water. The rivers do some interesting things, changing widths or splitting with all kinds of other coastal features. In the end, I vastly expanded downtown due to the future U2C and need to showcase downtown in more detail, and compressed the coast. This had the effect of putting the East Corridor stations equidistant from one another on the map, but it seems to work fine.
The harder part was how to handle the Southeast Corridor. Like with Chicago, it basically goes in a straight line, but not at an angle friendly to my 45 degree angles. As a result, I took some small jigs in the line and made them much more significant. I also had to do some mildly infuriating adjustments at the south end because the line doubles back to the park and ride, but I assume this is more due to how the route itself functions. I could have just used a straight line and shown them diagrammatically but this time I felt like showing the jig because it's fairly significant.
Project [27-0050] (2020 Sept - Ongoing) - MRA New Orleans
Massive rerouting due to the Hard Rock Hotel building collapse happening at the main bottleneck of the streetcar system and the difficulty in finding information on which stops actually existed resulted in one of the more challenging maps of the year. Bends in the river were shoved west offscreen in order to show all of the St. Charles streetcar stops (coincidentally allowing the streetcar network to be centered on the map), and somehow, the water itself wasn't challenging at all compared to the likes of Baltimore or Jacksonville.
Showing the disrupted services was hard but mainly because I had to take a different approach than I did with Memphis. This time I wanted to show both the original and revised service patterns, and my solution ended up using the paths of the original services as part of the rerouted ones. I think it worked OK, though hopefully service is restored back to normal soon.
Project [27-0051] (2020 Sept - Ongoing) - MRA Vancouver
Vancouver is a welcome back to the world of oceanside cities. A downtown on a peninsula, a very wide metropolitan area, and what seems to be far too many branches of the Fraser River. The difficulty here was that although there's a nice city grid for the most part, nothing seems to actually follow it nicely, with the Millenium Line and West Coast Express making all kinds of jiggles and the Expo Line going at an awkward angle. In the end, I had to break the grid east of the Canada Line - nothing fit well otherwise. But overall, this map wasn't too bad. There aren't actually that many lines in the system and once you free yourself of the grid, it wasn't not too bad to make a usable map (though some geography must be sacrificed).
Project [27-0052] (2020 Oct - Ongoing) - MRA Calgary
Link: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Calgary ended up being a much much harder city to map than anticipated owing to a number of challenges - like Chicago, it has a dense network of stations in the city center, and like Pittsburgh it has busways... sort of, with mixed traffic in downtown and in other locations as well. But it takes things further, with an alternate station service pattern in downtown.
Challenges essentially boiled down to three things - how to depict single directional service downtown without taking up a massive amount of map space to separate out lines, how to depict downtown MAX-CTrain interactions, and how to depict the massive differences in infrastructure quality for the MAX lines.
For the first, it was fairly straightforwards - I'd just use arrows. Typically I mark stations as (w/b only) or (e/b only), but with the space constraints in the core, that just wasn't an option. I made some more space by using a smaller font for single directional stations in the city center.
For the second, I had to sacrifice something, and the thing that was sacrificed was depiction of transfers between MAX and CTrain in the downtown core. Basically every station is a transfer if you're willing to walk a block or two, and given that so many were in a single direction only owing to every stop being in a single direction only downtown, showing the transfers would have reached a level of spaghetti that would have exceeded the mess I made with Chicago's Loop-Metra connections. So the answer was to just not show the transfers and make a note in the map key.
For the third, the issue was mainly due to Google Maps making it hard to see the actual state of the infrastructure. Busways are still under construction or nonexistent on satellite view, and whether or not you see a station on street view is dependent on when the content was taken. In the end, I realized that most stations did have some amount of infrastructure and I grudgingly let everything be considered a station and not a stop. As for the busways, they are significant infrastructure but they are so... lacking that I made the decision to, for the first time, showcase the actual busways on the map even when they were used for a tiny stretch (on the Southwest Busway for MAX Teal and Yellow). My initial concept here was to just not show it at all, but I gave in. It does make my work here less consistent with prior maps (e.g. Albuquerque, Eugene-Springfield), but I feel that it's appropriate in this case because the busway is the ONLY section of the MAX Teal and Yellow that is currently BRT standard, and it's long enough at least on Yellow to be shown.
Overall, a surprisingly challenging map. I don't know if I did it justice, but hopefully my depiction of downtown is more useful than existing maps.
Project [27-0053] (2020 Oct - Ongoing) - MRA Edmonton
Unlike Calgary, it was actually possible to fit stuff in the downtown because there is only a single corridor at the current time. However, with future proofing in mind, I expanded downtown quite significantly in this map, resulting in plenty of space but at the same time making some station distances near downtown much longer than they actually are. From a map perspective, this is fine though, and this ended up being a pretty simple map as a result. Maybe not my best work, but decent enough. It'll be more interesting once other lines open up though.
Project [27-0054] (2020 Oct - Ongoing) - MRA Winnipeg
After doing so many maps, the hardest part of the Winnipeg map was determining the names of local stops, as well as aligning the river to fit the entire branch to St. Norbert on the map. As usual, the official map doesn't necessarily reflect the situation on the ground, and Google is naturally inconsistent with both street view and data as far as stop names and locations (and services) are concerned. As a result, I probably missed a few stops that were on Google and not the official map... probably. The only way to find out for sure is to go and ride the line itself, after all...
Project [27-0055] (2020 Nov - Ongoing) - MRA Ottawa-Gatineau
Ottawa and Gatineau are the first combined map since New York, and they bring along a unique set of challenges. The first and most obvious is that their transitways represent infrastructure, not services, and the transitways are not exactly... connected. Unlike Pittsburgh's South Busway, the Central, West, and Southwest Transitways in Ottawa consist of multiple disconnected fragments in between which standards fall to standard bus service, which is below the lowest standard for the Metro Route Atlas. Therefore, I made the decision to just not show the substandard portions, as this isn't a service map for the rapid bus network.
There were two more factors complicating things - the first being that the entire busway system is in partial transition to light metro and that an entire line is being closed for a significant overhaul, essentially converting a commuter rail service into a rapid transit one. For the BRT aspect, not only are the corridors disjointed, but I'm showing existing and future service in parallel (or in the case of the sub-BRT grade remainder of the East Transitway, not showing the busway at all). As for the Trillium Line, it's hard to show existing service when there... is no service. And as for the other issue? The fact that Gatineau is roughly aligned to a North-South grid while Ottawa is... not. It was the first instance of me actually rotating the North icon on on the map, even though Gatineau ended up being diagrammatic regardless.
This was a map where I was glad to have my paper draft beforehand. A welcome challenge.
Project [27-0056] (2020 Nov - Ongoing) - MRA Montréal
Link: Montréal, Quebec, Canada
From the start, I knew this was going to be a hard one due to one complicating factor - the REM. As the REM literally stretches from one side of the metropolitan area to the center, it becomes impossible to properly center the Métro, and the high density of downtown stations led me to use a larger map size than usual. In the end, this wasn't necessary... except that once it came time to insert the Pie-IX BRT, it definitely was necessary.
A map full of challenges, including multiple islands with stations on them, a need to balance Montréal against Laval due to size vs rapid transit density, and a nice way to fit all the commuter rail lines in because if I'm going to end up showing most of them due to the map dimensions, might as well shove the remainder of exo2 and exo3 into the map. This job turned out to be a lot more complex than initially anticipated, because Montréal's grid is... inconsistent. The angles also didn't work well, similar to Ottawa. And I ended up showing the exo5 detour to Gare Centrale, so that added quite a bit extra. But overall, I'm quite satisfied with the map, and it should be able to handle an extension or two no problem.
Project [27-0057] (2020 Nov - Ongoing) - MRA Kitchener-Waterloo
The map for the Waterloo Region was not particularly difficult outside of figuring out how to future-proof for the Cambridge extension. Similar to other single line maps that came before (well, technically there are two lines but there is only one station in the entire map on the Kitchener Line), the difficulty came from the minor kinks and how to handle them. In the case of ION, it's the two segments where the line splits and has stations with different names on each single directional track, but I found an approach I really liked for the Waterloo one and the Kitchener one wasn't too bad either. Overall, a simple map compared to the ones coming up next...
Project [27-0058] (2020 Dec - Ongoing) - MRA Toronto
For better or worse, as the most complex map since New York City, Toronto's map required significant advance planning, including the difficult question of choosing what to actually include. The conundrum is as follows - Toronto has suburbs to the north, east, and west, but the eastern portion has no rapid transit (yet), the northern portion goes *really far north*, and the western part is offset at a different angle. Thankfully, there's a nice clean line that can be used to separate the Peel Region, and this informed my choice to do a combined Toronto + York Region map.
For the map itself, I decided that Union was going to be smack in the middle of the map horizontally, and I decided to extend Yonge-University upwards first, using a 48-64-128 system for spacing. This actually worked very well, and after the Yonge portion was complete, I was able to add Bloor-Danforth with nice spacing, followed by Scarborough (using Yonge for spacing) and Sheppard (using Bloor-Danforth for spacing). And at first, the spacing seemed to also work for Viva Blue... until I realized I was about 128 pixels short of fitting everything on the map. As a result, I had to bite a compromise and I shifted to 48-96 for the same distances. It's unfortunate but I had enough wiggle room at the top of the map to make it not feel cramped. This did have ramifications for Go (especially the Barrie Line) but that came later.
Using Bloor-Danforth for spacing did have its fair share of problems. Toronto does not have a single street grid - depending on where you are, the grid shifts by a few degrees, and over a decent distance it has a major impact - enough that lining up stations based on the streets did not work. This was especially pronounced with Eglinton, as things refused to line up with Bloor Danforth in a nice way. It also impacted Finch West and St Clair but for those I simply gave up and used mostly equal spacing between stations.
The hardest part of the map (aside from shoving Go lines in without them looking ugly - which they were anyways since none of them follow the street grid and like to make all sorts of curves) was handling the streetcar stations. I had station names for the Harbourfront portion... until I realized that there actually weren't any except for Queens Quay. I ended up removing the labels entirely. As for St. Clair, I went on Google Street View and got station names. I had to set them at an angle but it worked OK for the most part.
Definitely a challenging project but one I'm actually quite proud of. Should be able to accommodate the Ontario Line (or whatever relief line is eventually chosen). Definitely a great way to end 2020... though Mississauga still needs a map.
Project [27-0059] (2020 Dec - Ongoing) - MRA Mississauga-Brampton
After completing Toronto, the year ended with a bang with the completion of the Mississauga-Brampton map and therefore the completion of the Canada project (until London/Quebec City/Hamilton (RIP) get their rapid transit lines). This map wasn't too bad aside from having to make an unforgiving detour on the Kitchener Line due to the fact that it is at just enough of an angle to not work with my design. I did conveniently cut stations off as to not have to include Bloor-Danforth and the Toronto streetcar, but that does add more focus to the actual topic of the map.
Project [27-0060] (2021 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA Monterrey
As I dive into Latin America for real this time, I began with one of the larger cities. Three lines, decent informational resources, and up to date images on Google Streetview that allowed me to determine the actual station names printed on the Line 3 stations (Wikipedia.es, OpenStreetMaps, Urbanrail.net, and the Transport Politic, as of the start of 2021, all had conflicting data on Line 3's stations). Juárez was mildly infuriating from a research standpoint but once the research was compiled, it wasn't too bad. Monterrey was similar - there's no website for the metro but there IS one for the BRT system, which provided a geographic map of the entire network and which was very useful for building my own. Hopefully further cities won't be too bad.
Overall, not a difficult map to set up, and I managed to get Zaragoza nice and centered.
Project [27-0061] (2021 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA Puebla
Link: Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
Moving on within Mexico, I created a map for Puebla. Puebla introduces a few interesting challenges - first, there is an incredibly station-dense eastwards corridor and a southwestwards corridor, requiring shoving a lot of stations into a small space. Second, they have through service. There's a catch though - this through service is a reverse branch that only shares a portion of the Line 2 and is branded as part of Line 3 in all materials. In short, this is more similar to the through service I did in the Theria City map than anything else I've ever encountered - it's unlike Japanese through service where the physical line takes over all service branding and unlike end-of-line through service where most or all vehicles continue onto the other line. Due to these factors, I decided to show the through service as a branch. I think it works fine, though I don't have an opportunity to visit Puebla to see if the user experience at the shared stations reflects this.
Overall, a map with much more complexity than expected, but a pretty decent job given the five or six hours of Google Maps (Satellite and Street View) I needed to put into this to figure out the through service and paired stations + other interesting service features.
Project [27-0062] (2021 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA León
Link: León, Guanajuato, Mexico
Somehow, I had an impression that León didn't really have that big of a network. Well I was very wrong. Four phases of BRT expansion have given León a BRT network covering a very good chunk of the city, and their style was having services go between corridors, resulting in 10 core services across numerous BRT and partial BRT corridors (and some street running as well).
The official map does a fairly decent job, though some issues with the official map vs satellite footage and other data resulted in me including stations that aren't on the official map for Line 2 especially. I had to figure out where I was going to draw the line with mode switching as well, which was OK in this case since León's street running portions are fairly clean. Hopefully when there is enough demand to require dedicated infrastructure, it can be built.
For this map, I used Line 4 as my 'core', spacing stops out every 64 pixels horizontally and 48 pixels on the eastern portion. When I added Line 1 next, I used 48 pixels for vertical spacing, and that trend worked quite well until I was doing Line 6 and realized that I had forgotten a station on the Line 2 only section, at which point I had to work Lines 6 and 8 in with an extra station. It looks fine, I think. There were some challenges with text locations but surprisingly, it was a fairly clean job this time.
Project [27-0063] (2021 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA Guadalajara
The most difficult part of the Guadalajara map was the angles. None of the lines actually lock to a 45/90 grid, and so I had to do some adjustments. In addition, fitting in some text labels resulted in the city center being expanded quite a bit, but that's pretty standard for these types of maps.
Overall, an average difficulty map. Perhaps not my best work, but not my worst either. Will be interesting when the Periférico BRT opens.
Project [27-0064] (2021 Jan - Ongoing) - MRA Pachuca
Link: Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico
As I work my way through the smaller cities in Mexico, Pachuca stands out - it's by far the smallest city in Mexico not part of a larger metropolitan area to have a high quality bus rapid transit system and in that sense is similar to Fort Collins - one high quality line in a small city. Unlike Fort Collins however, the line is not straight, but it still follows roughly a single corridor. The map was therefore not too difficult to make.
An interesting anecdote about Pachuca is that due to its small size, I did a deep dive into every city in Mexico with a population larger than Pachuca in order to not miss any cities. Granted, I missed Guadalupe in the Monterrey area when making the page despite having explicitly written a note on it in the research document, but other cities also made their way onto the list of cities as a result.
P.S. If you're going to add a station off-line and name it after an existing station that is being renamed as a result, make sure you update your system map to reflect the name change. The Estadio Hidalgo/Central de Autobuses confusion was worse to wrap my head around than the 'feeder services only' station at Regina in Monterrey because of this.
Project [27-0065] (2021 Feb - Ongoing) - MRA Chihuahua
And the award for most deceivingly hard single line system goes to Chihuahua, with a convoluted system of one way operation in the downtown core, other segments of one way operation, and a city geography that screams for me to shove the legend in the top right instead of the bottom left.
In the end, I shifted things around a bit. The downtown portion doesn't align nicely, but then again it doesn't actually align nicely in reality either due to the fact that there is a differing number of blocks in between directions. Not the best work here but decent enough.
Project [27-0066] (2021 Feb - Ongoing) - MRA Querétaro
Moving forwards, I arrive at one of the stranger and more obscure BRT systems in Mexico. Two separate corridors on opposite sides of the city inaugurated at the same time, the system only works this way because both corridors are open busways. Open Busways are the hardest thing to show on my transit maps - reason being that it's not always the case that they have a predominant service. With Pittsburgh, there were predominant local services that covered the entire busway for the East and West busways, and I ended up only needing special treatment for the South Busway. With Hartford the 101 allowed me to show the entire busway as well as a brief off-busway portion. With Ottawa I only showed BRT corridors. But Querétaro is unlike any system I've done before - it fully embraces the open busway model. No service traverses the entire Eje Constitución de 1917 corridor, and very few traverse the Av. de la Luz corridor. And so showing infrastructure is the only way.
An interesting precedent for future work.
Project [27-0067] (2021 Feb - Ongoing) - MRA Mexico City
Due to the length of the retrospective, it's been moved to a blog post.
Project [27-0068] (2021 Mar - Ongoing) - MRA Acapulco
Jeez when was the last time I did a map for a coastal city? Does Toronto count as 'coastal'? Either way, the BRT in Acapulco isn't too complicated and the map took 35 minutes to make. Of course I decided to only show the trunk route, which simplified things. Either way, after the monthlong Mexico City project with lines opening during map production, it's nice to calm down a bit.
Project [27-0069] (2021 Mar - Ongoing) - MRA Guatemala City
I thought Portland was bad when it came to one directional service. I mean, I'm avoiding making maps of Russian tramway systems with this in mind, but... let's talk Guatemala City.
First, the obvious. The entire Transmetro network is filled with lengthy one-way routes, and they're almost never on paired streets - in some sections the different directions are up to five minutes walk apart. Add to this the fact that Google Street View coverage is negligible and Satellite view isn't exactly up to date/the best, and we basically have the worst research headache I've had when building a map on this website so far.
So let's talk about the official map. Firstly, there is no 'official' map at the current time, since the entire network is still ramping up from a complete closure during COVID and certain parts have just not reopened. This is in addition to the fact that they just opened new stations on Line 7 that were under construction. Secondly, the map that we do have is geographically incorrect, as in the places where lines cross relative to stations are completely different from what Google satellite view and the street numbers they've put on the map would suggest. Or well... it *used* to be correct. But then whoever put Line 7 in did it with the wrong offset - Line 7, which runs on Calles 4 and 9 in the city center, surrounds Parque Centenario (Calle 7) and Mercado Central (btwn Calles 5/6), not San Agustín (btwn Calles 10/11) and Correos (btwn Calles 11/12). This mess extends to Capuchinas and Colón, where it runs between the two, but the opposite than what's shown on the map - it runs north of Capuchinas (btwn Calles 9/10) and turns north directly into Colón (btwn Calles 8/9). Shifting it up would fix the mess. But alas.
And let's close with my least favorite part of this system - the obsession with having two way service on a section but only serving stations in one direction. I swear Plaza Argentina is in the middle of a two way busway but only serves one direction while buses skip the platform in the other direction. And Plaza El Amate is a similar situation, except I don't have visual confirmation on it and it's a transfer station (though service in the other direction is easily reached, so it's not too bad). Simeón Cañas is another in the category, though the station is clearly one way in this case. I've quickly grown to dislike my one way transfer icon because it's so small, but unfortunately the only other clean options are to physically show the stations on a one directional stretch (the solution I could have chosen but decided against using) or stating the direction. Oh well.
At the very least, maps are fairly smooth sailing from here on out until Guayaquil (unless there's some complicated non-Bogotá city I've missed in Colombia that has spaghetti for a BRT network).
Project [27-0070] (2021 Mar - Ongoing) - MRA Panama City
After Guatemala City, a system with three lines and no one directional operation was a pleasant change of pace. Not much else to say here - I simplified the geography a bit but it seems to work fine.
Project [27-0071] (2021 Mar - Ongoing) - MRA Santo Domingo
I got to work on Santo Domingo immediately after Panama City, marking what is probably the shortest timeframe in which I've released maps for multi-line systems. And, like León in the past, Santo Domingo's map worked really well with a clean grid. Most stations were 48px apart vertically and 64px apart horizontally, and I was able to get a clean and fairly simple design. Of course future lines may complicate this, but for now I'm satisfied that I managed to get this down in under an hour.
Project [27-0072] (2021 Mar - Ongoing) - MRA Barranquilla
I'll admit - the first time I ever took a look at Barranquilla's BRT system, I had absolutely no idea how it functioned. It turns out that the Wikipedia map just happened to make things more complicated than things were - there are three services branded differently depending on direction, with the first letter in the service denoting the terminal. It's a standard three terminal, three interlined service patterns setup that is the logical transfer-free service pattern for such a setup. And as for showing it... it's not too bad on the map either. A fairly simple project. But of course, Colombia has much more to offer as the country with some of the highest quality BRT and gondola lift systems in the world.
Project [27-0073] (2021 Mar - Ongoing) - MRA Cartagena
And so we return to complex port cities with a maze of islets and structures on the coastline. To be honest, it reminded me of Tampa when I was making the map. Either way, besides the geography, not much here was complicated - a single east-west line.
Project [27-0074] (2021 Mar - Ongoing) - MRA Manizales
The only way this map could have been simpler would have been if the network was one service in a straight line.
Project [27-0075] (2021 Mar - Ongoing) - MRA Cali
As I go deep into Latin America BRT territory, I face my second proper 'trunk lines vs services' dilemma. Up to this point, Barranquilla was the first time I had made a map where I mapped infrastructure with through running and where it actually mattered how I presented it (commuter rail networks where everything collapses into a single line don't really count), but with Cali (and future cities), the presentation is key due to a complex network. In the end, I chose to not show terminal bullets (or bullets in general) except for at the terminals where service ends. Hopefully it works, because Bogotá is coming up...
Project [27-0076] (2021 Apr - Ongoing) - MRA Medellín
As one of the most prominent cities in the world for public transportation, Medellín's geography is uniquely suited for high capacity transportation along a primary axis, yet it has so many other corridors that the map actually ended up being slightly more complicated than expected. That being said, although there may be a lot of individual lines and services, the gondolas only have a few stations each and so there are fewer stations than one might expect.
The difficulties in this map was futureproofing and research. Futureproofing for when they add another rail line on the east side of the river, and research due to the ongoing upgrade of Line 2 to BRT standard and the maligned slowly-progressing Line 3. Overall though, there weren't too many surprises making the map.
Project [27-0077] (2021 Apr - Ongoing) - MRA Bucaramanga
A one line network where geography had to be arranged quite a bit in order to fit the line in. However, it's only a single line, so not too much work. Although I doubt there will be any additional lines anytime soon, Giron and the city of Bucaramanga itself should have some space on the map.
Project [27-0078] (2021 Apr - Ongoing) - MRA Bogotá
My aim with Bogotá was to improve on what I did with Cali, showing all the possible operational patterns that were served by BRT services with the intention of making a service map afterwards. Little did I know that with a network this complex... the more interesting problems escalated quickly.
There was one main difficulty point - there are a lot of corridors, and they interact with other corridors in a variety of ways. Thankfully, Richard Archambault (@richardmtl) sent me an incredibly complex diagram of the actual trunk services, and I ended up having to redo half of the junctions I had already mapped due to inaccuracies on my part (I relied on an overview map that showed some of the trunk corridor through patterns but not all of them, and it was out of date). It's no surprise that navigating the system is *hard*, and the fact that TransMilenio provides a few 'easy routes' (Rutas fáciles) is very much necessary for anyone trying to use the network to not be turned away by the sheer complexity. In particular, there were a few routes that used one path onto a corridor, then used a reversing loop part of the way down (looking at you, C73/J73).
Overall it was a very fairly lengthy and complex but otherwise rewarding experience. Shoving the Metro in was its own set of worms (and I'm not sure how I'll put the tram-train lines in) but those will be further worked on as more information is available (i.e. once construction picks up).
Project [27-0079] (2021 Apr - Ongoing) - MRA Pereira
Finally, a multiline system in Colombia that uses services instead of zones! This map was... fairly simple, though due to station label spacing, the streets don't line up. I originally attached the addresses, as the official map does (albeit inconsistently) but in the end I opted for the cleaner option and removed them.