The map is not the terrain
June 16, 2017 11:48 AM   Subscribe

If you've ever tried to walk from one subway station to another based on the nicely squared-off map of the routes, you may know that they don't correspond perfectly to actual geography (nor are they supposed to). Here's a series of animated illustrations that show you exactly how far off the transit map is from the real world. Pay particular attention to Austin's.
posted by Etrigan (26 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
So. Rotterdam. Neat city. But I kinda think somebody should have told them about their transit map...
posted by entropone at 12:02 PM on June 16


This is so awesome. Tangentially, I remember a friend and I setting off on a quick stroll to the ocean in San Francisco based off of a tourist map, which of course had compressed the western edge of the city that didn't have many transit options like whoa.

We walked for hours.
posted by knownassociate at 12:04 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Wow, London looks like a heart beating.
posted by Night_owl at 12:16 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


No illustration for Chicago, because it's on a grid.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:20 PM on June 16


Montreal's is surprisingly close!

Here's a non-gif slidy of Boston's.
posted by maryr at 12:26 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Really sad that Boston wasn't on there. I'm sure it's not all to scale, but I do like that our maps have the B,C, and D lines separating, and then coming back together near Cleveland Circle, where they all have stops within 1 block of one another, before diverging (or terminating) again.

Really surprised Vienna even squares theirs off, given that they only have a few lines.
posted by explosion at 12:27 PM on June 16


Does Paris' map look weird to anyone else? I remember a lot more 45 degree angles. Does it include the RER lines, maybe?

This is what I'm used to seeing.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:28 PM on June 16


So neat! Does anybody know if they try to scale it so that apparent distance on the map equates roughly with travel time? (Because, eg, the closer together the stops are, the slower the effective speed)
posted by jcreigh at 12:36 PM on June 16


Chicago is always excluded from these sorts of things. I assume it's because it's one of the few transit maps that just makes sense.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:39 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


No illustration for Chicago, because it's on a grid.

This seems to be a common belief and point of pride or something? I'm not familiar with Chicago transit but this 2009 map is not the same graphical platonic ideal as this 2006 representation. The redditor who put together Vienna was thinking about making a conversion. (a few "Chicago is a grid!" comments there which is why I ask, and on preview here too).

Really sad that Boston wasn't on there.
Boston. Because reddit hasn't discovered that tags are a thing you can maybe discover by whacking city + "vs" into search.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:43 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


That didn't work for Los Angeles. I'd like to see LA's rail map given the treatment.
posted by linux at 12:46 PM on June 16


The number of things I have to say about the inadequacy of the Austin rail system are many, but to be fair that's not a map of the system. It's the schematic of the stops of the one line, just like you see above the doors on a Tube carriage or most other public transportation systems. They're always in a straight line, always going horizontal (if this were a map, the rail line would go vertical or at most diagonal like \, because Austinites would think of it as a north-south line), and only show which stops come in which order without respect to any geographic details. This is Cap Metro's actual map of the rail line.
posted by katemonster at 1:07 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


So neat! Does anybody know if they try to scale it so that apparent distance on the map equates roughly with travel time? (Because, eg, the closer together the stops are, the slower the effective speed)

Probably not. In a typical transit system you're going to have your longer inter-station distances out at the end of the lines, where you can actually put the stations closer together on the map because you don't have to worry about positioning them so as to transfer with other lines.

Really surprised Vienna even squares theirs off, given that they only have a few lines.

Vienna also has a nice squashed-down map that fits in the wide, short space above the door, which is pretty cool if you don't know your way around and also don't know German so you can't tell people "excuse me, I need to see the map". See for example this blog post.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:13 PM on June 16


They didn't even bother with Toronto's:

---U---
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:20 PM on June 16 [7 favorites]


Vienna also has The Old Lady Of The U-Bahn.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:22 PM on June 16


Boston

Weird. Wonder what map they used, because when I think Boston, I think of this one, which includes the B/C/D convergence I mentioned above.

That gif is also transfixing, because the animation moves the South Station bend all the way up to become the Porter Square bend. It's almost like Boston was a little too close, so they decided to add more unnecessary movement.
posted by explosion at 1:41 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Take a look at this guy's efforts: mini-metros
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:48 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Also, here's a plan of the Roman Empire roads as a subway-style map
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:50 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


I noticed there were several where the animation moved bends around and then makes new bend where it used to be, and other unnecessary movements. Oslo's and Berlin's pull apart some lines and then puts them back together. Shanghai's uncrosses and recrosses some lines.

I figure that's because whatever tool they're using doesn't have good reference points on those maps. The animations which include the stations work much better because the tool can use them to help translate from one map to the other.
posted by ckape at 1:54 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


leotrotsky, the weirdness of that Paris rendering came up on Reddit where this was originally posted. Long story short he started with some strange Wikipedia map. The nice thing about it is it's in a vector format, which makes the warping to geography easy.
posted by Nelson at 2:15 PM on June 16


Austin doesn't have a subway.
posted by shockingbluamp at 5:28 PM on June 16


The approach seems to vary. For some (London) the outer edge is held while the centre expands and contracts, for others (Washington) the centre is held while the outer edge expands and contracts. Or am I not understanding the principle?
posted by Segundus at 5:55 PM on June 16


Austin doesn't have a subway.

That you know of.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:05 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Wonderful, thanks for posting.
posted by Rash at 9:52 PM on June 16


Yes, the "Paris map" used here is someone's personal work, done in the style of those highly stylized maps used in other countries. The official map (for intra muros Paris) is actually quite faithful to geography, with some pinching and stretching (see: evolution of the Paris metro map since 1914).
posted by elgilito at 6:44 AM on June 17


Wonder what map they used, because when I think Boston, I think of this one, which includes the B/C/D convergence I mentioned above.

That's because the Boston animation uses the current system map chosen from a 2013 contest. You're thinking of the more geographically reflective 2009 map. The 2013 redesign loses the Green line convergence and the Airport loop, but makes room for the labeling of all above ground Green Line stops (we're looking at you, B line) and makes major bus transfers clearer. This web page archives maps from mbta.com from 1997 through the website overhaul in 2009.

The 2009 map is what I have in my head too.
posted by maryr at 1:55 PM on June 21


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