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Project: Amtrak Subway Map, 2016

2016 Amtrak Subway Map - Small

Click on the image above or here to view a large version of the map!

One of my longest-running projects is a subway diagram-styled map of Amtrak’s passenger rail network, with the original version dating back to 2010. I always made sure to update it regularly over the years, adding and deleting stations to keep it current. In April last year, I attempted to update the design of the map as well, although I ended up trying a few too many overly-clever things with it — overlaying lines on top of each other just because I was in love with transparency effects being the worst offender. The final result ended up being less than satisfactory, and I shelved the project while I worked on other things.

Coming back with fresh eyes almost a year-and-a-half later, I was able to be ruthlessly objective about what worked and what didn’t in that 2015 draft. The confusing overlaid route lines definitely had to go, but the new typography – using the superb Fira Sans – and larger route designation bullets were huge improvements over the original design. From this starting point, I set out with some clear goals for improvement this time around.

First and foremost was more intelligent, harmonious spacing of stations. Previous versions crammed some sections in very tightly, while giving far too much space to other parts of the map. The chief offenders for closely-packed stations have always been the Keystone/Pennsylvanian routes running west out of Philadelphia, all the Michigan Service routes,  and the Missouri River Runner between St. Louis and Kansas City – so I paid extra attention to these sections, ensuring that the minimum distance between stops on these sections was the same as that defined elsewhere on the map. For the record, the gap between stations on the Northeast Corridor was used as the “building block” for the rest of the map, and it’s been much more faithfully adhered to in this version of the map.

More intelligent spacing also helped a lot on the west coast. Previously, I’d spaced these stations relatively evenly from Vancouver, BC all the way down to San Diego. This looks nice enough in isolation, but it caused the split route lines in the Empire Builder at Spokane to take up way too much space – the three stations on each of these two branches were placed much further apart than any other stations on the entire map. Eastern Washington state is big, but not that big!

In this version, I broke the west coast into a “Pacific Northwest” section from Vancouver down to Eugene-Springfield, and a “California” section from Sacramento all the way down to San Diego. These two sections were spaced as tightly as their Northeast Corridor counterpart on the east coast, with the connecting rural Oregon/California section on the Coast Starlight being more loosely spaced to fill in the resulting gap between the two regions. This improved the spacing and visual size of the Empire Builder branches immensely, possibly the single biggest improvement on the map. I’d always used a similar approach on the City of New Orleans route right from the first version of the map, so doing this actually made the design of the map more consistent.

I also reworked the trajectory of the Southwest Chief on this version. It’s a little twistier than before, but it puts the Colorado stations in a better location relative to Denver, which I think is a spatial improvement.

Keen-eyed readers will have noticed that there’s a new Amtrak service shown on the map – the Winter Park Ski Train that will start running between Denver and the Winter Park ski resort this January! It only has one return trip each Saturday and Sunday (and on the Presidents Day and MLK Day holidays) through to the end of March, but it’s definitely exciting to add a new line to the map, no matter how short it is! The new purpose-built station at Winter Park will not be served by the daily California Zephyr, which will continue to stop just down the line at Fraser instead.

This version of the map also shows two future Amtrak stations – Hillsborough, North Carolina (opening 2020), and Arcadia Valley, Missouri (potentially opening as early as Fall this year) – as well as the “suspended” section of the Sunset Limited between New Orleans and Orlando. I put this last bit in to show that the map is intentionally designed to accommodate it, just in case – by some miracle – it ever gets reinstated. The potential extension of Northeast Regional service to Roanoke is a little further into the future, so it remains off the map for now (although it would be quite easy to add when the time comes).

As usual, your thought and comments are welcome! Prints are now on sale in my online shop from just $27: there’s a version that includes the suspended Sunset Limited track, and another that just shows the current services.

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Project: Streetcars and Electric Railways in Portland, 1920

It’s safe to say that I’m fascinated with the rich transit history of my adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon, and it’s certainly something that I’ve explored before in a previous project. This new project started out with a very simple goal – to produce a route map of Portland streetcars at their zenith in 1920 that showed each line separately – but it quickly grew into something much more.

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Quick Project: Montréal Métro Redesign

Montreal Metro Map - Large

Readers of my Transit Maps blog would know that I was extremely disappointed with the recent Montréal Métro map redesign (see the review here), which took a truly unique, iconic design and replaced it with a very ordinary octolinear imitation of itself. So I’ve taken it upon myself to redraw the map as I think it should look: restoring some elements of the previous maps, simplifying and clarifying the network, and adding some new touches all of my own.

First things first: I’ve restored the map’s most distinctive feature – the 30-odd-degree counter-clockwise tilt (older official maps had this at around 37 degrees or so; I’ve decided to use 35 degrees purely because it makes the maths easier). From a technical standpoint, this meant I actually drew most of the map using standard 90-degree angles, then selected everything and rotated it 35 degrees to add the labels and other finishing touches.

Note that stations are spaced to achieve even and harmonious spacing between labels across the map: this means that station dots on the shallow-angled parts of the map are placed further apart than those on the steeper parts. There was a bit of trial-and-error to get this looking right, but it was worth it in the end! It certainly helped to expand the crowded central part of the map.

Simplification! I’ve always disliked the two ends of the Green Line on official maps: they stair-step and wobble around in an overly complex manner compared to the simplicity of the Orange and Blue lines, so I simply straightened them out while retaining their relative trajectory. Similarly, the Yellow Line is now just a simple horizontal path – no kinked line here.

The routes of the AMT commuter rail lines have been straightened and simplified as much as possible, and care has been taken to only have these routes interact with Métro stations where an interchange is allowed. I’ve also taken the opportunity to introduce the official line colours for each branch in the directional arrows at the outer end of each route, just for a splash of brightness.

Labels have been set in mixed-case, which both enhances legibility and allows for larger text (substantially bigger than the current map). I’be also introduced line number bullets, which are placed consistently at the end of each route, and are cross-referenced in the legend at the bottom of the map. These bullets are reserved for the termini stations only, and aren’t used at stations where routes intersect. The interchange between lines is made obvious by the design of the map, and extra bullets at such stations would just take up unnecessary space.

The odd fact that all the elevators in the Métro system only serve Orange Line platforms allowed me to use a single icon for all of them, which works better than the official map’s two icon system, I think. The legend also states this fact explicitly, just to be sure.

Perhaps controversially, I haven’t included the St. Lawrence River at all. The more I worked on this map, the more diagrammatic and simple it became. In the end, the river ended up feeling too “busy” and became superfluous to my needs. If nothing else, its absence serves as a point of comparison between this map and the official one.

What do you think of the map? Leave your comments, critiques or corrections in the comments below.

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Project: New York Subway Map in the Style of the London Tube Diagram

New York Tube Map - Small



Click here to view a larger version of the map

A little while ago, someone asked me on my Transit Maps blog whether I had ever seen a map of the New York subway system in the style of the London Underground diagram. Rather surprisingly, I hadn’t actually come across one, so I decided to draw one up myself. Having just completed my own reworking of the Tube Map, I was already acquainted with its design rules and requirements, so this project didn’t actually take that long.

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Redrawn Tube Map – Out of Station Interchanges

Future Tube Map - OSI

Click here to view a large version of the map

One more post about my redrawn London Tube Map before I move onto other projects.

One thing that bothered me about the map as I worked on it was the way that no visual distinction is made between interchanges that are made within the fare control area – that is, simply moving from one platform to another – and those that require you to exit one station and re-enter at another nearby station, preferably by tapping out and then back in again with an Oyster card. There are many such interchanges in London, some of which are well-known and others which seem to be a deep, dark secret known only to the most seasoned of commuters. They’re officially known as Out-of-Station Interchanges, or OSIs, and they even have time limits defined to set boundaries for “reasonable” interchanges between stations.

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Quick Project: Accessibility on the London Underground


While I was researching my redrawn Tube Map, I stumbled across the above representation of the Underground as it supposedly appears to a wheelchair user. While it’s probably meant to be more metaphorical of the fractured nature of the network than a literal representation, I find myself infuriated by it. For example, the “map” really makes it appear that if you get on at Kings Cross St. Pancras (possibly the one truly accessible station on the Underground), you simply cannot go anywhere.

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More Design Notes on the Redrawn Tube Map

Wow! I’ve been completely blown away by the (mostly positive) response to my redrawn Tube Map. Thanks to everyone who has left me a comment or note – all of your thoughts help to inform future revisions to the map. There’s a few more parts of the map that I’m personally really happy with that I’d like to highlight in a little more detail than the already lengthy initial post allowed. Read on for the details!

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Project: Redrawing the London Tube Map

Back to Beck Tube Map

Click here to view a larger version of the map Or here for an alternate version with proper accessibility icons

See also: More design notes on the map, and showing out-of-station interchanges

London’s Underground Diagram (or “Tube Map”) has long been regarded as an icon of informational design, pioneering the way for just about every other schematic transportation map in the world since its inception way back in 1931. But how much of that reputation is actually deserved these days?

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New Vintage Map: 1931 Birds-Eye View of Berlin, Germany


After much work, I’ve finally finished digitally restoring another vintage rail transit map, this time a superb birds-eye pictorial map of Berlin, Germany in 1931. It’s full of awesome details (as you’ll see in some close up images below) and clearly shows the major railroads circling the city as red and white dashed lines, complete with little station sheds and labels for the major bahnhofs.

Prints for sale from $28 Zoomable Preview of Map

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Project: 1956 Paris Métro Map Digital Recreation

Long-time readers of my Transit Maps blog might know that one of my all-time favourite maps is this beautiful two-colour diagram of the Paris Métro from 1956. It’s stylish, beautiful to look at and easy to understand, even with just two printed colours — an elegant combination  of blue and gold. (The background could be a cream paper, or it might be just aged and yellowed white paper: it’s hard to tell!) While the scan from the original source is high-resolution, it’s oversharpened and not suitable for anything other than viewing on a screen. So — as is my wont — I decided to redraw it in Adobe Illustrator, making it completely vector-based.

1956 Paris Metro (2 Color)

Blue and Gold Map: Prints from $30

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Alaska Basin Sunset

Camera: Canon 7D
Lens: Canon EF-S 15–85mm f/3.5–5.6
Exposure: 5 seconds
Aperture: f/16
Focal Length: 15mm
ISO Speed: 100

View on Flickr
Society6 – Prints from $18

The Alaska Basin is a beautiful sub-alpine meadow in the Teton Range in Wyoming, USA. Sitting at an altitude of around 9,600 feet, it’s an 8-mile hike with 2,500 feet of vertical gain from the nearest trailhead to even get here. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to take this photo — with stunning sunset light striking the peaks above the basin — as the night before we arrived, there was thick cloud, freezing temperatures, snow, hail and sleet all night long!

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New Vintage Map: Bird’s-Eye View of Chicago, 1898

1898 Chicago - Large

I don’t normally give vintage maps that I’ve digitally restored their own blog post, but this one is just too amazing not to share in full detail. It’s an absolutely stunning bird’s-eye view of central Chicago in 1898 – just one year after the opening of the elevated Union Loop – and it has some of the most intricate detail that I’ve ever seen in one of these maps. Every building, factory, railroad station, streetcar, train, horse, tree and lamp post in the city seems to be shown with absolute precision and clarity.

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Zoomable On-line Previews of my Transit Maps

To say I’m excited about this is an understatement. Thanks to Stuart MacMillan — who very kindly spent the time to show me exactly how this all works — I’ve now implemented awesome zoomable, scrollable versions of many of my transit map designs here on the site. Serving large images on the web has always been problematic (especially when there’s more pixels in the image than can fit on the screen at one time!), and this seems to be the most elegant solution that I’ve seen so far.

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2015 Amtrak Subway Map – Revised Draft

2015 Amtrak Subway Map Revised Draft - Sml

Based on feedback from the first draft of this new version of my Amtrak as subway map, I’ve gone and made a few edits, additions and corrections.

The major revision is a reworking of the main section of the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington to make things a little clearer. I’m still using overlapping “multiplied route colour” lines to indicate identical service patterns, but I’ve broken the routes down into smaller, thematically linked groups: the three “local” Empire Corridor routes (the Empire Service, Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express); the three “inland” routes (the Cardinal, Carolinian and Crescent); and the three Atlantic Coast/Florida routes (the Palmetto, Silver Meteor and Silver Star). These groupings are reflected in the ordering of the route designation disks at New York Penn Station, and the terminus dot for each group displays all three route colours.

With the help of readers, I’ve located and added another three stations: the North Carolina State Fair (which, like the New York State Fair station, only operates for the dates of the fair each year); Lexington, North Carolina (which is only open for one day each year — for the annual Barbecue Festival held in October); and Hillsborough, North Carolina, which is slated to open sometime in 2015. I also heard tell of a Charlotte Airport extension of Carolinian and Piedmont services, but can’t seem to find a solid construction date for it, so it remains off the map for the time being.

The Hoosier State is back on the map, which did require a change in colour for the City of New Orleans, as otherwise the red California Zephyr line would have been directly above the similarly-red City of New Orleans line, making it look as if one long route extended through Chicago. I appropriated the Palmetto’s orange line colour for this, and made the Palmetto a new silver-grey colour to tie in with the two other routes in its thematic group (the “Silver Service” trains).

On this version, I’ve also included the now long-suspended section of the Sunset Limited between New Orleans and Jacksonville, just so you can see how it fits neatly into the structure of the map. Restoration of this service by Amtrak is extremely unlikely, and I would not include this segment on any final version of this map.

As always, comments are most welcome! Almost there, I think!

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Quick Project: Amtrak Timetable Redesign


After complaining on Twitter about how I found information in Amtrak’s timetables difficult to decipher, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and do a quick little redesign to prove my point. The brief to myself: it had to contain all the same information, use the same typeface (Frutiger), and fit in the same space as the original. Everything else was fair game, including colours, as the timetables are printed in four-colour brochures. However, I was more interested in making small, incremental changes for the better, rather than attempting a radical redesign. I posted the result quickly on Twitter last night and got quite a positive reaction, so here’s a more in-depth look at the redesign and the rationale behind it.

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Draft: NEW Amtrak Subway Map for 2015

Amtrak 2015 - Draft

Check out the revised second draft of this map here!

At the end of April 2015, Amtrak’s Hoosier State service between Chicago and Indianapolis is scheduled to be discontinued — the first complete loss of a service since I created my “Amtrak as Subway Map” way back in 2010. Over the years, I’ve been pretty vigilant to changes to the Amtrak network — adding and deleting stations as required, extending the Downeaster Line to Brunswick and the Northeast Regional to Norfolk — but a change of this magnitude gives me the chance to take a completely fresh look at this project and rework everything from scratch, instead of just tweaking the old diagram again. Let’s face it – I’ve learned a lot of new skills and tricks in the intervening years!

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New “Highways of the USA” Map – Hawaii

Highways of the USA - Hawaii

Disclaimer: this was produced for April Fools Day and is not an actual product in the “Highways of the USA” print series.  

Pretty much as soon as I finished my monumental Highways of the United States project last year, people started asking me why I hadn’t included the two non-contiguous states of Alaska and Hawaii, both of which do actually contain federal highways in one form or another.

To be honest, after finishing the giant map of the lower 48 states and then splitting that up into all the maps of the different states and regions, I was pretty much exhausted and needed a break from the project. After two years of intensive research and design, can you blame me? Fast-forward to almost a year later, and I finally feel that I can revisit those requests for the two “missing” states. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided against doing Alaska, as my maps only show existing signed routes. While the Alaskan “A” Interstates exist on paper and in funding budgets, there’s not a single Interstate shield to be found along the highways of that state. Also, Alaska is freaking huge, and there’s no way I’m drawing/simplifying all that crinkly coastline!

Hawaii is a different matter, however, as its “H” Interstates – all on the island of O’ahu – are very definitely signed. There are three “major” highways: H-1 through H-3, and one three-digit loop highway, H-201. The major highways don’t follow the same odd/even numbering conventions of mainland Interstates, but are just numbered in the order that they were funded and constructed. Together, the four highways total just 55.4 miles (89 kilometres) in length, but feature some impressive (and expensive) engineering, especially along Interstate H-3.

And for all you people asking how the heck Hawaii can have Interstate highways when they clearly don’t travel interstate, hush. In this instance, “Interstate” refers to the method of federal funding and the minimum standards that the highway must adhere to. There are plenty of intrastate Interstate highways on the mainland: I-97 in Maryland is actually wholly contained within one county. More information on Hawaii’s Interstates here on the FHWA’s website.

The map uses the same design conventions and is drawn at the same scale as my other Highways of the United States maps, although I’ve introduced some appropriately tropical colours for each of the highways. To give a proper sense of scale, I’ve included the entire Hawaiian archipelago.

I definitely recommend that you click here to view a larger preview of the map in order to fully appreciate the majesty of the vast azure expanses of the Pacific Ocean surrounding these tiny islands.

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Project: 1939 Map of Sydney Railways, Digital Recreation

1939 Sydney Trains Map (Digital Recreation)

Prints for sale from $27

If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, then H.C. Beck must have been blushing when this diagram of railway services in Sydney, Australia was produced in 1939. Designed just six years after Beck’s famous London Underground diagram first appeared, it mimics the original’s style almost perfectly, even to the point of using an almost exact copy of the  iconic Underground roundel on the cover. If nothing else, it shows how quickly Beck’s idea was adopted around the world.

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Download: New Orleans Letter Tiles Artwork

New Orleans Letters

Way back in 2009, I created a corporate identity for the New Orleans Tile Company, basing the logo’s letterforms off photographs of the beautiful blue-and-yellow 1920s ceramic tiles that can still be found spelling out street names around the city today. As I only required a small subset of letters for the logo, I never got around to completing the full alphabet. However, over the years, I have received quite a few requests for my artwork from people working on other New Orleans-related typography projects.

So, once and for all, here’s everything I’ve created – released into the public domain for anyone to use as they see fit. While you don’t have to credit me if you create something based on these letterforms, I’d sure like to see what you’ve made! You can use the site’s contact form to send a link to your work my way.

Download: Adobe Illustrator CS3+ .ai format  |  SVG 1.1 format

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Collections on Society6


In addition to the maps that I sell in my own online store, I also sell prints (and other products like phone and laptop cases) via the print-on-demand service, Society6. One problem with Society6 to date has been making all the photos I have there easily accessible – older work tends to just “disappear” behind the sheer weight of newer posts. I’ve tried to feature some of my favourite photographs on this site via the “My Photography” post category, but that can only do so much.

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Project: Prototype U.S. Highways Shield (1926), Digital Recreation

Pre-1926 U.S. Highway Shield

While doing research for my recent 1947 Interstate Highways map recreation, I stumbled across some scans (PDF link – 0.3MB) of American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) road sign specifications dated from the 1920s. The very first page has a dimensioned drawing of the then brand new U.S. Highways shield that I find extremely interesting, as it doesn’t quite match the the shield as it actually first appeared on real world signage in 1927. Some further research seemed to reveal that this drawing is of a design prototype (of a theoretical Route 56 in Maine) that AASHO discussed in meetings during 1926. The drawing itself is pretty rough, with dimensions that don’t match the actual size of the drawing and completely different shapes for each side of the now-familiar six-point shield, so I redrew it accurately according to the given dimensions in Illustrator.

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Project: 1947 Map of Interstate Highways, Digital Recreation

1947 Interstates Map: Digital Recreation

Prints for sale from $27

Having found and digitally restored the fantastic 1926 map of the U.S. Highway system,  I started to look around to see if I could find a similar map from the advent of the newer Interstate Highway network. However, all my usual sources (the Wikimedia Commons, the Library of Congress and other online research libraries) came up with either nothing or only low resolution scans — certainly nothing suitable for reproduction.

So, what’s a map-obsessed graphic designer to do in this situation? Why, redraw the whole thing faithfully from scratch in Adobe Illustrator, of course!

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Project: 1926 Map of U.S. Highways, Digital Restoration


A recent article on CityLabs commemorated November 11, 1926 – the day when all the old national road trails were first renumbered as the U.S. National Highways System that survives pretty much intact to this day. The article also featured this great map that was produced at the time, and a link to a very high-resolution scan of it over on the Wikimedia Commons.

Being a subject close to my heart (as this highway system is the basis of not one, but two of my “subway map” projects), I downloaded the map and began perusing it eagerly; seeing where the system had changed and where it remained the same. As I looked, I began to see that while the quality of the scan was good, and the content of the map was fascinating, the map itself was in a pretty sorry state. Basically, it looks like you’d expect an 88-year old map to look — dirty spots, fold and crease marks, ink that had rubbed off on other parts of the map when the map had been folded, and so on.

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Project: 2015 Sydney Festival Route Map

Sydney Festival 2015 Route Map

If you’ve ever been to Sydney in January, then you’ll know that the Sydney Festival is a big deal. Running for almost the entire month, it brings together the very best in the arts from around Australia and the world – music, dance, performance and more. So I was more than a little bit excited when I was commissioned to produce this thematic “route map” of highlighted events, to be used both online and in the Festival’s printed program/brochure.

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Project: McKinney Avenue Trolley Map (Dallas, Texas)

McKinney Ave Trolley - Current Service

Here’s a small project that was inspired by a message to my Transit Maps blog about the currently existing map for the McKinney Avenue heritage trolley line in Dallas, Texas. As you can see in the gallery below, it could use a little help. However, rather than review and criticise a map produced for a non-profit organisation (most likely by a volunteer or staff in their spare time), I thought that I would create a new, accurate, more user-friendly map instead. While produced as a design exercise for my own benefit, I’m hopeful that the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority (MATA) might consider adopting it as their official map.

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Mount Adams

Mount Adams

Camera: Canon 7D
Lens: Canon EF-S 15–85mm f/3.5–5.6
Exposure: 30 seconds
Exposure Bias: +1 EV
Aperture: f/13
Focal Length: 15mm
ISO Speed: 100

View on Flickr
Society6 – Prints from $16

A beautiful dusk view of Mount Adams taken from Tahklahk Lake in Washington state. My trusty 6x neutral density filter allowed me to extend the exposure out to a full 30 seconds for some lovely, rich colours and a beautiful reflection.