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!
(Note: it now seems that the Hoosier State will be saved, but its potential demise was still the impetus behind this new version of the map.)
Still, my first attempt at a new version proved to be a dead end as I experimented unsuccessfully with 30- and 60- angles. While it worked well enough in the Northeast Corridor, as seen to the left, it rapidly fell apart in the rest of the county, creating a lot of awkward and distracting angles. However, I did like the new typography — utilising the excellent Fira Sans, a huge improvement over the previous Myriad Pro Condensed — and the use of transparency where route lines crossed over each other, which led me on to my next idea.
One thing that had begun to bother me about the previous version was the sheer amount of routes that had to be shown along the Northeast Corridor. There are eleven separate services heading south out of New York Penn Station, and showing them all side by side both took up a lot of space and made the stopping patterns of those services difficult to discern. I hit upon the idea of overlaying services that had identical stopping patterns on top of each other, using multiplied transparency effects to layer the colours up on top of each other.
Out of New York, this condensed the eleven route lines down to a far more manageable four: the “all stations” Northeast Regional and Keystone sharing one line, the Acela Express and Vermonter their own lines, and all of the “long-distance” trains sharing the fourth line: these being the Cardinal, Carolinian, Crescent, Palmetto, Pennsylvanian, Silver Meteor and Silver Star. As these trains diverge toward their final destinations, their actual route colour is revealed, as can be seen here where the magenta Pennsylvanian and teal Keystone lines head east south of Philadelphia. Individually, each of these trains only has one departure daily or fewer (the Cardinal only runs three times a week), but the multiplication of their route colours up to a very strong black helps to imply how their combined service — with departures staggered throughout the day — is itself “multiplied” along the Northeast Corridor. I utilised this effect where appropriate across the rest of the map, except in instances where a line runs concurrently with another route for its entire length. Such instances would mean that line’s signature colour would never actually be seen on the map. In the image above, the Empire Service had to be separated from the Maple Leaf, as they both run with an identical stopping pattern all the way from New York to the Empire Service’s eastern terminus at Niagara Falls.
Another bugbear from the previous map was corrected this time around: getting the label for Chicago Union Station to fit next to the station itself, instead of having to use a line that pointed to the station from afar. Note also that the two-letter name disks for each train now also corresponds with the position each train occupies in the station, instead of jut being listed alphabetically as they were previously. This new approach is used across the map wherever two or more services terminate at a station.
Overall, I think that spacing between stations is now much more even across the entire map. The huge gap between Alexandria and Lorton on the previous version — a by-product of the huge number of lines in the Northeast Corridor that had to be shown — is greatly reduced, and there’s a much more harmonious, even flow all the way down the east coast from Brunswick to Miami. One of my favourite reworks is in Texas (left), where there’s lovely even spacing all the way from Oklahoma City down to San Antonio. I’m really liking the transparency overlay effects here as well. The whole map is simplified even more than before, eliminating unnecessary changes in direction: the Coast Starlight and Amtrak Cascades don’t take fiddly little curves though Oregon and Washington anymore, for example. Elements align with each other more purposefully than before: the three New England routes — the Adirondack, Vermonter and Downeaster — all have their northmost U.S. station aligned vertically with each other (not geographically accurate, but much neater in a diagrammatic layout like this). While it’s unlikely that Sunset Limited service from New Orleans to Orlando will ever be restored post Hurricane Katrina, this map allows for that possibility by setting up a straight horizontal line between New Orleans and Jacksonville, where the Sunset Limited used to join the Silver Service trains for the leg towards Orlando.
Research for this new map uncovered three stations that I never knew existed — two seasonal stations for the New York and North Carolina State Fairs, and one for large, pre-booked groups at the Col. Allensworth State Historic Park in California — as well as two stations that are due to open in 2015 – Holyoke (Vermonter) and Arcadia Valley (Texas Eagle). These have all been added to the map. There’s still more research and tweaking to go before this version of the map is finalised — I think some of the colours may need to be changed to maximise the overlay effect — but I’m pretty excited at the way things are progressing. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it as well – use the comments below or drop me a line via my contact page.Click here to view a larger version of the draft map