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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.


  1. I think most people hit the big ones. Line 1 (IT WILL ALWAYS BE LINE 1 DAMMIT!) east Papineau DOES stair-step. Drawing it straight out “east” (perpendicular to Line 2 (IT WILL …) is more honest than kinking it as was done here. You can argue that stair-stepping is too literal but you also have to somewhat reflect reality IMHO, even if you aren’t doing an actual map. The first kink, BTW, runs “north” under Harbor and Frontenac Streets which is *very* cool because the Montreal Street Railway’s (and Montreal City Passenger Railway’s before them) main shops were south of Ste Catherine, near Frontenac and Harbor.

    As for the proper heading for the two prongs of Line 2, remember that when you are “northbound” on a Montreal street, your compass reads about 301 degrees or so, because in Quebec, the land laid out under the seigneurial system used the river as the baseline – farms were laid out perpendicular to that. So even though in some parts of the grid, you are travelling nearly due north by compass, you are most assuredly heading towards the East End. It’s just the way it is. So 37 degrees west of north is more accurate, and matches the tilt of most of the STM’s (and predecessors’) system maps, even if it isn’t actually correct. It’s a diagram, not a map, I know, but it has to reflect reality.

  2. Well, Josh said what I wanted to say, I should have commented yesterday, ha! He covered my concerns with the Green line that I alluded to on Twitter. The loss of the river is a “lesser sin” for me as I mentioned, *but* Josh has a very good point about the differing fares there (although, the official maps have never shown that either). What you did to the Green line is unforgivable, though. 😉 Heck, I was annoyed when the official maps straightened out the kinks in the Lionel-Groulx to Côte-Vertu section too (I couldn’t find a picture of it, but this is a reproduction of it, with the Orange line extension added); your map is a lot more drastic!

    As for the Yellow line, I’d probably prefer it if it was heading at an angle downwards instead of jutting out the right like that; at least, that’s how I mentally visualize the geography of the line when I take it.

    One thing Josh didn’t mention is that the line numbers aren’t actually used anymore; they haven’t been on an official map for years now. I tried to find an image of one that showed the numbers, and was unsuccessful; the only one I could find was in Ovenden’s book, the 1st edition, that includes a picture of a map from 1978. If I had to guess, I’d say they were dropped in the mid-to-late 90’s. No-one refers to the numbers anymore, not even on the official site, that I could find. It may be that in the official technical documentation they still use the numbers, but it’s kind of odd to see them on your map again, from a local’s perspective.

    I find the odd colours on the interchanges a bit distracting. I prefer the bigger circles used on the official map.

    One last thought: I’d like to see the stations on the Orange line’s left section spread out a bit more, and Place-Saint-Henri is somewhat oddly-placed. I know that it’s like that on the official map too, but your map makes it seem really much farther then it actually is (and I know, I live in between the two stations, pretty much over the tunnel).

    Well now, I hope this didn’t seem too harsh! Pleasing a local who has strong opinions on transit maps is never going to be easy; yours is leagues better than the new one that they’re putting out. Kudos to you for giving this a shot, it’s better than anything I could do, for sure! 🙂

    • Richard, thanks for your thoughtful comments; it’s always good to get a local’s opinion on these things!

      Here’s a screenshot from Google Maps to give us a visual reference for future discussion:

      Google Maps - Montreal

      The first thing I notice is that the famed 37-degree angle is actually a lie. If anything, the map really needs to have the axis out to Cote-Vertu be the shallow side and the steeper angle should belong to the Green/Orange lines through the city centre. The other notable thing is that the river doesn’t neatly flow from the south-west to the north-east: its path changes angles all the way. And yet, in local parlance, downstream is always “east”. By the time the river gets to East Montreal, local “north” is almost directly due true west! Personally, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the top right part of the Green Line is really closer to true north than it is to north-east. Perhaps it would be less offensive an alteration with the river’s path shown alongside the route line for visual reassurance? Leaving the river out was something I intentionally did to provoke a reaction from readers, so I could certainly investigate reinstating it.

      One other thing the screenshot shows (over to the left in the informational column) is that the route numbers are still used in some capacity. As I understand things, transit agencies are responsible for uploading their transit data to Google in the GTFS format – schedules, route lines and route names – so it would seem that STM still uses the numbers at least as an internal route reference. I added them for the same reason that Toronto recently added route numbers to their transit map – to aid colour-blind users in identifying the lines easily. The Green and Orange lines look very similar to each other for such users, and the current official map doesn’t give many hints as to which is which!

      A few thoughts on my process for these redesigned maps. First, what do I like about the current map? These are “essential” elements that I’ll retain. For this map, it was the thick route lines and the (reinstatement of) the 37-degree angle. Then, what don’t I like? These are problems that I have to solve. Here, it was all-caps labels (blah!) and AMT lines passing directly through Metro stations they don’t interchange with (so confusing!). After that, it’s just like putting a puzzle together.

      I will say that a lot of design choices were made to make the map look deliberately different to the real thing. Yes, large interchange circles work well, but we already know that: let’s try something new instead! How can I show the AMT lines differently? I toyed with separating each line out into its own route line from beginning to end, but that just looked too busy compared to the simplified trajectories of the Metro. The splash of colours at the arrow end of each route just seemed like a fun little difference to the (too) dark grey of the official map.

      Exploring new ways of looking at things and new techniques (hence the transparency overlay when the routes intersect) is a huge part of these map redesigns for me. I’m not always right, but being wrong helps me learn as well!

      • Hey Cameron! Thanks for your explanations! I’d like to reply to one thing in particular:

        Exploring new ways of looking at things and new techniques (hence the transparency overlay when the routes intersect) is a huge part of these map redesigns for me. I’m not always right, but being wrong helps me learn as well!

        And kudos to you for experimenting! I didn’t mean to sound be overly negative, experimenting is definitely a laudable and positive thing! My reaction (to the new official map, and to your version) is more of a “don’t move my cheese” reaction, since I liked the now “classic” map (mid-2000’s) best. So again, I applaud your efforts, and I look forward to seeing what else you come up with! 🙂

  3. Benjamin

    Much nicer than the official map! I love it’s closer to the old version of the official map and its 70s look.

    In French, the legend would be:
    – Title: Métro de Montréal
    – Lignes de métro / Verte, Orange, Jaune, Bleue
    – Ligne de trains de banlieue
    – Légende / Correspondance, Station intermodale, Ascenseur (ligne orange seulement), Stationnement incitatif, Navette 747
    Also, you forgot the accent on “De L’Église” and it’s “Gare centrale” (not “Gare Centrale”) 🙂

  4. Nice map! Is the map future proofed for the future extensions (like the Blue Line to Anjou, the Orange line to Carrefour Laval, the Yellow Line to Longeuil, and the new light metro proposed?)

  5. Richard

    Nice. I especially like the clean line of the green line. A small correction, the elevators at Lionel-Groulx go down to the green line(it’s a different elevator but it’s there). I think the disclaimer is correct for Berri-UQAM though.

    One thing (apart from the black background) that made the old map stand out so much was the thick route lines. Yours seem a bit thinner and so don’t have the same impact.

    • Interesting, Richard… the new official map clearly indicates that the elevators at Lionel-Groulx only serve the Orange Line (note the orange patch to the right of the elevator icon), so it seems that even STM doesn’t know about this different elevator.

      The stroke thickness of the route lines is very comparable with the current official map; I think that the larger labels make them look thinner than they actually are.

      • At Lionel-Groulx, the intersecting lines share a platform. So, on the upper platform you have the Green line heading towards Honoré-Beaugrand and the Orange line heading towards Montmorency, and on the lower platform you have the Green line heading towards Angrignon and the Orange line heading towards Côte-Vertu. So yes, technically, the elevator does hit both lines on both platforms (because as the other Richard said, there is a 2nd elevator down to the lower platform), BUT you wouldn’t want to take the Green line in your wheelchair, as you wouldn’t be able to get out anywhere on the Green line. That’s why the map specifies that the elevator is only for getting to the Orange line: to prevent people taking the Green line with their wheelchair from Lionel-Groulx.

  6. Cam, great job! I’ve been RSS-subscribed to this, and your transitmap blog, for a good two years or more now. I was hoping one day you’d make it to the Montreal map. I LOVE all that you do!

    Having lived here for over 12 years now, it’s great to see the STM is making strides on all the re-branding and updating of the system. (the new map is AWFUL though) However, there are a few sticking points that I think many Montrealers would perhaps not like about your version of the new map.

    First, I understand why you did what you did with the east section of the green line, but there’s no way that would fly. The streets on the island of Montreal (and the island itself) are rotated just like the map, so that even when we say north/south, or east/west, we’re “actually” talking about NE/SW and NW/SE. In other words, someone may say “it’s north of the mountain” and while that’s true, it’s technically more west-north-west than north. I’m digressing. Anyway, the green line headed east does stair-step in real life, but services an entirely different community than the (too short) blue line headed east as well. Showing it on the map like you do would make the residents of the boroughs of Anjou and Saint-Leonard ENTIRELY too excited, as that part of the green line is actually nowhere near them. (but looks as though it ends up at the same horizontal latitude as the blue line, which they’ve been asking to be extended to their boroughs for years now)

    Second, the missing Saint Lawrence. I love simple maps, and of course agree that it’s cleaner without it. However, with it gone, a non-local user has no idea that the stations Longueuil, Montmorency, de la Concorde, and Cartier aren’t even ON the island. (and these 4 stations have different fares if you’re boarding at them and headed to the island.) So if you can’t show the river, at least I believe you’d have to differentiate those stations.

    Otherwise, I love it! The neon colors at the tips of the commuter rail lines are… odd, but certainly entertaining. And THANK you for restoring that 35-degree angle!

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