In episode two of our podcast, Nicole talks to Dr Max Roberts, lecturer in Psychology at the University of Essex, and transport author and informational design expert Peter Lloyd.

Dr Max Roberts is an expert in transport schematics, effective design and how to evaluate them using an objective methodology. He has authored two books on metro maps and conducted design and usability studies for transport bodies including TfL.

Peter Lloyd, meanwhile, has a background in information and software design. He is also currently documenting the complete history of the New York City subway map, with the first of nine volumes published in 2012. He is currently preparing ‘Diagram Decade,’ a trilogy of books on New York’s experiment with diagram maps which started in 1958.

Together, Roberts and Lloyd discuss the current crisis in metro map design.

As networks and their connections grow in size and complexity communicating this information effectively to the traveller becomes an increasingly complex challenge. The pair talk about the fragmentation of metro map design across the globe and the falsehood of infinite mental capacity.

They also explore the history of metro map design and design elements in London, Paris, New York and beyond. And discuss the geographic and diagrammatic design schism and how this has manifested in various cities around the world.

How to listen

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You can also listen directly through the internet via the embedded player below.

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There are 90 comments on this article
  1. Andrew L-A says:

    First of nine volumes sounds like an incredibly thorough treatment of a topic that many people might be surprised rated one.

  2. Fandroid says:

    It was interesting to hear that there are distinct groups of metro users who find either one map style or another suits them, but not both. Amusing to hear the later New York Subway map style described as ‘laundry list’.

    There was a fleeting mention of German maps which implied criticism. Those maps (different colour for every route) do also have route numbers, which as we have discussed ad nausiam, are simpler for newcomers to assimilate than names. Which leads me on to another point.

    Maps do not work in isolation. The information on the maps is complimented by visual information at the stations, on the platforms, and on the trains and then backed up by audio information on the platforms and in the trains.

    Berlin has a big public transport system, but the ‘transit’ map is fairly simple. That’s because it only covers the S-Bahn and U-Bahn plus limited information for the main airport bus routes like the TXL. There is a separate map for the trams (biggest system in Germany), and I haven’t yet found a map for the buses! ( except an online interactive one) The bus system is as big if not bigger than the tram system, with added confusion as some routes have an M prefix while others do not. The point is that one map cannot cover the whole of a complex public transport system. A compromise has to be made somewhere, the maps have to be split into several and that inevitably results in a diminution of the usefulness of the information.

    I suspect the Dresden transport map touches the limit of including all transport on one map. Even there, the S-Bahn is shown in a fairly inconspicuous way, with tram routes dominating, followed by buses.

    Although London is famous for its strictly diagrammatic Tube map, there are maps available for tourists which impose the Tube routes on a proper geographical map of central London.

  3. Greg Tingey says:

    This discussion struck me as surprisingly inward-looking, almost navel-gazing even, given the supposed expertise of the speakers.
    There was no mention at all of Edward Tufte.
    Which really, really surprises me.
    Maps that leave vital information out [ Two screaming examples in London, of course … ]
    The mention of advertising pollution was horrifying [ Not that we don’t have this problem – the Dangleway … ]

    Ah, yes.
    Could we PLEASE have links to examples of what’s under discussion – even it there’s far too much mention of New York & not enough of Paris or Berlin (IMHO)
    And including the different versions mentioned.
    I mean, an audio discussion of purely visual information – which brings me back to Tufte.

    “paper maps will become extinct”
    What utter, total cobblers.
    Theatre is still here, so is “film”, so is TV, so is the Internet / photography did not extinguish painting or drawing, did it …. to take parallel examples.

    AND …..
    HARRY Beck, not Henry ….

  4. Philip says:

    Berlin has whole-city geographical bus maps on major stops, but as far as I know they aren’t available to the public, probably because they would be illegible at anything other than full size. However, the Marco Polo city guide includes street maps with bus and tram routes marked.

  5. 3078260061 says:

    I have a “Berlin Route Network” map (text in German & English) from 2009, published by the BVG and the S Bahn and sold for 1.80 euros. Folded it’s the same size as one of the London quadrant maps , but has one more fold east-west when opened. One side is a street map at 1:50,000 covering the whole city with U-Bahn and railways overlaid and showing all bus and tram routes with route numbers, termini and stops. the other side has a similar 1:25,000 map of the central area (roughly enclosed by the S-Bahn Ring line), together with diagrams of the U- and S-Bahns and the 24-hour network (rail, tram and bus), general information on fares and tickets, operating hours and service intervals, routes to the airports and the Hauptbahnhof, facilities for the disabled, and a list of routes. I found it easy to use on the move, and one of the best of its kind

  6. Malcolm says:

    Greg says “‘“paper maps will become extinct” What utter, total cobblers.’

    This is rudeness, borderline censorable. (But not done this time, at least not by me).

    The view that paper maps will become extinct may well be incorrect, and Greg’s examples do indeed point towards such a conclusion. But other examples could be produced (Betamax, street directories, etc) to show that sometimes newer technologies do completely replace older ones. Other times they fail to do so. Yes, paper maps will certainly survive for a while (but nobody said they wouldn’t), and their ultimate lifetime is really a matter of guesswork, on which varying views are possible, and such varying views should be treated with politeness, even by those who disagree with them.

  7. Fandroid says:

    Here is a link to part of the Vignelli map of the New York Subway. It’s the purely diagrammatic one that solved the problem of semi-fast and fast routes by inserting a black dot in the coloured line that represents a single route.

    This apparently was unpopular. I wonder if the lack of popularity was due to the graphics. It doesn’t look good to my eye, but I think that comes from the line colours merging into one another and the low-key treatment of the geographical background. It is a bit mystifying that the users thought it wasn’t geographic enough. To me (someone who who last visited New York in 1974!) it clearly shows Manhattan, The Long Island boroughs (Queens and Brooklyn) and the mainland (The Bronx).

    For those as interested in the subject as I am (obsessed might be a better word) I commend Metro Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden. It is published in association with the London Transport Museum, so I hope this commercial comes within the moderators rules!

  8. Fandroid says:

    Here is a link to an article with an interview with Vignelli which includes the whole of his map.
    sorry about the long link but I have forgotten how to attach a hyperlink to a single word.

    I failed to say that each black dot coincides with a Subway station. Another drawback with the map is the minuscule font used for the station names. I wonder if the usual suspects have tried to make the Vignelli map work better by changing the graphics. Anything must be better than the later ‘laundry list’ maps!

  9. Malcolm says:

    Of course book recommendations are permitted here – nay, encouraged. Even if the recommender happens to be the author, editor, publisher, author’s nephew etc of the said book then this would still be allowed as long as the relationship is declared at the time of recommending. And the book being recommended should be related to the topic under discussion, of course, not just lobbed in at random.

  10. Greg Tingey says:

    One of the interviewees actually said he expected paper maps to cease.
    Oh, & Betamax was a bad example, wasn’t it, because it was (IMHO) a better format than VHS … err ….

    Ah, yes books …
    I mentioned Edward Tufte Start HERE
    How to display information clearly. ( And how not to, too! )

  11. Philip says:

    I am one of the people for whom the Vignelli New York Subway map looks like an absolutely incomprehensible spaghetti of lines. I think it’s down to the choice of having unique colours for every individual service – Roberts’ book includes a version changed solely to give services using the same main route different shades of the same colour and it’s hugely more comprehensible.

  12. Fandroid says:

    Philip. I think I agree with you. The Vignelli map looks interesting from a metro map enthusiasts point of view, but is probably incomprehensible from a users point of view.

    But it does illustrate one point made on the podcast – that there is a limit to the information that can be conveyed via one map. The bigger networks are already too big to achieve that.

    Does anyone know how the different services on the same line on the New York Subway are distinguished in terms of signs and announcements?

  13. quinlet says:

    I used the New York Subway extensively when I was in New York in the spring and got caught out more than once between local and express services. Signs and announcements generally just refer to ‘local’ and ‘express’ and rely on users knowing whether the stop they want is only served by local services or not.

    I found the Subway hard to get around on and I agree with Philip’s comments on the Vignelli map (though in general I preferred that approach to the current semi geographical version).

  14. Andrew M says:

    I agree on numbers being easier to use than names. For years when visiting London I would refer to “the red line”, “the blue line” (which one?) instead of Central or Victoria. I imagine many visitors still do.

  15. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – it’s been a few years since I visited NYC but I used the subway fairly extensively including going to some “hair raising” parts of some boroughs. Ignorance is bliss! There is pretty comprehensive signage and colour co-ordination. From memory a route number in a diamond shape is express and one inside a circle is a stopping service. That is replicated on the fronts and sides of trains. However looking at the latest Subway map and line specific maps shows other lines with peak express service which is not identified in this way. There are also sections which are similar to our 4 track sections with one line non stopping and another doing the local stops. The other way to identify stopping vs express was to listen for announcements but I failed to “tune in” to the New York accents used by train guards in particular. There was also the usual problem of them speaking very quickly so it became doubly difficult to understand. That’s not a NYC specific criticism btw – just a visitor finding it hard to tune into colloquial speech.

    The other thing I found immensely confusing was the shifting service pattern – lines go to different places at different times of day / days of the week. On top of this are the huge alterations at weekends due to engineering works. There wasn’t even stability between visits – the route pattern changed between my two visits. And let’s not forget the station naming convention where the same name can be replicated multiple times for different stations because of the grid system. The Subway is a fantastic system and I dare say you get familiar with it if you use it regularly but it was a steep learning curve even for a “transit familiar” person.

  16. Fandroid says:

    I don’t remember if he said it on the podcast, but Max Roberts has said elsewhere that he thinks that transport authorities should publish two versions of all their maps – diagrammatic and geographic. He has also said that hybrid maps are pointless. He has made his name by creating ‘wheel and spoke’ circular versions of many metro maps, including London and New York. However, even his seriously diagrammatic New York circular map includes geography to the extent of showing the coastlines of the various boroughs. We must recall the time when the former mayor (remember him?) ‘rescued’ the Thames on a new version of the Tube map. To me, it seems essential to have some sort of geographic ‘anchor’ like the Thames, or a coastline, to make any map fit with the reality on the ground.

  17. Max Roberts says:

    AND …..
    HARRY Beck, not Henry ….

    Quoting from Garland (1994) page 15:

    “Henry C Beck (Harry to his friends) …”

    I have also seen a copy of his birth certificate.

    Not having the audacity to declare myself a friend of Beck without his own permission, I choose to call him Henry as a mark of respect.

    That sort of error does go to show that there is a distinct possibility that other assertions may be opinions rather than genuine facts.

  18. anonymous says:

    Re Henry vs. Harry. I can only recall (over the last 60 years or so) Beck being referred to as Harry. Max Roberts quotes Garland as saying that he was ‘Harry to his friends’ but Garland gives no authority for this statement. Is it possible that this is another example of ‘assertions [that] may be opinions rather than genuine facts’?
    On a quick re-read of Garland the statement on page 15 seems to be the only reference to Beck as Henry. Elsewhere (including alongside the picture on the facing page 14) he is uniformly referred to as Harry, even to the blurb on the back cover.
    The companion volume to Garland (Underground Maps After Beck, Capital Transport 2005) by Maxwell J Roberts consistently refers to him as Henry and this has always jarred with me. To my mind and no doubt to many others he is Harry. Strangely, Christian Barman’s biography of Frank Pick does not mention Beck at all.

  19. Timbeau says:

    @ anonymous

    “Frank Pick”

    Or maybe that should be Francis?

    In that bygone age it is most unlikely either of them would be addressed at work by their given names. It would have been “Mr Beck” and “Mr Pick”. Senior staff might drop the “Mr” when speaking to more junior staff.

  20. Fandroid says:

    I might modify my idea that diagrammatic maps always need some sort of geographic anchor. Those cities with a central rail loop of some kind- London and Berlin are the most obvious, have already got a feature that shows where the city centre is. I’m fairly sure from memory that Berlin’s map has no geographical background info on it. Also, the smaller systems where a few lines exist, all roughly meeting near the centre, don’t really need that ‘anchor’ either.

    For examples of really tricky maps, it’s worth looking up those for Stuttgart (based entirely on diagonals) or Tokyo. For the latter even the version with western script for station names is mind-boggling.

    London’s Tube map is still just understandable, even with DLR and the Overground. However, it’s likely to be tipped over the edge of comprehensibilty once the south London NR lines join the Overground. Briantist’s fine effort on a previous thread demonstrates that problem well.

  21. @anonymous, Timbeau et al

    As Timbeau so aptly states, the first names of Underground people in bygone ages is quite immaterial. So we shall henceforth curb the discussion on first names. LBM

  22. XCountry Runner says:

    I’d like to see the Watford DC Line pushed into a tunnel … [SNIP]

    [Sorry, but this is not a site for fantasy railway suggestions. Malcolm]

  23. Greg Tingey says:

    I disagree.
    I have no problem with the map that used to be called “London Connections” …..

  24. Malcolm says:

    Greg: there is a big difference between a map which works displayed on a wall (at size A0 or larger), and one which works in other contexts (e.g. portable or displayed inside a vehicle).

  25. Si says:

    The key avoidable issue with a TfL rail map (lets call the tube map what it really is) post-turning South London Orange is that the map will be full of Orange. The key issue stopping an easy to digest and understand map is a network that is massive and (in places) rather complex – there’s no way you can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

    Obviously that’s no excuse to make it terrible, but whatever happens, it’s not going to be that pretty.

  26. Si says:

    As for geographic markers, like rivers, I would argue that they aren’t necessary for navigation, but are justifiable ‘clutter’ as they provide a reassuring comfort blanket (cf the outrage when TfL removed the Thames from the diagram).

    Of course, adding them means that people treat diagrams as geography, rather than a diagram optimised for navigating between two locations. Hence why there needs to also be geographic maps.

  27. Fandroid says:

    Both Malcolm’ s and Si’s comments are appropriate regarding the full Overground map that is displayed inside the trains. It is so squashed up and distorted that it’s close to useless as a map. Being all orange and having zero regard to geography wrecks its usefulness entirely. Some colours would surely help there!

  28. Fandroid says:

    Greg. You (and I) probably have no problem the (formerly known as) London Connections map, but we are far from typical public transport users. I have a fairly good knowledge of the rail system already, as I am sure you have, but a relative newcomer to London would probably find it all very bewildering. That said, the overall system is complex, and nothing apart from a lot of unaffordable engineering would get close to simplifying it.

  29. @Fandroid, Malcolm, Si

    Use of single and double hollow orange lines would help distinguish between radial (eg Lea Valley, Watford DC) and circumferential (eg ELL, NLL, WLL, SLL) Overground lines, giving some differentiation of crossing lines. Of course, the Dangleway would have to change colour on the Tube Map, or better yet dropped from it altogether.

  30. Fandroid says:

    TfL missed a trick when it specified the Overground trains. There are no visual display screens, just the same old dot matrix displays. Even when it started, it was known that the Overground would rapidly grow into a fairly complicated set of lines. The purpose of the system maps must be to show where the interchanges are, and what the further travel opportunities are, as there are already single route maps on the trains which give clues as to next station and destination. A screen could not only show specifically which route the train is on, with all its stops, but show where the train is now and its direction of travel, together with information relating to potential interchanges further along the route. Sorry to be boring, but route numbers would help enormously in conveying that interchange information. Trying to introduce individual colours for individual Overground routes would crazily confuse anyone who already knows the Underground route colours, but numbers would help a lot in making use of screen space and still keeping the line complexity down to a minimum.

    The podcast talked about interactive screens at New York Subway stations, but screens on board showing real time info would be far more useful.

  31. Philip says:

    I’ve read elsewhere that the New York Subway can’t even have modern time-to-arrival screens on the platforms because the signalling system is so primitive.

  32. David McDonald says:

    Could you please post examples of the maps they are discussing? Find this podcast incredibly interesting but frustrating not been able to see the maps they are discussing.

  33. RichardB says:

    I acknowledge the problem posed by a surfeit of orange lines on the Tube map as London Overground acquires more lines but there is at least one map produced by Sameboat which has attempted to square the circle about using colour to differentiate the additional lines. Hong Kong based Sameboat provides this map at the following location.

  34. Steve L says:

    I would suggest that network diagrams don’t need to be geographically accurate, but they do need to be geographically approximate.

  35. Anonymously says:

    It amazed me on my most recent visit to New York that many stations (even ones within Manhatten) didn’t have next train indicators on the platforms. Given the complexity of the system (which has elements of a suburban railway as well due to all those variable semi-fast services, rather like the Met line), and the confusing present map, it is a wonder more tourists/casual users don’t get completely disorientated when deciding whether the approaching train is the correct one to take them to their destination!

    If the Overground ends up taking over more lines in South London, I really don’t see how they can be included on the current pocket Tube Map without it becoming an incomprehensible mess. Shrinking the London Connections map as an alternative wouldn’t really work either. Perhaps a separate Overground map (on the reverse side of the Tube Map), with or without separate routes shown using letters/numbers, would be better?

  36. Malcolm says:

    Anonymously: The area of London train maps is bedevilled by weird ideas. But putting Overground on the reverse side of an Underground map must be up there with the weirdest of them. Considering how many journeys require (or at least benefit from) combining U with O, and considering that the best way to prevent simultaneous inspection of two maps is to put them on opposite sides of the same sheet, my mind has not yet stopped boggling.

    At least when the Ordnance Survey unwisely decided to print some 1:25000 maps on both sides of the paper, they did at least represent adjacent areas there – though that is hard enough when navigating up a road that meanders from one side to the other.

  37. Anonymously says:

    But Malcolm, other than the central terminals, the number of interchanges (even including out of station ones) between Underground/Overground/Wombling Free (sorry, coudn’t resist) isn’t that many. And for those, wouldn’t a clear symbol (akin to the BR Double Arrow logo) on the Tube Map be sufficient to highlight where an interchange exists? I take your point about the reverse side map though…..maybe an adjacent map them, as long as it doesn’t become too unwieldy to handle.

  38. timbeau says:


    Because the two networks are really part of a whole – it is only a historical accident that the Metropolitan, for example, is part of the Underground rather than the Overground, with which it shares many features. (Let alone lines like the Northern City)

    A mere representation of an interchange is of no use without knowing where the Overground line goes – just look at the northern end of the Victoria Line – how can you tell which station is the right interchange for Barking, which for Stratford, which for Enfield, which for Hackney, and which for Chingford?

    The bus map used to have it right – central area (roughly Zone 1) on one side and smaller scale map of the whole of London on the other.

    Double-sided OS map: the way to find out where you are: if you are in a Force 6 gale, you have reached the edge of the sheet and will have to reverse the map, (which means opening it right out first).

  39. Anonymously says:

    @timbeau….Actually, the Met has far more in common (semi-fast services, runs well outside of the London conurbation etc.) with one of the mainline railways, than it does with current Overground services. The historical accident was that the Met Railway was incorporated wholesale into LT in the 1930s, when perhaps it would have been more logical to split away the Inner Circle and associated lines from it and merge the remainder (Baker Street northwards, and perhaps the GN&CR) with one of the Big Four (probably the LNER).

    If a mere representation of an interchange is so pointless, why has it been used for decades on the Tube Map to indicate mainline rail interchanges, instead of putting *all* mainline rail services on the map and doing away with a separate London Connections map? Before the other lines were added to the map, one might never have realised that the northernmost six stations on the Victoria line had interchanges with *separate* BR rail services on completely different lines! However no one seems to have made a fuss about this at the time for the reasons you now point out?

  40. Fandroid says:

    Online journey planners have, to some extent, reduced the need for network maps. However, what those maps do provide is a chance to see at an extended glance the journey possibilities that are available. That means that interchange possibilities are very important, and on a complicated network, are the big headache for map designers.
    Online maps haven’t really developed all that well, except as providers of layers of additional information, and it takes a bit of skill and practice for the reader to master those too. If journey planners showed edited extracts from the map of the whole local public transport network connecting desired start and finish points, that would go some way to overcoming the problem of too much information on one map. After all, when looking for journey possibilities between say St Psncras and the Royal Marsden hospital in Sutton (a realistic journey for me), I have no need to see any of London’s transport network west of Paddington, east of Liverpool Street or even north of St Pancras.

  41. Timbeau says:


    The “interchange with (unspecified) British Rail” were never of much help anyway. Either you knew, say, Barking was on the Tilbury line, in which case the existence of an interchange didn’t need spelling out, or you didn’t, in which case the mere existence of an interchange, with no mention of what services were available, is not enough information.

    There is an exception where the interchange is with a mainline station with a different name, e.g. Tower Hill for Fenchurch Street.

  42. quinlet says:

    “other than the central terminals, the number of interchanges (even including out of station ones) between Underground/Overground/Wombling Free (sorry, coudn’t resist) isn’t that many”
    I counted 42 interchanges between the Underground and either Overground and/or national rail services outside the central area and excluding central terminals. Interchanges between Overground and national rail would, of course, add to that total. It is, perhaps, a consequence of the separation between the maps showing the Underground and the other maps of London’s rail networks (at least before the Overground came into existence) that so many of these suburban interchanges are overlooked as too many people think only of the central London termini as interchange points.

  43. Greg Tingey says:

    I despair of journey planners, when either deliberately ( e.g. during the XXXth Olympiad ) or accidentally ( incompetence or oversight ) perfectly reasonable routes & interchanges are ignored & the user is “instructed” to take utterly impractical routes.
    This has happened to me many times with TfL’s current offering.
    To the point that if I do use it, I often “force” it to give me times along a (pre)selected route, by breaking it down into it’s individual sections & then making a serial set of enquiries.
    Which defeats the whole object of the exercise, if you do not know your London as well as most of us do ….
    What it’s like in other cities, I dread to think

  44. Greg Tingey says:

    There’s also the problem about OSI’s
    Classic must be 7 Sisters – S Tottenham in “Normal” times, or Brixton or Balham or …..
    Or tourists, who I have (several times in the past) told to “walk” ( Queensway / Bayswater & Holborn or Leicester Sq, rather than Covent Garden etc …)…
    Spatially relevant or geographic? Is the recurrent question – what (was) the actual layout in Königsberg & how was the problem resolved, using a nodes-&-edges diagram comes to mind.
    Back to Tufte!

    [This one got in before my promulgation was published. We do not really want to go through OSIs yet again. I think we all know the issues. PoP]

  45. Greg 09:18,

    That is because your mindset is different from most people. You are seeking the optimum solution. In real life where most of us live we are seeking a solution that is good enough. If you are making a journey once in a strange city, or maybe one you just are not sufficiently familiar with, then you just want a workable solution. As you say, if you know the city and its public transport network well you probably wouldn’t bother with Journey Planner anyway.

    Also the “less good” solution is often the easiest to describe and follow. I often end up giving directions in central London. Usually I preface my instructions with “this isn’t the quickest way but it is the easiest way to describe” and people seem much happier with that. Even for a journey from Victoria to Wimbledon, I would recommend the Underground as people are generally more familiar with the Underground and it can be done without a change of train.

    Warning: I know people will want to provide loads of counterexamples. There will always be some but, in order not to expand on this subject at length (yet again), I will delete them.

  46. Malcolm says:

    Some of the discussion here seems to see the issue of the geographic accuracy of maps as an all-or-nothing question. It seems to me that this is far from the case. Even the standard tube map has most sections of lines in approximately the right orientation – which is not the case for the weird in-car Overground maps.

    And certain “you-are-here” maps displayed in the street in London are beautifully accurate extracts from a standard street map except that they fail to respect the “north at the top” convention. Which I find utterly discombobulating, but other users may differ.

    Even the so-called gold standard maps (Ordnance Survey and others) display geographically highly-inaccurate road widths.

  47. quinlet says:

    “certain “you-are-here” maps displayed in the street in London are beautifully accurate extracts from a standard street map except that they fail to respect the “north at the top” convention”
    Legible London did a fair amount of research before concluding that, for most people, especially those unfamiliar with the city, it was better for straight up to be straight ahead, rather than North. This is, at least in part, because for those unfamiliar with London, the difficulty is also deciding which isNorth from where you are standing. Even if you are by the river, the temptation is to think that the river runs east-west whereas in many places (such as by County Hall) it actually runs north-south.

  48. Malcolm says:

    quinlet: I am glad to learn that the maps I find confusing were done after adequate research. I really only mentioned them to show that the issue of “geographicality” of maps is multi-dimensional, complex, and what suits one user in one context will not suit other people or other situations.

  49. The first thing I was taught when learning how to read a map was to orientate the map with the ground. Clearly if the map is permanently attached to a great big post you can’t do that so it has to be pre-orientated for you. The only reason you have north marked on the map is as an aid to the orientation process. If that process is unnecessary then marking where north is serves no great purpose though it may provide a comfort factor for some.

  50. Malcolm says:

    Strictly speaking it is impossible to orientate a map which is to be used in a vertical position, whether before or after it is affixed to the great big post. Some people take naturally to a convention where “up” on the map represents the direction in which you are looking when looking at the map. Indeed the research to which quinlet refers suggests that these people are in the majority. It is just a majority which doesn’t include me. But similarly if I am sitting in the passenger seat of a car driving south, I get no benefit whatever from inverting a map, something in which I also appear to be in a minority.

  51. RichardB says:

    I think we have to accept that people are different in terms of how they use maps to orientate themselves. I think on balance I prefer a northerly orientation but generally I am agnostic. Good design is what counts and on this point I would take issue with those who complain about the complexity of the London Connections map. As someone who has lived south of the river since Christmas 1975 I had to accommodate myself to the irrelevance of the Tube map when planning railway travel in South and south west London. I seized upon the various iterations of the London Connections map which has appeared over the years and found it pretty good. The current version is quite usable and whilst I do accept there is always scope for improvement the manner in which the various TOCs services are distinguished by colour is helpful. I accept that this means all the various branches served by a TOC use the same colour but I am not convinced that the alternative of using one colour (orange) together with line or service numbers would be an improvement. The integration of the railway lines with Tube line services on this map is another bonus.

    I may be in a minority in liking it but frankly if TfL achieve their aim of taking over the suburban services some variant of the London Connections map will have to adopted and will ultimately supersede the Tube map in its present form.

  52. quinlet says:

    I too, generally prefer a map with the orientation of north as up, but I recognise that it’s only a minority of us who feel comfortable as map literate.

    Apropos the London Connections map, I remember getting into trouble with Dave Wetzel in about 1982, in a meeting with Tony Ridley, then MD of the Underground, by suggesting we abandon the Tube map in favour of a London’s railways map. While that didn’t go anywhere at the time, it did lead to an early prototype of the London Reconnections map being produced by map makers at their own initiative.

  53. timbeau says:

    @Richard B
    “the manner in which the various TOCs services are distinguished by colour is helpful.”

    It is, but it would be more helpful with a bit more detail. SE’s services, for example, would be more readily understood if the former LCDR lines (to Victoria/Blackfriars) and former SER lines (to Charing Cross/Cannon Street) were differentiated.

    Conversely, some maps show all services to Victoria in one colour, which is equally confusing as between the ex-LCDR and ex-LBSCR routes (the line is most definitely NOT immaterial!)

    Once the Blackfriars/LBG link re-opens, there seems little point in differentiating Southern’s London Bridge services from Thamelink core services via LBG – the former would simply be short workings of the latter.

    But however it’s done, it will always resemble a big bowl of spaghetti.

  54. Anonymously says:

    @RichardB……As a fellow South Londoner, I completely agree that some version of the London Connections map is very useful and will always be required for us Tube-deprived brethren. My point was whether using this *in place* of the Tube map (which is what it will virtually be if Overgroundisation of South London happens) would work. Remember that not only does it need to work as a pocket map, but also in other places where the map is used (diaries, A-Zs, mugs/t-shirts/bed spreads/other tourist tat etc.), which must earn TfL quit a bit from all the licensing fees.

  55. Fandroid says:

    One of the interesting things about diagrammatic metro maps is how they create a desire among the graphically minded to ‘improve’ them. An earlier post provided a link to one created by a Hong-Kong based designer. Max Roberts himself has had a go at many system diagrams. It seems to be a never-ending challenge for lots of people. Perhaps, as a psychologist, Max Roberts himself can explain this.

  56. Greg Tingey says:

    Fandroid & Alison
    That Hong-Kong-based map would die instantly if the two “missing links” [ W Hampstead – Elephant + N-City line ] were added.
    I think we need a modernised, probably curvilinear “London Connections” map, with routes defined by originating termini, not TOC ( probably) – the exception being a reversion contra Lady Bracknell

  57. Fandroid says:

    Greg. Your forgot to use your magnifying glass. Thameslink is there, but it’s a very fine pink line. The Northern City is not, but if added as an equally invisible fine line, it wouldn’t add much clutter (or usefulness!). It’s just another of those many attempts to ‘improve’ the Beck-based map. No-one takes them seriously. That’s because they are just reshuffling the same information with tweaks on curves and diagonals, and not actually adding any clarity. The Beck-based map still works. It’s a tribute to his successors.

  58. NickBxn says:

    Regarding London’s map, and all its ‘issues’, as far as I’m concerned, it’s “job done” by INAT
    This map is hard to beat, and includes different shades (and numbering) of Overground. The NY one is also very good.

  59. Greg Tingey says:

    Nick Bxn
    That is very good, isn’t it?
    Needs slightly more saturated colours, but otherwise, as you say ….
    ( IIRC there are a couple of minor errors that could be easily corrected )

  60. timbeau says:


    That’s certainly a good one, although the three colours used for London Bridge and Victoria services on Southern, and for Tramlink, should be chosen to contrast more.

  61. Fandroid says:

    I agree that the INAT is a good one. However I think that the numbering of the Overground is a wasted opportunity. The graphics of this map, and the graphics of the official maps already show the distinctions between these separately numbered routes. Numbering them like this adds no more useful information. I could imagine real service numbering based on the same general system. ie Overground 1 could be divided into 11 and 12, Overground 4 into 41,42,43 and 44, Overground 5 into 51,52 and 53, all reflecting the varying terminating stations. However, it’s still a bit pointless unless the trains and platform displays showed the numbers as well!

  62. NickBxn says:

    The pastel colours is an interesting issue. I agree that they look a bit too weak, but when I printed the map to A3 paper, they came out surprisingly well, and the whole thing (including what’s usually the South London plateful of spaghetti) was as easy to read as the Tube pocket map, and much less cumbersome than the larger London Connections map. I think that adoption of this map would alter people’s travel perceptions and options.

    The authors also address the issue raised on the podcast about having common elements across different cities and countries making for easier navigation by visitors – INAT have an interesting array of maps in the same format. Some work better than others in my mind. Whereas London feels very comfortable, their Munich one isn’t quite there yet, mainly due to slightly too much expansion of the city area U-bahn lines to the detriment of the wider ranging S-Bahn lines, which actually form more of a significant backbone of the overall network and how the transport in the region flows. The geographical distortion in some instances is to the extent of, in London’s case, making termini like Aylesbury and St Albans look further south than Cockfosters and Stanmore. The official map has also found enough colours to treat both modes equally, though on the other hand the number of lines through the S-Bahn core means that it’s only 3tph to the outer branches. All fascinating stuff.

  63. Anonymously says:

    The INAT London map is nice (the NYC one is even better), but has two problems IMHO:

    – Including all the parks/green spaces seems like unnecessary clutter to me….thoughts?
    – The way zones are indicated by tiny, inconspicuous numbers next to the station names! I accept that the way they’re shown on current maps isn’t that much better, but surely their must be a better way of displaying this information clearly and unambiguously?

  64. Anonymously says:

    Also, the geographical distortion is not too bad compared with the older London Connections maps (before it was changed to align with the Oyster card zone) and especially the London and South East rail map (which until relatively recently seemed to think that Exeter, Worcester and Hereford were in the South East!!!).

  65. Malcolm says:

    Maybe the zone numbers are not ideal. But it is refreshing to see how much less cluttered the map looks compared with maps which do show zones as differently shaded areas, with plenty of complications where zones ‘overlap’. And labelling the stations with a zone number (rather than labelling the ground they stand on) does emphasise the fact that there is no answer to questions like “which zone is the Tate Modern in?”. (And that, while no station is currently in three zones, a station could be put in three (or more) zones if such was ever required.)

  66. John U.K. says:

    I like the map and like the parks – though, for example, Hyde Park could come closer to Hyde Park Corner!

    One essential element seems to be missing – a key?

  67. Timbeau says:

    Exeter, Worcester and Hereford were the limits of Network South East’s services, and thetefore Gold card validity, so that is presumably why the NSE map went out that far.

  68. Anonymously says:

    @John UK…..I was going to point out the lack of a key as well, but then realised that the relevant information is indicated in small text next to the relevant lines (e.g. if you look at the District Olympia shuttle, there’s text next to the branch with the hours of operation). I’m guessing a key wasn’t used because with the number of lines and colours used on the map, it would end up somewhat large?

    @John UK….Well, if you must include the parks, you may as well include *all* of them (Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens are all missing!).

    @Timbeau….NSE disappeared over 20 years ago, but those locations remained on the map long afterwards. And I’m not sure the associated railway cards (Network/Gold etc.) were valid to as far out as Hereford? It only bugs me since as a child, it confused me no end that Exeter on a real map was located so far to the west than seemed possible from the NSE map!

  69. Greg Tingey says:

    Map areas re “cards”
    Very confusingly, there is still a ghost NSE area which is different from the Gold Card Area
    Click on the links to see the difference in areas covered, which is quite significant

  70. Fandroid says:

    Greg. Your link shows the Network Railcard area. I don’t think that it’s very confusing at all. For large numbers of ordinary passengers who are not annual season ticket holders it is just a map showing the validity of a popular discount card. That it extends as far west as Exeter and Worcester is thought of as a nice bonus. Network Southeast as such has become just a bit of railway history for us nerds to talk about.

  71. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – not confusing when you consider the reality. The Network Card area is NOW different to the Gold Card area. This is because ATOC / RDG restructured the area and services the Gold Card area applied to. It was expanded a couple of 1-2 years ago but Virgin East Coast services are no longer in scope. It is therefore entirely correct that the maps are different and there’s nothing “ghost” about the Network area. It is simply today’s representation on a validity area as Fandroid says.

  72. Greg Tingey says:

    Not confusing to us, but probably confusing to others?

  73. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:


    Re NSE

    I couldn’t help noticing that Network South East is alive and well and living at Essex Road station.

  74. Si says:

    The inclusion of parks on the INAT maps is part of the standardisation. They’ve relaxed a little, but the philosophy is to have all maps have the same features. The park addition is due to the NYC map looking lost without Central Park and so every map a park added (the London one initially only having Hyde Park), and now some parks as it makes little sense to just single out one.

    The parks ‘have’ to be rectangles, and initially Hyde Park was at an angle and so Lancaster Gate was away from it, so it looks like they changed the snapping from the Piccadilly line to the Central line, meaning Hyde Park Corner (and Knightsbridge and South Ken) aren’t near it, rather than Lancaster Gate and Queensway.

    This over-standardisation is my biggest bugbear with what are very decent maps.

  75. Greg Tingey says:

    NSE racing slugs still visible at Biggleswade (!)

  76. Graham H says:

    @Greg T – glad to see the correct terminology! Ghost slugs still visible at Bank.

  77. Purley Dweller says:

    I’m pretty sure they are at Redhill too.

  78. Anonymously says:

    There’s actually a whole website dedicated to NSE ‘survivors’ (! One wonders if there are similar BR ‘survivors’ elsewhere in the country….

  79. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    Thanks for the link to the NSE survivors site, very interesting. I’m thinking that some of the stations have had the TFL-Rail branding and London Overground branding applied to them since the photos were taken.

    I do think it’s very odd that the “Great Northern Electrics” line stations that are in London travel zones 2 (H&I and Essex Road) have never been re-branded. It seems very odd that they could be overlooked given the London valuable “creative industries”.

    It’s odd the way these things happen isn’t it.

  80. Graham H says:

    @Anonymously – not to mention the occasional reunion of its former senior management… [And then there are the artefacts such as the East Grinstead electrification glass or the NSE vase; there was also a tie although, for some reason at which we can only guess, staff were reluctant to wear it publicly].

  81. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Briantist – not that odd really. That line has been the forgotten line for many years. As Peter Hendy has been quoted as saying “TOCs aren’t interested in inner suburban services” and seemingly neither is the DfT. If there are no obligations requiring modernisation then it won’t be done. To be frank I have no issue with the NSE tiling and colour scheme remaining there – it’s serviceable and the tiling is in reasonable nick. Things like the cross track walls and lighting could probably do with attention and I’ve not been along the Network Rail owned passenger corridors at Essex Rd / Old St for a long time so don’t know if they need work. The last thing anyone needs is people faffing around with paint and branding every 7 years. Decide on a scheme, implement it and then clean / maintain it in accordance with good asset management techniques. That will keep things looking smart and decent for years.

  82. Anonymously says:

    @WW….And if that isn’t a strong argument (amongst many) for a TfL/Overground takeover of the Northern City Line services, then I don’t know what is! It is rather striking that NSE paid enough attention to it to rebrand the line in NSE livery, but that none of the subsequent franchisees (at least four, I think?) have done anything to it in the past 20 years….

  83. Fandroid says:

    Back on topic!
    I just noticed today that the big paper Tube map displayed at stations now shows Tramlink! It has shown the DLR and the Overground for some time, but as from the May 2016 edition south London’s (almost) forgotten TfL rail-based transport has been remembered
    It’s shown on the key as ‘London trams’.

    I wonder why it took so long.

  84. Malcolm says:

    @Fandroid: Indeed. Diamond Geezer (see also surrounding posts) covers this in some detail.

  85. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anonymously – not really an argument to be honest. The valid arguments are whether TfL could find an operator who can do a better job than Govia and whether TfL could find the money required to raise service quality and service volume. There are constraints on the route and Thameslink will affect the ability to do big things. Therefore we need to look beyond tiles, branding and maps and consider the fundamentals. There are no magic wands to getting better rail services. You need money, talent and a whole lot of slog to improve things.

  86. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    ” ‘London trams’. I wonder why it took so long.”

    I would venture that it might be to act as a framework for the up-and-coming new Thameslink services. Thinking back to the London 2050 map I did for LR, if the proposed Thameslink trains were going to be added to the “Tube Map” (due to the high-frequency core) then you would certainly want to have Bechenham Junction, East Croydon and Mitcham Junction on it already.

    It makes no sense to have one high-frequency Zone 1 crossing service (the Liz Line) shown on the tube map and not the original one (“Crossrail 0”).


  87. Anonymously says:

    @Briantist….Perhaps it reflects some as-yet unexpressed aspiration of TfL to revive/propose new tram schemes within the capital? If not, then it really would make more sense to call it ‘Croydon Tramlink’ (or perhaps ‘South London Tramlink’).

    @WW…..You’re forgetting that any TfL service would be run as a concession, with set minimum standards that any future operator of the line would have to adhere to. Therefore, if TfL decided to set a level of service in excess of what is provided any the moment, then QED there will be an improved service compared to the current one. But I accept your other points as to why this may not be feasible for the foreseeable future.

  88. Fandroid says:

    Anonymously. If TfL did have some unexpressed dream of more tram systems, then saving that colour line on the map for trams in general and labelling it ‘London Trams’ would look like serious future-proofing!

  89. Dr Roberts has been busy, here is a link to his recent ‘Map-Induced Journey Planning Biases for a Simple Network: A Docklands Light Railway Study’ paper.

    Reading this, I was hoping for a clear preference to one of the four DLR network maps to result from this testing. But nothing of the sort is stated in this paper – they appear to avoid indicating anything of the sort.

    Perhaps the fact that most of the test subjects will have already known the existing DLR network, it might be more objective to use random station names, or even a different, imaginary network, to test the map principles under investigation here.

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