Sunday, June 6, 2010

Making a Subway Map III

[ I started writing about the new version of my subway map in progress here in Making a Subway Map I in May. ]

Last time I was still hung up on the 149th St junction in the Bronx, but I got it to my satisfaction, and with about six hours' more work I finished the borough.

It needs a little touching up. I want to fine-tune the location of station names, and check the whitespace between parallel lines, and make sure the lines and curves line up exactly. But it's done well enough to leave for now. Later I will continue the mainline railways some distance into Westchester.

I really like that grey for mainline railways now. It looks good. In the future I will say that I always knew it was the right way to go. I ended up using a double line when there are more than two tracks for passenger service. The station circles are the same ones as on the subway lines. The station names are smaller and without the italics I used previously.

I left out the old map background in the image above, so I probably need to point out the few changes. Firstly the Bronx is a little taller than it was before, mostly to avoid the crowding on the line to 241st St, and the green lines on the right run a little farther to the right. The end of the orange at 205th St now turns to the right, which is geographically correct but also looks good.

I've given some vague thought to making underground and elevated lines look different, possibly with shadowed lines for the outdoor lines. I'm still not sold on the idea. If I do it, I think I'd better apply it to the mainline railways too, which are mostly outdoors.

On to Brooklyn. This is the Big Deal of the map redesign. I've been unhappy with the tangled mess of downtown Brooklyn ever since I did the old map. Fifteen years is a long time. So the rest of this essay today is about me working my way to a solution that I'm not sure I have found yet. I've saved images of some of them so you can see what I'm going through.

The biggest single problem is De Kalb Avenue, a unique six-track station. I can thank the cutbacks for reducing six colored lines to five, but I suspect the extra line will come back sometime in the life of this map and will plan accordingly without actually drawing it in.

On the old map I put the bypass track on the lower left side. That was done mainly because the station name did not fit on that side. Other than that, it would really be clearer to put the bypass on the upper right side, so I started off trying to that.

What is really the biggest problem is a triangle formed by the orange and yellow diagonal down to De Kalb, the horizontals coming in from Manhattan, and the orange vertical. It's just too small an area.

Here is the first one I saved for you, which is already hours into my work. I'm sorry I didn't save any earlier version so you could see the tentative lines I started with. (This one has the palimpsest of the old map showing through.)

The idea here was that all the lines would cross the East River as diagonals. This would drop the red, yellow, and green lines to a lower position and give me some more room for the station names. I also have the orange and blue vertical line a little to the left of its old course.

This opened up enough room to get the De Kalb Avenue name in there where I wanted it. I thought the yellow route from Whitehall St to De Kalb was a little awkward. The yellow and green lines would both bend halfway across the East River (shown by narrow red lines). The red, blue, and orange lines would bend just above or below their river crossings.

This was better than the old map but not quite what I wanted.

After a series of changes, I straightened the yellow line, by lowering it and the green line, making them horizontal again. This involved some changes in lower Manhattan. By this time I also fixed some of the transition curves, notably the diagonal approach to De Kalb Avenue.

There were two problems remaining. I started to think the East River should look wider. I also started thinking about the Second Avenue Subway running downtown, and even though that won't happen for a long time, making room for it worked together with the idea of the East River being wider. So I wanted to push the Brooklyn area down and to the right.

So I went back to the idea of everything crossing the East River on a diagonal. Below, the Second Avenue Subway is drawn in a thin red line, which will not be there on the finished map. I had to give up that nice symmetrical thing at the upper end of the Manhattan Bridge (the orange and yellow near Grand St), but that let me push Second Avenue station to the left, which is good.

Below, it might not be instantly noticeable, but all of Brooklyn is now down and to the right from where it is in the previous map. The new awkwardness is the bend on the orange line near York St station. It's not great but I think it will be all right.

Once I have downtown Brooklyn worked out, I'll probably do southern Brooklyn, northern Brooklyn, and Queens, in that order. Then New Jersey. Then carry mainline railways out to the borders. At the end I'll check the overall layout, indicate the part time services, put in the water features, and check all the details.

Continued: Making a Subway Map IV.

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