Sunday, June 27, 2010

Making a Subway Map VI

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

Long Island City. This is an awful area. Look at the old map.

The most ugly part is that mess above Queens Plaza. But that's not the only part that is a twisted, congested mess. To some degree, this is the fault of the Transit Authority's practice of what I feel is excessive merging and diverging. The Queens Boulevard route (above and to the right of Queens Plaza) is the worst case in the whole system. But it is my job to make this as reasonably understandable as possible.

I showed you last time my first stab at re-drawing this. Here it is again.

So what do we have here? First of all, there is a change in the real system: the light green line now ends at Court Square all the time. I am still not sure that will last, so I wanted to draw the new map to allow for it it to run on to Queens Plaza.

I was able to eliminate the awkward dip of the orange line to the right of 21st St station, but I introduced a different squiggle on the orange and blue line to the left of 23rd St / Ely Ave. I don't like little reverse curves. It pretty much says "I couldn't get this to line up". Maybe it's necessary sometimes, but I don't like it.

As I mentioned last time, the arrangement to the right of Queens Plaza, while satisfying in some ways, was not quite right. Here is the next change I saved.

Changes to the purple line and railroad in the lower left let me get rid of the kink in the orange and blue line. The cluster of stations around Court Square is also better. There was just not enough room there before.

You can see above that the railroad is about to hit the name of Queens Plaza, and that I still had problems with the way the purple line was going to cross the multi-colored Queens Boulevard line on the right.

Several manipulations later, here is the next one I saved. I had simplified the purple line, and moved the location and name of Queens Plaza to better positions, and started resolving the relationship of the various lines on the right.

This was starting to look good. I had enough room for all the names, and the lines were getting simpler. The four grey railroad lines in the center were excessive.

I spent some time on the area right above Queens Plaza. I had wanted the blue line to be below the orange line, but a simple solution was blocked by the grey railroad line (the Long Island Rail Road route to Grand Central, under construction). Could I turn the grey line to run down and to the right? No, it would hit the name of Queens Plaza. I drew the orange line making a little reverse curve just enough to run above the blue line. I didn't save that for you, but it didn't look good. So I ended up with the blue curving ninety degrees there, passing over the horizontal orange line and under the vertical orange line. It's not ideal. But the alternatives looked worse.

It ends up like this.

That's not bad at all. Considering how crazy the train routings really are, this looks pretty clean and simple.

The last big thing is Jamaica. I just started sketching this out on Saturday. Essentially, the horizontal from Long Island City meets the diagonal up from Brooklyn. But I had shortened it on the old map, to save space, by bending the horizontals as they got near Jamaica.

My half baked idea now is to bend the horizontals much sooner. One reason is that changes I made so far have put the horizontal lines farther up, and the diagonal farther down, so that they'd meet even farther to the right.

Below, see how it might work out. On the black sketch line for the brown line, which has a lot of stations, I even put station circles to make sure they wouldn't be too close together. This looks promising, so I think I will try to draw this during the coming week.

Someone asked why I do this. For fun? The feeling I get from this is similar to the feeling I get from working out a crossword puzzle, or the feeling I get from writing a computer program. It's something about going over the same details repeatedly until I get a result I like. Of course there is no precisely correct way to translate the subway system into the controlled space of a diagram. I just need to find a way that I consider pleasing. Then I can put it out of my mind and work on the next section. And then I can not think about it until some change in train routings years from now forces me to re-draw some section. I have to make myself stop at some point.

Continued: Making a Subway Map VII.

1 comment:

  1. I really love your map, Joseph! It's probably become the best alternative to the standard Map the MTA uses available on the internet.
    If you need a little inspiration on straightening things out, you could always take a look over here.

    Best regards,
    a fellow map maker ;-)