Sunday, August 29, 2010

Making a Subway Map XII


I wrote:
Once I add Newark Airport, I'm done drawing lines!

OK, well, here's that:

Not much to it. Actually, I also moved the diagonal (just barely seen at upper left) of the Raritan Valley line a little upward to make this fit and keep station D3 above North Elizabeth station.

By the way all the examples this week are at 200% size.

Supposedly that would be the last lines drawn, but it wasn't. I took a look back at some of the earliest portions I drew and I wanted to space out the stations better. My concern was a few areas that looked more crowded than other later portions of the diagram.

The first target was the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I decided the Broadway line (red) and Eighth Avenue line (orange and dark blue) were too close together and that shifting the Broadway line to the left would improve two diagonals.

Here's the area running from 50th St to 72nd St. I think it looks better now.

It almost looks stretched up and down, but it isn't. 59th St and Columbus Circle stations are slightly lower than before, and the distance to 66th St and 72nd St looks greater because the diagonal is longer.

This also shows the new dashed line treatment for sections under construction, on the purple line west of Times Square.

The same shift improves the diagonal of the dark blue line between 145th St and 168th St.

That always looked a little crowded to me. Now it makes sense.

There's another area in the Bronx that I didn't like the looks of. It's the combined red and green lines from Jackson Ave to 241st St. I didn't want to stretch it vertically, which meant the only way to make to open space was to create some diagonals. Such diagonals were justified by the real routing of the lines. The solution I have adopted adds five curves, which I am not completely happy about, but I do like the result and I will probably go with it.

Optical illusion: it looks as if I stretched it left and right, but I didn't. The grey railroad lines you see have not moved at all, except for a slight move of the diagonal through Botanical Garden station.

The first diagonal from the bottom, Jackson Ave to Simpson St, starts to open up the distance between stations. The next jiggle to the right tends to set off the important station at East 180th St, and also allows opening up the distance between stations from Bronx Park East to Gun Hill Road.

Here's the entire diagram as it is now, much too small to read, just to show the overall layout.

That's it for this week. I needed to get all the lines final before I try to draw water features, which will be next.

Continued: Subway Map XIII.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Making a Subway Map XI


The answer was in northern New Jersey.

I've spent the last few weeks messing around with the suburban railroad portion of the diagram. Sometimes I feel like this has taken up way too much time for what is supposedly a diagram of the subway lines, but other times I remember that one of the things that makes my diagram different is that it shows more than the subway itself. People have mentioned that to me.

For this version I wanted to go a little farther out than before. Metro North is pretty simple, since it's just three lines with a series of stations. But in Long Island and New Jersey the lines intersect each other and branch out different ways before settling down to separate simple lines out. I thought it would be useful to include those areas. Beyond that seemed less necessary.

I kept having trouble with scale. Unfortunately I did Metro North first (see Making IX) and really compressed it, spacing the stations similar to subway stops. I tried to model Long Island on this and quickly ran into trouble because the position of many of the lines was determined by subway lines in Queens. I could compress station spaceing running outward from Flushing, Hollis, and Valley Stream, but the branches needed much longer gaps because for example the Far Rockaway branch had to reach down to the subway Far Rockaway, and the Hempstead and West Hempstead branches had to come close at their terminals. The difference in spacing looked wrong, but I left it while I thought about it.

The first thing I tried to do in New Jersey was the Morris and Essex. I think I sensed that it was the most amenable to compressed station spacing. I was determined to try that on all sides. I started realizing there was a problem with the Northeast Corridor line and Staten Island. I wanted definitely for Perth Amboy and Tottenville to come near each other, but even though the Staten Island Railway deserved subway station spacing, any reasonable positioning of Staten Island would still stretch the station spacing on the corridor to an extreme.

I kept putting off the northern New Jersey routes, the Main, Bergen, and Pascack Valley lines, because I had never worked out a good arrangement for them. They run more or less north parallel to Manhattan, and if I wanted to give any idea how their position relates to Manhattan, they needed to stretch too, just like the Corridor did down south.

But this led me to the solution. I just needed to put the stations farther apart all over. What if I used spacing similar to the subway lines only where the railroad stations really were a mile or less apart, like the subway, and put in longer spacing elsewhere? Not to scale, but suggesting scale.

With this in mind, over the past week, I finally got them all into shape. Let's go around the clock, starting at Westchester. (As usual, click to enlarge. These are all at 50% size.)

I re-drew the New Haven line. It used to run straight diagonal, from New Rochelle, but now I think you get a better idea that it's roughly the same distance between the three lines (and precisely the same distance on the diagram). The stations are no longer evenly spaced, but they are relatively correct against each other. For example, Dobbs Ferry, Scarsdale, and Mamaroneck are shown as about the same distance north, just as they really are. It's not to scale, but to relative scale.

On to Long Island.

I'm very happy with this now. The branches to Far Rockaway and West Hempstead now look like they belong with the other lines. The greater spacing beyond Mineola reflects the truly greater spacing between stations out there. The worst exaggeration is still at the first few stations on the Oyster Bay branch, but it's not wildly different any more.

New Jersey, south, and Staten Island.

Staten Island is now positioned pretty well, with the key points being St George in relation to South Ferry and Bayonne, and Tottenville in relation to Perth Amboy. I like it.

The Morris and Essex line still has its justifiable close station spacing out to Maplewood, and then it starts to open up a little. The distance to Summit is about right compared to stations on the lines below it.

New Jersey, north.

Look at that. First check: the Main and Montclair lines, lower left, look good in relation to each other. Clifton is the closest station to Montclair State. I allowed wiggly routings for the Main and Bergen lines, left side, to keep them right in relation to each other and to the lines on either side. The Pascack Valley is located well halfway between the Main and Bergen lines and the Hudson River (the temporary red line on the right).

At the bottom: is it tempting to see the Meadowlands branch and the end of the light rail at Tonnelle Ave as pointing toward each other? Routing the light rail to the Meadowlands has been proposed, to reach the stadium and the ill-fated mall (formerly Xanadu), although the latest plan is to run the light rail north on the old Northern Railroad line to Tenafly. I have room to add either routing without moving anything else.

Once I add Newark Airport, I'm done drawing lines! I'll need to add water features and that's it for the major work. Then I will go over all of the station names and get them properly positioned, which is boring and won't make an exciting post, but it needs to be done.

I am not planning to show subway letter and number markers. I am not even sure I will mark part time service but I'm still on the fence about that. Those will be the last things I do.

Continued: Making a Subway Map XII.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Coming Down the Mountain


I haven't gone up the mountain since June.

The mountain. I walk and run for a while, and then as dawn comes in, I go up a switchback dirt trail that rises almost 300 feet to the top of the Watchung Ridge. It's loose rocks, bedrock outcrops, and tree roots all the way. A year ago, I stopped twice on the way up. Not any more. At the top, I can look down on the lights of the town.

The mountain is really the end of a ridge. Once I'm up there, I can follow a paved road, closed to automobiles, that runs for a mile, almost level, along the top of the ridge. The best days are the few when the clouds are so low that I'm in the fog up there. One time I was going down that road, and saw shadowy figures ahead. Deer, I thought, but no, as I got closer I realized they were smaller. And they were bipeds. Six turkeys! They walked off to one side as I approached. It was like a dream.

It was in the last week of June that I pulled some connective tissue in my left foot and joined the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of plantar fasciitis. I've whined about it in all four blog posts in July. Sorry.  Here's where I am now. I've been doing four miles on weekdays, two running and two walking, and six miles on weekends, three running and three walking. Maybe it sounds like I'm all better but I'm not. The foot stills stiffens up when I'm not using it.

Before the injury I had gotten pretty frisky. I enjoyed moving around. Dropping fifty pounds since April '09 made me practically bounce up from chairs. It's like when you carry a heavy backpack for a while and then take it off.

Yeah. I wanted to move. Any excuse. If I needed to go get something down the hall or on the other floor of my house, great! I used to sigh before getting up from chairs. But that was all over. Now I'd look forward to finding some reason to jump up and go get whatever it was. I was active. I was healthy.

And then, I lost it. Now it hurts when I get up, unless I first spend a few seconds stretching the foot. That sure takes the spontaneity out of it. It's pushing me back to wanting to be sedentary. No. I am fighting that.

I need to run. It's an escape. By the end of one mile, the fascia loosens up and the pain is gone. I am free from it. I know it will come back later but I don't care. For a while I am free.

I've been off work for a week. I decided it was time to go up the mountain again.

The only reason I'd avoided it was that I thought my foot might not cope with the uneven footing and twisting that would be involved. The walking and running I'd been doing was all on paved roads.

Since I had the time, not going to work, I was doing the six-mile walk and run every day. It takes me past the reservation entrance twice. I looked up the entrance road every time. It was obviously too dark to go in even on the second pass. I would have to start out a little later. I would need to guess what the right time was, since the days are shorter now than they were in late June.

I figured 5:15 might be right. I worked back. Two miles of running would be 22 minutes, and a mile and a half of walking would be 24, so that's about 46, so the next day I left the house at 4:30.

I glanced into the the reservation entrance at the first pass while I was running the second mile. No light in there at all, but no worries, it would be 15 minutes before I was back. When I came back around, walking, it was bad. Pitch dark. I crossed the street and took a few strides in. But it was no good. I need at least a little light to take that trail. I ran the third mile on roads like I had been doing. But I saw daylight coming around the middle of the third running mile, and guessed that I'd been off by only about 7 minutes. Should I go back? No, I was committed. Next day would do it.

I left the next day at 4:37. Precisely. The entrance was dark on the first pass, all right, but on my second pass, now it looked like it might be possible. I tested it by walking in. Yes, there was just barely enough light. I had done it once before in this minimal light. I went for it.

I went up the gravel road, and turned into the grassy path that goes near the old quarry. I started up the switchback trail, in its darkest part. If I didn't know the way it would have been hard, but I knew the light would increase as I progressed, both because there were fewer trees overhead as I went up and because dawn was coming in.

I reached the top without stopping. I looked down on the town, the streetlights still on, and over to the pink light of dawn in the east. It was like the old days. I felt good.

I was going to decide when I got there whether to run a third mile on the paved road on the top of the ridge. My foot felt a little stiff, so I decided to walk. As I feared, the injured foot had come down several times on the edges of rocks and roots, and twisted. Maybe I had made a mistake.

Walking the paved road was otherwise not a problem. At the end of the mile, I decided to go down the paved footpath out of the reservation. Oh no, the foot did not like the steep downhill there.

I reached civilization, in the form of a suburban street. I still had much downhill to go. The foot was not happy with walking down a steep slope. But it was the only way home.

Before the end of a few blocks I started thinking about the idea of calling Helen to get a ride. But it wasn't quite that bad yet. And I didn't want to.

I made it to my street, and now all I needed to do was walk about a mile relatively level.

I was feeling pretty down. I had been able to do this once, not so long ago. I had felt strong and able to walk anywhere. I don't like thinking about human limitations. I want to believe that I can do anything. I don't mind if I can't do something because I haven't practiced it and learned how to do it. But I want to believe that I could practice and could learn. But with this, I knew what to do, and I knew I could do it two months ago, and now I couldn't do it.

I was walking on the sidewalk, on the righthand side of the street. I was reduced to that. I run in the road, near the center, so one foot isn't lower than the other because of the crown of the road. I run in the road because sidewalks can have uneven blocks you can trip over. Running in the road is one reason I like going out early. Almost no traffic. I even walk in the road. But not now. I was walking on the freakin' sidewalk. I had come down the mountain to reality, to normal mortal humanhood. I hated it.

About a half mile from home I heard a runner coming up behind me on the left side of the road. That's where I wanted to be. Jealous, I was. I wanted to be that runner. I wanted to be one of them, without pain, without stiffness, moving free.

I don't know why I looked over at the runner as she passed, on the other side of the road. Or maybe I do. Sometimes I need to impress myself with what I am experiencing. I need to take a good look.

I looked at her face. I would know that profile anywhere.

It was Runner Girl.

I wasn't planning on it. I wasn't waiting for it. I just ... let it happen. It was Runner Girl.

If she recognized me, she didn't look over at me. I had no chance to nod at her or wave. She just passed by, like she had once done so often. But this was only the second time I saw her in 2010.

My spirits were lifted.

I let her get a block and a half ahead, and I crossed the road, and I started to run. I found that my pace was almost the same as hers. I think I was slightly faster. I was running, and the pain and stiffness left me.

I didn't stop until I reached my house. I could see her running off into the night. I felt better.

I checked the time I got in, of course. Was this her new running time? It was only about a half hour earlier than she used to run. Had I really missed this small change?

I did something wrong. I timed running the next day so that I'd hit my street at the same time. It was wrong because you cannot repeat this kind of experience. When I saw her, it would just be, well there she is, when I expect to see her. It wouldn't be the miraculous event. It would be ordinary.

But it was not ordinary. I did not see her. I was sure. If she'd been even ten minutes either side of the same time, I'd have seen her that next day. That fact made it even more amazing.

Can it actually be, that just the one day I needed a boost, on just that one day, that was the day when our paths in life collided? Was it pure chance?

It looks like it was.

Go figure. I can't explain it.

Next time: Making a Subway Map XI.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Invasion from Beyond!!


At the opening of every episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, sooner or later a ragged man called the "It's" Man comes staggering out from somewhere, looks at the camera, points, and struggles to get out the word "It's ...", only to be cut off by the opening credits. Similarly...

It's ... The Invasion from Beyond!!. This is a great comic I did when I was twelve. And this kid thinks she knows a few things. I'd like to see her do ... The Invasion from Beyond!!.

Don't ask me, "beyond what?". Don't ask me.


Splash page: cover of the July 1963 issue of Wonder Comics:

Supermouse: There goes the ray again!
Wonder Dog: It's fantastic!

Page 2:

Narration: In the secret home base of Wonder Dog...
Wonder Pup: How about some music, Wonder Dog?

Wonder Dog: OK. Switch it on.

Radio: Flash! This is a news bulletin! Three reports of flying saucers last night were confirmed this morning!

Radio: Following the report of a U F O, a pilot set out in a jet to investigate.

Radio narration: He picked up the trail.
Pilot: Pilot to base! Pilot to base! I see something!

Pilot: It's moving at an incredible speed! Wait! I see two more! And another!

Pilot: They're getting closer!

Page 3:

Pilot: I'll have a report on them in a sec. They seem to be a metallic blue sort of color. Their number is increasing.

Narrator: The radar screen told the men at the base their relative positions!
Base person: He's the plane-shaped one. Look at those saucers!!

Pilot: Pilot to base! I can see inside a window on one.. that face.. so ghastly!! Now the ship is glowing and humming! Some kind of ray—

Pilot: AAAAAA!

Base person: Base to pilot! Base to pilot! Are you all right?

Narrator: This is the scene in the radar room.
Base person: Look at that sky!

Narrator: Now a step by step view.

Page 4:

Narrator: When the pilot said, "I can see inside the window of one, etc"

Narrator: When he said, "It's glowing and humming!"

Narrator: And as for the time of the scream! —

Base person: They all left!

Radio: No one has any idea where the ships went! Any report will be sincerely appreciated! Now back to our regularly scheduled program!

Page 5:

Wonder Pup: Flying saucers now? What will they think up next? The last special announcement I heard was a soda commercial!
Wonder Dog: This isn't a commercial! This is real! C'mon, let's get going or Supermouse will beat us to it! He'll probably be there, you know!

Wonder Pup: By the way, where are we going? The news flash didn't say where it happened!
Wonder Dog: No, but that paper I was just reading did! I luckily happened to see an article on last night's reports! I didn't read it, but I noticed the date and town— Oceanport!

Narrator: Meanwhile, Wonder Dog's supposition that Supermouse came first is— right!
Supermouse: Wonder why the U S Jetport wants me?
Jetport person: Come on down, Supermouse! Have you got a story now!

Narrator: As Supermouse ends hearing the story...
Jetport person: From the radar screen, it appeared the ship disintegrated!
Supermouse: Hmm.

Page 6:

Supermouse: Well, I guess I'll go see if I can make anything out of it in the air! Could one of your pilots escort me there?
Jetport person: Certainly!

Narrator: Shortly...
Supermouse: So this is about the place?

Supermouse: I won't need you any more.

Supermouse: Hmm— There's some kind of odor in the air... my super-smell detects it!

Page 7:

Supermouse: That would be great— except that it's only here. That doesn't help! It only complicates things more!

Narrator: Let us leave Supermouse now and— no! In case you think you're switching back to Wonder Dog and Wonder Pup, you're wrong! — We'll go to Berkhart Island! This small island is a fishing resort... it's nine miles from shore, right near a fishing bank... for the members of a special club! There seems to be a commotion... let's look at the point of their interest— the SKY!
Person: Look!

Narrator: From the ship comes a ray...

Narrator: which makes the island glow and hum...

Narrator: a violent earthquake...

Page 8:

Narrator: and it vanishes!

Narrator: What is this? Who are these aliens? Where did they come from? Why do they do this? WHAT KIND OF SPACE NEIGHBORS ARE THESE? See Chapter TWO.


Wow! How was that? And that's only Chapter 1.

I don't think Ed Wood could do any better. And he was a professional.


Next time: Making a Subway Map XI... or Chapter 2?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Making a Subway Map X

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

The diagram is stalled.

I mentioned last time about radically compressing the distances on the suburban railroads. I implemented the idea for Westchester and Long Island and started on New Jersey. But I'm not satisfied with doing it, and I stopped so I could think about it.

Here's the diagram as it stands now, and below it is a satellite image from Google Maps, rotated to the same orientation as the diagram.

The inner circle on the satellite image is the area I need to cover for a subway map. The center is at Grand Central, and the outermost location is Far Rockaway. Half of the Staten Island Railway is beyond the circle.

The outer circle includes all of Staten Island. It's also the approximate area of inner suburbs that I would like to include. The outer edges, clockwise from lower left, would be approximately Perth Amboy, Metuchen, Plainfield, Berkeley Heights, Madison or Morristown, Boonton, Ramsey or Suffern, Spring Valley, Tarrytown, White Plains, Port Chester, Oyster Bay, Hicksville, and Freeport.

To do this, I will need to go back to a square format, and shrink it by a little more than 50% if I ever make prints on 18-inch wide paper. I think that will work.

I have just decided on this today (Sunday), so I haven't done anything about it yet. That's all I have this week!

There are stages in projects where you have to spend some time thinking about what to do. It ends up looking like you didn't do much, but you did. A few weeks ago I made tremendous progress drawing lines and circles, but that was because I knew what to do, and all I had to do was do it. That's easy. Thinking is hard.

I had one of these moments on the job last week. We wanted to know, in general, what mail systems our students, faculty, and staff use. We had lists of each category of person and a list of where everyone's mail went. We had about twenty-two categories of persons and four categories of where mail could go (the two systems run by central IT, others on campus, and others outside). But since mail could go to more than one place, four categories made sixteen combinations. All I had to do was write a script that iterated through all 70,000 persons and counted the sixteen totals for each of the categories of persons. So I thought for a while about ways to loop through everything. In the end it was a pretty short script, and it runs pretty fast. I spent much more time thinking about how to do it than I did typing it out. That's how it usually goes.

The stories I've written for the blog are like that too. In many cases I put together almost the whole story in my head while out walking and running, over the course of several days, without writing any of it down. I'll tell myself the story, and change things in it, until I think it's about right, and then I type out the whole thing. It will still need editing. And sometimes I come up with a great idea at the last moment, but that rarely happens while I'm typing— it comes to me afterwards.

Don't worry, I will not delay the subway diagram till 2011. That's not going to happen. I'd love to get it out the door by the end of August.

Continued: Making a Subway Map XI.