Guest Post: Aaron Priven on the AC Transit (Oakland-Berkeley) Transit Map

Continuing the recent series on frequent network maps, today’s post is by Aaron Priven, who actually managed the redesign of a network map. I don’t agree with everything he says, but the resulting map (current version here in PDF, here in a version that you can pan and zoom online) certainly shows a lot of thought.  It’s interesting to see the thought process explained.  I’ll share my own responses to this map in a near-future post.

Jarrett’s post on frequency mapping, and a number of the comments there, referred to the AC Transit system maps. (AC Transit is the bus system for a large portion of the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, including cities such as Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and Fremont.)

I was the project manager for the redesign of the AC Transit system map back in 2002-2003. As such I am primarily responsible for its design, although most of the specifics were worked out by our cartographer, Kristin Bergstrom, who had previously designed the San Francisco Muni map.

Seattle QA Network One basic principle we wanted to follow was that there should be a one-to-one correspondence between the ink lines and the bus lines. Many American maps are like the Seattle map, pictured here, where no matter how many bus lines are on a street, they are shown by a single ink line. Trying to understand where a single line goes is very difficult on these maps. One has to hunt around for the bubbles to figure out where the route is going, and sometimes this can be very obscure. For example, on the Seattle map shown in Jarrett’s post, pictured here, there is a Line 30 bubble on Dexter Ave N., and another one further west, on an unlabeled street near Queen Anne Ave. N. How does Line 30 get between the two places? Does it dip downtown and come back in a U, or does it travel on one of the two sets of east-west streets shown? Or does it do something else entirely?

We wanted to make it easy to figure out how to follow where a bus line goes, which we thought was a basic goal of any bus map.

We followed the lead of the Paris and New York maps in using colors designed to be as distinct as possible from neighboring routes, so it would be easy to follow the red, blue, or green line from place to place.

At that time, we were introducing new LED headsign, which were capable of showing several different colors. One compromise we made was that we limited ourselves to the colors available on these headsigns (or as close as we could get in print).

The advantage of using colored headsigns is that it becomes clearer much further away that the headsign is blue than what the route number is. If you’re two blocks away and you want to know whether that bus in the distance is the 11 bus you need, or the 62 bus you don’t, it’s very nice to be able to see the purple light and know that you have time to go get a coffee, because the 11 will be blue-green.

Unfortunately, the color gamut of the headsigns is limited. On the 2001 Paris map, they used a range of different colors – red, maroon, blue, purple, yellow, brown, chartreuse… We did not have those choices. Our choices were restrained even further a few years later when the California Highway Patrol decided the red headsigns looked too much like red reverse lights and started giving tickets to buses showing red! We had to reassign the colors to avoid using red, reducing our palette even further. (We tried to get legislation passed to change this, but while we successfully got legislation to allow us to use most colors, we were still not allowed red.)

Original legend
For line and bubble symbology, we considered a number of different aspects of each line. We did consider frequency, but we ultimately decided that the most important aspects were variance, span of service, and express running.

Variance: Even more than now, we had a lot of bus lines that had several different variants – different weekday and weekend routes, routes shortened off-peak, two branches serving different areas, and so forth. Many of these did not have distinct route numbers, even using suffixes. We used different dash patterns to show different variants, and keyed the dash patterns to the frequency guide on the back of the map (which had a from-x to-y listing, inspired by Chicago).

Span of service: AC Transit had no regularity when it came to span of service , with different lines operating radically different spans, and while usually frequent service had a longer span, there were many exceptions. There was no standard span for “all day” service. We felt that the most urgent question someone could ask was “can I get home on this line?” For that we decided to base bubble symbols on hours of operation. Originally we had bubble shapes for peak service, 24-hour service, several kinds of all-day service depending on what time the last bus left the origin of the line (after 6 p.m., after 7 p.m., after 8 p.m., after 10 p.m., and after midnight), and a catchall “weird” category for weekend-only service, midday-only service, or other strange hours. If there was any service on the line on weekends, the bubble was solid; otherwise, it was hollow. (I’m not sure where the idea came from that we distinguished Saturday from Sunday service – in fact for years all of our Saturday and Sunday schedules have been identical, except for later service on two All Nighter routes because BART starts later on Sunday.)

Frequency guide


As time went on we made some changes, most importantly reducing the number of “all day” bubbles to two, and accommodating the change from 24-hour service on some lines to having parallel 800-series All Nighter lines.

Express running: Clearly if a bus is running on a street but doesn’t stop, that’s an important distinction. Much of our express running is on freeways, but not all, and we have a number of limited stop services. I liked the way this was shown on the Muni map, with thin lines with round stops where the limited stops were, and we copied that, more or less, for our map.

The other important feature we wanted to have was a complete street map along with the transit map, so that people wouldn’t need to consult two different maps. We had a complete street index and intended at some point to add block numbers whenever possible, although the block numbers never quite happened. (The current map does not have all this detail, mainly because of printing costs.)

Oakland inset


So that’s what we were thinking back in 2003. I’m not sure we were very successful, and I think much of it needs rethinking. I thought at the time that people who didn’t understand the differences between dash patterns or bubble types would just ignore those differences, rather than be frustrated and confused by their lack of understanding. We didn’t (and don’t) have the money to do user tests of any of this, and I think that’s something we could have found out.

Nonetheless, I think a lot of the principles we adopted are still worth thinking about.

It’s clear from Jarrett’s August 7 post that he uses “The Frequent Network” as a name for service that is both frequent and has a long span of service, but at least at AC Transit the two don’t always go together. Which is a “major route,” a 15-minute service that runs from 6 to 7, or a 30-minute service that runs from 6 to midnight? We’ve had both of those in the past. Maybe this is a detail, and it doesn’t matter as long as “major” is defined in some consistent way, but frequency is just one aspect of a bus route. I, at least, would rather wait 30 minutes for an infrequent bus than wait two hours before finding out that this bus line has no more buses scheduled for the day, or doesn’t run at all today.

We have all kinds of routes, and not all of them fall in the simple categories of “Frequent Network,” “Infrequent All-day services” and “Peak-only service.”

I am still very concerned that on most bus maps it’s too hard to figure out where some lines go.  Our service has so many different lines along certain streets (Broadway, MacArthur, Shattuck, the loop around Hayward BART) that on our map individual lines get lost in the elongated pastel rainbow, especially when we’re limited to colors that are so non-distinct. (What do you mean you can’t tell the difference between the three shades of teal??)  But I’m not convinced it’s any better to basically combine them all and hope people can search out the bubbles, especially when in the real world that kind of map is easy to make errors in creating. (It’s not at all obvious which bus line a particular ink line refers to, especially if the bus line it originally referred to was rerouted or eliminated some time ago but this ink line was neglected. Little short stretches of ink line, one or two blocks long, end up staying on the map years after the bus line is gone.)

The highway map analogy, with different types of ink lines for different levels of service, would lead to a better conclusion than a flat all-the-same map like Seattle’s. Better a few types of line than just one. But transit is inherently more complex than the street network in that multiple lines can and often do go along the same street for long stretches, and it is important to know which. If you are planning a trip across town, you need to know precisely where your transfer point is, and where particular bus lines go. It needs to be as easy as possible to figure that out.

Ultimately, the question behind all of this is how to show the complexity of our system. In an ideal world we might simplify the system itself, but this wasn’t a choice open to us in the map project. We chose to try to capture the complexity of the system in the map rather than hide it away by creating something simpler, since we felt this would mislead potential riders. It is a disservice to passengers to portray the system as other than it is.

23 Responses to Guest Post: Aaron Priven on the AC Transit (Oakland-Berkeley) Transit Map

  1. ant6n September 4, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Your map is real nice!
    “We have all kinds of routes, and not all of them fall in the simple categories of “Frequent Network,” “Infrequent All-day services” and “Peak-only service.””
    Maybe if you can’t put your service into a couple of simple categories, it’s time to change the service. Recently there’s been a lot of talk about creating better maps to make the service more accessible, but there is only so much you can do with creative mapping.

  2. Jeff Wegerson September 4, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    So in a sense Frequent Network Mapping is asking that an already very complex product add another level of complexity. As I dove into making a map I was immediately confronted with many of the issues you struggled with. “Shapes” turned out to not belong to “routes” but to “trips”. Especially at the ends of routes different trips would take different variants, ie shapes, either off to the side or stopping before the end. Finally when I got to frequency I found that it belonged to neither “routes” nor “trips” but is a property of “stops.”
    Then there were all the routes that shared some same street and stops as you point out. If a street is shared by different trips for a long way, then if a lot of people are only using the shared length then the frequency for them is much better as they have more bus choices. And further, as you pointed out, there is the question of service days and late night service.
    Even when Jarrett narrowed my task by suggesting using midday (and non-weekend?) as the definitional bound for frequent network service I was still left with a host of other issues. You touched on the color and line separation ones, but still in the mix are ones like, who is the audience and what is the medium? Is it to go on paper or be electronic? If on paper then what size and how many colors?
    A transit system produces many different mapping products for different uses. Where will Frequent Network Mapping fit?
    It’s almost like Jarrett is running a contest here that not only doesn’t have a prize it doesn’t have any well defined rules. And that is probably fine at this stage. It’s as if we are in a brainstorming session and told not to be negative to ideas because we want them to keep coming. Something like that.

  3. Carl September 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Wow. My head was spinning just reading about all the special distinctions and variations – different spans of service, branches, deviations etc. It’s likely a legacy of how the system originally came together and how difficult it is to make changes and all the political constituencies.
    But I suspect this complexity means that visitors mostly can’t use the system, and even most car-owning residents can’t use it beyond maybe a commute route – dooming it to serve only the transit-dependent.

  4. John September 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    I think this was a very successsful effort to display the complexity of the system, but unfortunately that leads to a very complex map. Aaron acknowledges some of the shortcomings, like the difficulty in seeing multiple lines on a single street clearly. I really think it would be worth sacrificing some details on the map (does it really matter if the last trip is at 6 PM, 7 PM, or 8 PM?) to simplify it. People can look up a schedule on an individual route map after they determine what route they need on the system map.

  5. Aaron Priven September 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    Thanks for adding all the links, Jarrett.
    I agree that there’s only so much that can be done with maps, and public information generally. I had hoped that presenting the full complexity of the system on the map (and, especially, in the frequency guide) would make it clearer to AC Transit’s planners the value of making the system simpler. While the system is a bit simpler now than it was in 2003, I don’t know that anything I did had anything to do with it.
    Ultimately, though, we need to recognize that every service hour spent making the system consistent is a service hour that isn’t being used in some other way, which might carry more people. It’s not a simple decision, especially at resource-starved bus agencies like AC Transit.

  6. ant6n September 4, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    @Aaron: Every service hour that nobody understands is a wasted service hour as well. Every service hour only used by commuters (who take that route every day) is a service hour not used towards improving the general reliability of transit, and in particular getting people out of their cars.

  7. Aleks September 4, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    It’s interesting to note that Seattle *does* have a frequent service map:
    In some ways, this map is fantastic. In others, it’s terrible. For example:
    – Like Aaron’s map, lines have distinct colors, and one line is one (set of) routes. No weird merging and splitting.
    – It’s crowded, and the fact that each line has about six different bus number dots doesn’t help. I’d rather see some sort of coding system, like using the color names (“R” instead of “70”, “G” instead of 7/11/14/36/43/49, etc.)
    – Everything related to the tunnel is very confusing. You could be forgiven for thinking that the 10/12 stop in the tunnel between Westlake and Convention Place.
    – A bunch of less-frequent routes are listed with small black lines — except that some of them are actually just as frequent as other routes on the list. Not sure how they managed that.
    – The train is barely mentioned. Same with the streetcar.
    – The skip-stop downtown system is not mentioned in any way.
    And the two biggest problems:
    – It never says where any of these routes go!
    – These colors are not used in any way outside of this map, which (in turn) only shows up at certain downtown bus stations and nowhere else.
    With a few small changes, this could become great:
    – Color-code the buses and/or the bus stops. Likewise, make sure that each skip-stop stations serves all buses with a given color, or none.
    – Group the 3rd Ave buses into two segments, and use dots to indicate where stations are for each one.
    – For each color, add a list of major destinations.
    But still, this is miles better than anything else that Metro puts out…

  8. Steve Lax September 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    @Anton – If a system is operating hard to understand service patterns that nobody is using, that is a problem. However, the system from which I retired (NJ TRANSIT) is much like AC Transit. And it has issues much like AC Transit. Most important, it faces constant budget pressure; so underutilized service is cut and that allows service to be run where it is utilized, even if the only people (besides the planners and bus operators) who understand the service are a defined set of commuters.
    For example, if a route operates three round trips a day to meet the three shift times at a relatively isolated industrial site and those three round trips are well-patronized (if only by a very defined set of commuters) that is a better use of resources than running empty buses on a “frequent service” route at times the ridership simply does not support frequent service.
    My former colleagues and I drew up plans for a frequent service type network; but every time we tried to advance them, we ran head first into a very powerful locomotive coming the other way – the BUDGET.
    I think (in reading some of these comments and others in response to earlier posts on frequent service) that the viability of a simple frequent service network and a simple systems map depends in large part on the territory. AC Transit provides a wide range of services (service into San Francisco, service into and within the secondary urban areas and between secondary urban areas (Oakland, Berkeley, etc), rail feeder service, and some more purely suburban services. NJ TRANSIT is similar. In other areas, this sort of mixed need might not exist.

  9. Scott September 4, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    As much as I like to complain about sfmuni, they did go to the hassle of picking out major-service-corridors on their map.
    I’m guessing most of these have some level of frequency. The version of the map I saw (they don’t have the latest online) has these corridors in day-glo yellow, afair.
    I can’t find the alternate map someone made up which only has some of these important lines on it. Its great to know the ‘important’ lines if its ok to walk a few extra blocks.

  10. Anon256 September 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    @Scott: Do you mean ?
    @Steve Lax: NJ Transit doesn’t publish a bus map at all! It’s not surprising that many routes are patronised primarily by very defined sets of commuters when it’s so difficult for outsiders to find information on what service exists. The private NJ bus operators are even worse.

  11. Zef Wagner September 4, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    There’s a guy named Oran in Seattle who makes awesome frequent transit maps. They seem to solve a lot of the issues mentioned here and seem very easy to understand.

  12. Paul K. McGregor September 5, 2010 at 10:57 am #

    As a former resident of the East Bay, I found the AC Transit maps to be quite useful not only to show where routes go but to also show some detail for the street system as well. Probably the one thing I didn’t liike was having to have three diffferent maps but I suppose that’s the tradeoff for having more detail.
    I will agree that making the system as simple as possible to make it user friendly is useful but let’s not make it simpler just to make it easier to produce a map. In AC Transit’s case, the map is made more complex not because of the route structure but because of the different levels of service that exists. If all you wanted to do was a map showing the routes, that would be a very easy map to do. It’s adding all of the details that makes it more complicated.

  13. Ant6n September 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    “I will agree that making the system as simple as possible to make it user friendly is useful but let’s not make it simpler just to make it easier to produce a map.”
    I would propose to exactly do that. Or at least try, because I understand that this is not always possible. The map is directly related to how easy it is to understand the system as a user. Too many service patterns are not only hard to map, but also hard to understand. And users probably won’t use services they don’t understand. So if a transit agency aspires to do more than just shuttling those who cannot afford a car to and from work, then it should try to create services that provide actual mobility.

  14. Steve Lax September 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    @anon256 – You are correct that NJ Transit does not have a current system bus map (covering the entire state of NJ would be difficult to do at a readable level) or even county or regional maps. However, you can determine specifically available bus service from Google Maps or the trip planning tool. I might add that until the current recession (I retired a year ago so I can’t speak about what has happened since) bus ridership was growing in a very healthy manner; so people were finding out about service.
    As I understand it, the budget is the primary reason there is no current traditional bus map (as apparently is an issue at AC Transit). (For example, the hours of the Transit Information Center have been cut and the toll-free number eliminated.) However, NJ TRANSIT has produced county commuter connection guides (“bubble” maps), where each municipality (or neighborhood in the larger cities) and some major generators were also shown. Links between bubbles showed which routes connected which bubbles which make it possible to at least determine which routes could be considered for specific trips. The guides were hard to keep in print because they were popular; but they were cheaper to produce than conventional maps.
    But your comment raises an interesting question: Given the availability of transit agency trip planners, timetables posted on line, and services like Google Maps showing transit options (and other tools not available a decade or two ago), for what purposes and for which audiences are transit maps valuable? Is a general purpose transit map still useful to (or the best way to reach) a broad audience? Does the nature of a territory covered by the transit agency help define the need for a map or the type of map? Should a map for tourists be different than a map for residents? And there can be many more related questions.

  15. V Smoothe September 5, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    I have never had any trouble figuring out where different routes go on the AC Transit map – so for that goal, I think the design of the map was successful. However, I had no idea what all the different colors indicated or the shapes or anything else until I read this post. It had actually never even occurred to me that the colors of the lines match with the colors on the buses before, which makes me feel kind of dense.
    It’s very impressive to me how much information is conveyed about these routes on the map, but I don’t think it’s very intuitive to the user that all that information is there. When I look at a bus map, I tend to just look at where I’m trying to go to find the line I need, not look at the key. Maybe this is different that the way people did it in the past because with the internet, web enabled cell phones, and services like NextBus, Google Transit, and Transit 511, it’s a lot easier to figure out which bus you need to take and when it runs than it used to be. I remember when I lived in Portland and used to carry around a big fold out TriMet system map and a book of all the schedules in my bag. It’s weird to think about that now.

  16. Anon256 September 5, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    @Steve Lax: Jarett’s post on the case for frequency mapping applies even more strongly as a case for SOME sort of map as opposed to none at all. The important arguments are:

    – First, some of us are spatial navigators, and need to understand our trip on the map rather than as a list of steps. Well, maybe your website gives us a map of the trip, so that’s maybe OK.
    – Second, narrative instructions are brittle. They work if everything works perfectly, but if there’s any kind of disruption, we’re helpless. Only maps can show us where we are, and what our options are, at every moment of the journey.
    – Third, narrative instructions do nothing to build a person’s understanding of their transit network, and of their city. And if you want to feel free in your city, capable of moving about at will to do things you want to do, that’s the kind of understanding you need.

    I would add that Google Transit still lacks coverage for most of the world’s transit systems (e.g. how do I find out where I can transfer from NJ Transit to Rockland Coaches?), and that it ignores fares (e.g. suggesting only rail when a cheaper, slightly slower bus exists).
    Every transit agency has budget issues, but essentially every other transit agency in the country manages to throw together some sort of map to give customers some idea where service is available. NJT’s lack of a bus map really is inexcusable.

  17. Brisbane September 5, 2010 at 11:38 pm #

    I think it would be better to have three separate maps, for simplicity.
    1. A frequent map
    2. A night network map
    3. An express peak hour map
    (that or simplify the routes)

  18. Steve Lax September 6, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    @Anon256 (9/6 – 15:14)
    Personally, I have treasured maps of all sorts and timetables since I was a fairly young child (about 7 or 8 years old). I always try to acquire a transit map of a city I am visiting. I find them useful, even when I have already learned much of what I need to know about how to navigate the city I am visiting prior to my visit. But I recently navigated Marseille and Sassari and Alghero (in Sardinia) without ones.
    However, NJ Transit (and I am sure many other agencies) is extremely cash constrained, both operating and capital monies. For example, as of the time I retired a year ago, money could not be found to install a GPS system on the buses. Obviously, GPS data would provide real running time data for improving schedule reliability and could lead to a real-time “next bus” system both on-line and at key terminals.
    However, technology is rapidly passing by those of us who think spatially and love maps (transit and road). More and more people rely on Google Maps (or competitors) or a GPS system for directions. I happened to be in my local Borders Books today and the newest county maps from the two major publishers of NJ county road maps were from 2005. Most were older. They used to be issued every two or three years.
    Concerning your specific concern of connecting from NJ Transit to Rockland Coach, I suggest you contact the Bergen County Planning Board. They issued a map of all of the public transit services in the county that may still be available. (Warning: It is difficult to read; because it is an overlay of bus routes on a road map. However, this does illustrate the complex issues of producing a map where you don’t have a grid network.)
    Concerning your concern about needing a map to see where the bus is going, all NJ Transit timetables (almost always available on the bus and always available on line) have a route map (not to scale) that you can use to follow your journey and determine where to connect to other NJ Transit routes. (That Google lacks coverage for many systems suggests that these systems do not have data files in a format Google can read. Providing Google with the data it wants costs money if you have to convert your data formats; money for which a transit agency may believe it has better uses.)
    Concerning disruptions of service: In much of suburban NJ there is no good alternative; however, assuming you have a cell phone, you can call the Transit Information Center and ask whether there is one specific to the time you are traveling (if the Information Center is open, as it is during most travel hours). If you are on the bus, you can ask the bus operator.
    Readers of Jarrett’s blog are either in some way in the transit (or a related) business, transit advocates, or transit enthusiasts. For this particular market, good transit maps are useful. However, there is a cost to produce such maps (including deciding what to show on the maps in addition to the transit routes and extensive proofing for accuracy.) For most people, the map on a bus timetable is adequate.
    Personally, I would like NJ Transit to post a system map on line (PDF or HTML). Then one could focus on all or part of the system. I think this would be a fair approach. (The system is mapped, including the private bus lines to the extent that the private bus lines provide accurate information and update it.) There are initial decisions that need to be made, such as what density of street network should be shown, the frequency issue debated on numerous posts on this blog, which landmarks to show, etc.; but upkeep would be far cheaper than a printed map.

  19. Alon Levy September 6, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    Steve, on this blog some people have produced urban frequent network maps at essentially zero cost. For NJT to do the same would probably have negative cost: the extra ridership coming from people understanding the service better would offset the tiny cost of drawing a map.

  20. Zmapper September 6, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    As far as a NJ Transit bus system map goes, no official map exists. However, an unofficial one does exist.

  21. Steve Lax September 7, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    @alon – (9/7) – There are two major issues that were constantly debated within NJ TRANSIT while I was there concerning almost any distribution of information:
    1. How to handle the private bus carriers operating in New Jersey when NJ TRANSIT does not control their schedules or routes. This would apply to any frequent network map as two of the most frequent local routes in Newark and one in Jersey City are operated by a private bus operator. (There are also the jitneys in Atlantic City and a wide variety of van operators in Hudson, Bergen, and Passaic Counties. Getting service information from most of the van operators has proven difficult; though Hudson County has just commenced a study of their operations.)
    2. When talking about NJ Transit, you are not talking about creating a single map but multiple overlapping maps, as no single easily handled map can represent the entire state at a readable scale. Related to this is the question of how to handle the long distance routes, including frequent service routes (New York – Paterson, New York – Freehold, for example.) In the NJ TRANSIT system, most of the interstate commuter routes carry intrastate passengers in some fashion over some or all of their intrastate non-express routings.
    @Zmapper – I looked at the unofficial map you cited (one of many that cover all or part of the state) and it is the best of the bunch. It was even up-to-date concerning recent service cuts. It also covered many of the non-NJ Transit routes that are operated by other public jurisdictions (mainly the counties). However, when I looked at it about three weeks ago, it had none of the private carrier routes (a complaint of another commenter here.) As I indicated in my last post (9/7 at 10:01), NJ Transit has its system and almost all private and other public bus operators mapped (though the private operators often drop/change routes without notifying NJ Transit) and that the map could/should be posted on the web and be made available in “app” formats for cell phones, PDAs, etc. However, the debate point I raised initially here was whether paper maps (about which much is written on this blog by both Jarrett and commenters) are becoming obsolete in the same manner that it is harder and harder to find a recently dated road map at my local book store.
    To all: Special use transit maps can be very helpful and can be created off of a GIS base. Many are regularly produced at NJ Transit for internal use or use by appropriate outsiders (for example, municipal land use planners). And there is no question that readers of this blog would cherish NJ Transit bus network maps if such maps existed. However, creating paper maps is quite costly and most people (based on my experiences) cannot read transit maps well, even frequent service type maps.

  22. Dan S. September 9, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    As a regular AC Transit rider, I take a few issues with the official map.
    1) The map is rotated more than 45 degrees from true North. This is an obstacle for spatial thinkers. For example, I may want to take the 12 bus from Berkeley to Oakland which many would think of as a southbound journey. When I go to the timetable, my choices are between east and west, neither of which describes my real journey. I may have to wait for a long time if I’m reading the wrong direction on the timetable. Even more confusing is the F bus, which appears to head in a southeasterly direction towards SF on the map. In the timetables, to catch that bus, you would actually have to look for the westbound bus.
    2) Zoom in as close as you can on the Downtown Berkeley transit knot. Under no lens would you be able to tell that AC Transit has scattered the bus stops about Shattuck Plaza to help congestion. Instead of knowing in advance where you need to be, you have to go back and forth across 6-lane Shattuck Blvd. until you find the sign with the tiny numbers on it (that anyone with visual impairment would have trouble reading.) If you make a mistake at this transit hub, that could cost you anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes.
    3) No one has bothered to put any maps inside of the buses. Since there aren’t maps at every station either, I presumably have to plan my entire trip before leaving home. This reduces my ability to be spontaneous with AC Transit and presents a significant barrier for new users.
    4) I wouldn’t mention this except that the official map is so extensive. The indecent number of transit agencies in the Bay Area, with all of their inter-agency quarrels, separate fare structures, and duplicated routes, shows through in the map. Whether by accident or design, the map leaves out a lot of connecting information. Is there really no transit over the Richmond Bridge? If Marin Transit isn’t shown, why then do BART and the Dumbarton Express make appearances? When am I made to pay an extra fare or when do I get discounts for switching between agencies? Why doesn’t the Oakland AirBART make an appearance when the rest of BART does? I understand that this is an AC Transit map and not an East Bay transit map, but that map isn’t for AC Transit employees, it’s for people trying to get around.
    I hope my comments were on topic enough to be relevant to your series on mapping because I don’t mean to broadly criticize AC Transit in this forum. I just wanted to share some thoughts from a user.

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