washington, dc: a subway-style frequent bus map

Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington has sketched a schematic (not geographic) Frequent Bus Network map for the city, and separate maps for each suburban county.  See the original to enlarge and sharpen.


Obviously I recommend Frequent Network maps that show all the modes that run frequently, in some legible way.  In this case that would include the subway.  Otherwise, you seem to imply that there is a huge audience of bus people who want to travel only by bus.  Of course, such a map would need to be at a much larger scale and would have required a lot more work (and tough design choices) to draw.  This bus network is obviously discontinuous because the missing links are in the rail system.


7 Responses to washington, dc: a subway-style frequent bus map

  1. Theo August 14, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    While it certainly looks good and I agree with the intentions of the artist, from a user perspective there just isn’t enough context to make this map useful. Which streets do these buses run on? Are all of the services local services with stops every 400 meters, or am I going to be caught on an express bus that whisks me out to some Virginian suburb before I can get off?
    The Parisian bus map (http://www.ratp.fr/informer/pdf/orienter/f_plan.php?loc=reseaux&nompdf=bus_paris&fm=gif) does a fantastic job of providing just enough information in appropriate places. Bus lines show the streets they run on and all buses shown are local services with stops every 400m or so (unless otherwise noted, e.g. Orlybus). The frequent network is in vibrant colour, while local or infrequent services are greyed out. Major transfers to/from the subway network are indicated with a thin black circle – since displaying both the rapid bus network and the subway network would be just too much clutter.

  2. Justin N August 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I’ve found DC’s system in particular to severely reinforce the bus-rail divide. Even though both Metrobus and Metrorail are run by WMATA, they don’t have integrated maps or fare policies. (The SmarTrip card works on both, but you can’t buy a pass to cover both bus and rail trips. You can buy a bus pass, or a train pass, but not a bus-and-train pass.) So that may be influencing the choice of the map-maker to include only one mode.
    I wrote a bit on my experience in DC last summer here:

  3. Zoltán August 14, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    “you seem to imply that there is a huge audience of bus people who want to travel only by bus”
    I’d argue that in DC, there is such an audience, for the same reason as in London – a huge fare premium for travelling by rail. In fact, for most of a month or so spent in DC, I was one such person; I avoided rail even where that entailed a significant time cost.
    Of course, that’s no argument against not portraying bus and rail on the map, so that all audiences can use it.

  4. Matthew August 14, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    Here’s a slight variation on this theme for Boston, emphasizing the bus network between squares, and showing the frequency along each corridor through line weight. The subway lines are shown but muted.

  5. Zoltán August 14, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    While the existence of such a map is very helpful, I have a couple of holes to pick.
    Firstly, street names are marked virtually illegibly, in small text in light grey on white. Yet for buses and streetcars, especially in DC where buses on the whole follow long, straight roads for long distances, streets are the most important means of navigating. Street names deserve to be at least as clearly displayed as the ever-vague district names.
    Here’s a slice of a map in which I’ve attempted to emphatically show what streets buses operate on – http://i50.tinypic.com/25qpv76.png . This is the sort of thing I’d expect of a map of DC.
    Secondly, I’ve argued before that some cities might prefer two standards of frequent service, of at least every 10 and at least every 20 minutes, the former being particularly emphasised on maps –
    This would very much work in DC, where a lot of routes operate every 20 minutes, and a lot of strong corridors offer combined 10-minute service, which is also the frequency of the DC Circulator. A lot of the gaps would be filled in that way, while service of seriously high frequency would be clearly displayed.

  6. Miles Bader August 14, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    This seems more like a random project of someone who likes drawing maps than something actually intended to be useful…

  7. Jeremy August 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    While there is in fact an audience of people choosing buses over subways — due to cost differences — there really shouldn’t be. If all services are to be treated in terms of utility, the fare structures should be completely integrated.
    Places like Boston have tried to rationalize classes of service by using terms like rapid transit, key bus routes, and other bus routes. But much of their Green Line LRV/streetcar service does not meet the definition of rapid transit, and the fare structure still only distinguishes between rail and bus. (Note though that most rail lines in Boston are not duplicated by bus, so you often don’t have a choice.)
    The flipside is here in New York City where buses and subways cost the same. It’s odd that you’re paying the same for vastly different service quality (grade-separated subway, Select Bus Service/BRT, limited-stop, local). However, it does encourage people to choose the appropriate service without thinking about the fare. I think in the end that helps the service work better together and fosters better planning and design.