By Evan Landman
For years on this blog and in our projects, we've stressed the importance of highlighting and emphasizing transit agencies' Frequent Networks on customer information of all kinds. Portland's agency TriMet has traditionally been a best practice example here, given their extensive Frequent Network branding down to the individual stop level, but curiously, their system map has not embraced this idea so wholeheartedly. Today, TriMet's new system map changes that, introducing a cleaner, more readable map, which does a much better job of highlighting the agency's premier bus services.
Let's compare the two, starting with the old map that has just been retired:
This Southeast Portland shows the core of the city's Frequent Network. The Frequent Network is symbolized with a thicker line weight, but every line still has its own individual color, presumably to make it easier to trace each individual line across the network. However, the effect of this choice distracts from the important information contained in the line weight property, because the wide diversity of bright colors climbs to the top of the visual hierarchy, though the colors communicate nothing about the nature of the service on each line.
The legibility of the map is not aided by the large number of points of interest shown, with both text and symbols frequent overlapping the most important features (the transit routes). TriMet's old map was certainly not a bad transit map by any means, and deserves enormous credit for being one of the first to explicitly show frequency at all, but in the years since, many of TriMet's peer agencies around the country have focused even more heavily on frequency to produce truly useful and innovative maps.
Now compare the image above with the same area of the new map: