Most of the maps in our map contest reimagined the Metro map in diverse and interesting ways. One of the maps took the opposite tack, changing as little as possible.

Our jury chose to give their top award to that map, Map G, by Nathaniel Grier. Many readers agreed; Map G received 88 first-place votes, the fourth-most in the contest.

Map G, by Nathaniel Grier.

Whereas Cameron Booth wrote that he viewed the coming map changes as a “chance to create something entirely new and start with a clean slate, not an adaptation of a 30-year-old design,” the jury felt that the 30-year-old design served riders well and was very recognizable.

The jurors liked the way this map retains the “bold colors and lines” from the current map. One wrote, “people have already internalized its contours.” In fact, they wrote in their summary notes to me, “The contest enhanced our appreciation of the original map and left us hoping that Lance Wyman can duplicate his initial feat of clarity and simplicity.”

They also liked this map’s use of dashed lines to denote the planned rush hour-only services between Franconia and Greenbelt and between West Falls Church and Largo. That is one of the toughest elements and a primary motivation for this map redesign.

In fact, the jurors wrote, “It turns out that including the Dulles Line isn’t the hardest part; it’s illustrating the differences in rush hour schedules, including the diversion of some trains to the Yellow Line Bridge.”

The jury recognized that there are many elements of the map that could be changed to make it a more polished product. The parking icons, as discussed yesterday, are one of those. In addition, the jurors wrote that:

  • Using dashed lines to represent both intermittent service and a line under construction could be confusing
  • Enlarged circles for the Silver-Orange-Blue Lines are awkward
  • It would have been good to figure out a way to minimize the service bubbles.

There is something of an inherent contradiction here: The jury didn’t like the enlarged circles, yet chose a map with familiar, “bold” lines. Three thick lines don’t work with a small circle like those on the current map. If WMATA ultimately wants consistent station symbols, they’ll need to either change to thinner lines, larger symbols, non-circular symbols, or something more radical like Booth’s small gaps. A few maps tried creative solutions to this problem, and we’ll look at some of those in upcoming parts.

The product of Lance Wyman’s efforts is likely to look very similar to what we’re familiar with, but in a way that shows the Silver Line and new services. Some design weaknesses, such as the parking icons, will be fixed, and this contest will give WMATA an opportunity to see many different ideas for other, small innovations. In the next few days, we’ll see a few other maps that tried some of these and the reactions from readers and the jury.

Tagged: maps, metro, wmata

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.