Our Metro map contest resulted in some innovative and unique ways of looking at the system map. But of the 17 maps we received, only one moved from a diagrammatic to a geographic style map.

Map Q, by Michael Sypolt, manages to keep downtown relatively uncluttered while still adequately demonstrating the distance of the suburban terminals.

Map Q, by Michael Sypolt. Click to enlarge.

In his description, Michael reflected that his map

combines the simplicity and readability of a diagrammatic map along with the orienting capabilities of a map with limited topographic features (Cities and Counties) and an approximate geographic scale.

While liberties are made to “adjust” stations for straightening the lines, they are located in a manner to help riders understand relative distance each station is from the others both along the line as well as from other lines. One notable exception to the scalable distances are the Farragut North and West Stations, which are shown as distinct stations that are “linked” to show cross line out-of-system transfers.

Some distortion in the downtown area is to be expected, though some will likely object to the “cant” of the Red Line between Metro Center and Gallery Place. However that design allowed Michael to place station labels more clearly.

With Metro’s station name sprawl, any map with a geographic base will have difficulty fitting names onto the map. Even Metro’s current map suffers from that problem.

The geographic format is also good for illustrating one thing: the sheer length of the Silver Line. Michael made the map more horizontal to fit the Silver Line in at scale. In order to fit a geographic map into Metro’s map cases, the Silver Line would need to be either shown off-scale or as a continuing line with an inset.

Other features include icons denoting connection to inter-city bus operators and dotted lines showing the airport bus connections to Dulles and BWI.

The jury thought this was an interesting idea, but felt it wasn’t practical for the actual map. They wrote, “Having some to-scale maps around might be a good idea, perhaps as insets on the main map or available in stations or on the WMATA website. But we don’t think such a map can replace the current schematic.”

Michael’s map received 79 first-place votes in the people’s choice element of our contest. That’s the 4th-most first-place votes, but his map was one of the few whose position changed through our instant-runoff voting, and it was eliminated 7th from the end:

ABCDEFGHJKLMNPQRS
Round 1 81182452378698866114859742072779596
Round 2 8120246237870886611495974207287959
Round 3 121246237870886613525974208287959
Round 4 1222462379708967526174210288060
Round 5 12625279709069526374214298261
Round 6 126256837194715363752198263
Round 7 1362678572968263762218365
Round 8 142276907611084802288370
Round 9 1522859985116908223287
Round 10 159292108911399124691
Round 11 1753011121509826296
Round 12 185313124156108283
Round 13 205335137170297
Round 14 224360192325
Round 15 250383373
Round 16 470409

The four best finishers, C, N, B, and G, each started the voting in that order and maintained their positions throughout. E and H, however, both pulled ahead of Q when Map L was eliminated.

This makes a certain amount of sense because Q was more unusual. It generated more extreme feelings than the others. Some loved Q, while others ranked it low since they more strongly disliked the geographic arrangement. That means that many voters who preferred some of the diagrammatic maps, like L, ranked similar maps like E and H higher than Q. Also, all of those maps were close in numbers of votes to begin with.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master’s in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Dupont Circle. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is an employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.

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.