Network Maps

Posted on February 14, 2012 by


One thing that has always irritated me for a quite some time, is the Metro network map. Frankly, it is a mess, and it doesnt even fit everything onto it (routes to Waimakariri and Selwyn, as well as the Diamond Harbour ferry are chopped). The reason it irritates me is because it is one of those things that can be so helpful, and is so easy to get right, yet it seems an ill thought out token effort.

Part of the problem, I think, is that they have kept the map geographically accurate. While it means you can look at where you are and where you want to go with a high degree of accuracy, it makes it hard to pick out individual routes and decipher how the network works. Take a look at the map below (sorry if it requires squinting your eyes) there are routes going every which way.

Ity looks like some sort of mistake a child made on the Kitchen floor. Even worse is the online version of the map.

Frankly, that is a mess. I have tried using this version on the website quite a few times and it is frustrating to say the least. The level of detail is simply too much, making it very hard to get your head around the system. If they want to move towards a system where you can transfer between different buses and eventually modes with easy, which is what we are apparently striving for, then this map and the one above won’t help in that task. What you really need is a very simple map that shows, as basically as possible, were each route goes (i.e. the streets, suburbs and centres they pass through and link), and how the system links together. You should be able to pick up a simple pamphlet, or bring the map up on your smart phone or laptop and easily decipher it and figure out what bus route you need to take to get to where your going, or could go. Neither of the above maps help.

Do we really need it to be geographically accurate? It certainly isn’t required for London Tube users, nor their bus users either. The concept of a schematic map seems to work well for Wellington too, as seen below.

This map isn’t perfect, but what I like about it is that everything is nice and simple, lines are as straight as possible, and it is really easy to see what key points each route links, and how they interact with each other. The entire network is presented here, and it is the same whether accessed online, or by obtaining a pamphlet.

The advantages of a geographically accurate map are minimal, and the disadvantages, I think, outweigh them considerably. You only really need to know what street a bus route runs down, what areas it serves, and where it connects with the rest of the network, none of which require geographical accuracy. Another point to make is that the Wellington map is against a white background, whereas the Christchurch map is against a street map. The problem is that in the latter case, it is quite hard to distinguish the colours of some bus routes.

Altogether, another minor quibble really, but again one of those “quick wins” I think we could start getting now that the system is back up and running at a standard approaching what we had prior to 22 February last year. The point I really want to make is that the network map is a wate of space. It is complicated, hard to use, and largely unhelpful. It shouldn’t be too hard to come up with something easier.