Submission – Official Map: UTA FrontRunner Commuter Rail, Salt Lake City
Submitted by Mike Christensen, who says:
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) recently added strip maps to its FrontRunner commuter rail trains. At first glance, the maps looked adequate to me. But after a few moments of thought, I have the following critique. First off, the N and S denoting north and south at the end of the route is a bit confusing. However, the biggest criticism I have is the lost opportunity to show connecting bus routes at FrontRunner stations.
UTA has been trying to find ways to encourage riders to make greater use of its bus system, and I feel that UTA really missed out on an opportunity to do so using the strip map. The strip map does show the three stations featuring transfers to UTA’s three TRAX light rail lines, but the map completely fails to specify which TRAX lines can be transferred to. Additionally, the strip map could have also highlighted non-UTA connections, such as Amtrak at Salt Lake Central and Provo and Greyhound at Salt Lake Central and Ogden, and should have highlighted the connection to the Salt Lake City International Airport via the TRAX Green Line at North Temple.
I took a few moments to mock up the map with my suggestions (second image above - Cam). Hopefully, UTA will give more thought to the maps they produce in the future.
Transit Maps says:
Mike’s summary is pretty astute – the official map does the bare minimum to be functional, but misses out on opportunities to be more useful. Visually, it’s simple enough, though I’ll never understand why the UTA feels it necessary to add leader lines between station symbols and their associated labels. On a simple strip map like this, there’s very little chance of mixing stations up.
The legend is a bit odd: it gives the full official name of the FrontRunner line (line 750), when it’s already completely obvious that this is what the map shows – the giant “FrontRunner” logotype is a dead giveaway, don’t you think? The legend also indicates that the “T” indicates a transfer to TRAX, without explaining what that is. You can’t just assume that everyone riding knows that “TRAX” equals “light rail”! And Mike is definitely right in saying that the colours of each connecting light rail line should be denoted, as well as other alternate modes of transport. I especially like his suggestion to add Amtrak and Greyhound connections, and an indication of the airport connection should be vital.
Mike’s own map is very obviously a quick and dirty mockup, but it does show how more useful information could be added to the map. It also shows how tricky it can be to add a lot of bus route numbers to a map like this: they can end up just looking like a long string of random numbers pretty quickly. I’d probably suggest that connection information be moved below the route line and be set horizontally, as reading that amount of small text with your head at an angle while riding a train is going to be hard work! The north and south arrows are a good idea, but I think that Mike’s implementation of them could be interpreted as further extensions of the line off the edge of the map. A good old-fashioned north pointer could actually do the job a little better here.
Our rating: The official map is about as average as you can get. Does the job and very little more. Two-and-a-half stars. Mike’s mockup is imperfect, but definitely food for thought on how the official map could be improved.