2

Question from lukasmaps: On your DC Metro Map redesign, why do you show the little “jog” on the red line between Van Ness-UDC and Tenlyytown-AU? No offense to your excellent work, but it ruins the visual clarity shown on the rest of the map and frankly, gets on my nerves. Again, no offense to this otherwise beautiful map.


Transit Maps says:

This is a fantastic question and one that I can use to illustrate how local knowledge of a transit system can help inform the design of a map. When I made the very first version of this map way back in February 2010, I did depict the eastern part of the Red Line as a straight run from Dupont Circle all the way to the end of the line at Shady Grove (as seen the first image above: I still have all the original files in my archives!). As you suggest, it seemed like a good solution to reduce clutter and enhance the clarity of the map.

However, when I released the map, the overwhelming majority of commenters from the DMV area called for the reinstatement of the “jog” between Van Ness and Tenleytown, which has always appeared on the official map. 

Why? Because the people who use the system on a daily basis use that “jog” – which occurs where the tracks shift from running under Wisconsin Avenue to under Connecticut Avenue, as seen in the Google Maps screenshot above – as part of their “mental map” of the system. It’s as much a landmark to them as any of the stations or tourist sites on the map, and its non-inclusion threw them for a loop. Other innovations and design changes in my map were widely well-received, but this one was definitely not. The very next iteration of my my map (v1.0.1) reinstated the jog, and it’s been there ever since, through four major revisions. I may be able to design a fantastic-looking map for the DC Metro, but I don’t live there – and sometimes it’s just best to bow to local knowledge and opinion when it comes to usability.

See also this post where I compare and contrast the four major revisions to my DC Metro map.