MBTA Map + Proposal also on BostInno

After my interview with Nate Boroyan yesterday, I was asked to write a guest post for BostInno on my MBTA map for the existing system as well as my proposal for an expanded T system.  Check out the piece below!  It was quite such an honor getting to do this!

CommonRail Designer Talks Flaws With New T Map, Unveils His Improvements

The transit super-fans out there may recognize my name from an article that Nate Boroyan posted yesterday about me and CommonRail (see: above), my proposal for high-speed rail across New England. Today I’m writing about another transit mapping project that may hit a little closer to home for us Bostonians.

Anyone who followed the MBTA’s mapping competition this past year may know that the competition winner is a Russian graphicist who has never been to our fair city upon a hill.

I was in Paris at the time of the competition, and couldn’t get my map done on time. Upon returning home to Boston in May, I considered the final entries for the competition and when the winner was announced, was disappointed in the choice because - while generally an excellent map - it had some flaws that likely only a Bostonian well acquainted with the MBTA system would have noticed.

To me, Mikheil Kvrivishvili’s map’s greatest downfall was that it did not clearly distinguish between much of the B, C, and E Green Line branches, the Mattapan High Speed Rail Line, and parts of the Silver Line, none of which are grade separated, and the rest of the system, which is. To solve this problem, I made all non grade-separated service an outline of the corresponding grade-separated line.

I was also concerned about the fact that the winning map depicted bus lines in such a way that when two or more met and intersected it became unclear as to where one line terminated and the other continued. This can be particularly noticed at major bus terminals like Dudley, Ruggles, and Wonderland. To remedy this I devised a simple terminal marking and by making the lines thinner was able to include more information than Kvrivishvili’s map.

My map with markings...


Next, I attempted to tackle one of the greatest debates in transit mapping: that between georealism and pure diagrammatic abstraction. In the end, I weighed where it was important for people to understand accurately the geographic relationships between transit and the city - primarily in the downtown – and did my best to represent it by extending the D branch and reworking the SL2 in Seaport. I also cleaned up confusion about the order in which the SL1 visits the airport terminals.

The next challenge was my favorite because it begins to get at the future of how we will use the T. Between stations that are fairly close to each other, I added walking lines with Google estimated walking times. This is particularly helpful between Bowdoin and Charles/MGH for example, or Back Bay and Copley. It’s also a way of using time as an alternative measure to distance, much as I did with CommonRail.

Finally, my map also has a faded depiction of any under-construction or seriously planned additions to the system, most prominently the Green Line Extension to Somerville and Medford, but also the use of Track 61 between Seaport and Back Bay, the new Silver Line to Chelsea, the Assembly Sq. stop on the Orange Line, and the Boston Landing stop on the Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail.

In addition to my new map for the existing system, I created a (very ambitious) proposal for a system of, say, 2024 that includes new Blue and Red Line branches, and a Silver Line train from Everett to Franklin Park that would replace the Sl4 & SL5. Both of these maps I printed at full-scale and sent to Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey and MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott. Within about a week Secretary Davey was kind enough to send me a handwritten note saying that he “loved” my ideas and that MassDOT is working hard to rebuild the excellent transit system the state once had.

As many may know, the MBTA had said that the first use of Kvrivishvili’s map would be at the recently rebuilt Orient Heights Station, but as far as I know, the map has not yet been put up there. The terms of the competition never promised that the winner would have their map used throughout the system, which has led me to wonder if the slow roll-out of Kvrivishvili’s map may mean that the one I created could still have a chance of seeing the light of day – or even better, the dark of a subway station. What do you think?"