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					Future Directions for the
Washington, DC Metro Map

A Preliminary Report

Maxwell J Roberts PhD
Department of Psychology
University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
Essex, UK, CO4 3SQ

+44 1206 826923
+44 1206 873797


Copies of this document can be downloaded from:
www.tubemapcentral.com/WashingtonDC.pdf           Metro    Gallery
                                                  Centre    Plaza

                       Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map


Preface                                                      3

1. Background: The Washington, DC Metro                      4

2. Prototype designs                                         7

3. Proposed methodology                                     13

4. Conclusions                                              14

Appendix A: Good design for schematic maps                  15

Appendix B: Taxonomy of schematic angle-rules               18

Key bibliography                                            22

                                                                  Page 2
                           Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map


      This document begins with a brief analysis of the Washington,
DC Metro network and its schematic map. Future network
amendments will challenge the current design, and a series of
prototype replacements are introduced and discussed. Each has the
intention of improving on the geometry of the current design, but not
at the expense of excessive topographical distortion. There are many
ways of achieving this, but most graphic designers are somewhat
conservative in their repertoire of solutions.

      The current Washington, DC Metro map has a long history and
has become almost synonymous with the network itself. It is
essential, therefore, that any replacement should be carefully
designed and thoroughly researched in order to ensure that it is both
usable and engaging to both Washington, DC residents and visitors.
An iterative, evidence-based methodology is therefore proposed, in
which favored designs are refined in consultation with management
and in conjunction with user studies at all stages.

      The appendices at the end of this document give a detailed
discussion of ‘good design’ in the context of schematic maps, and a
detailed taxonomy of the different types of angle-rules that are
possible, along with their strengths and weaknesses. Examples of
maps worldwide are used to illustrate these.

      All official maps are copyright their respective transport
undertakings, and images are used for illustrative purposes only. All
original designs are copyright the author of this document and may
not be reproduced separately from this document without permission.

                                                                      Page 3
                                                                                                      Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

1. Background: The Washington, DC Metro

       The Washington, DC Metro first carried passengers in the
1970s. Conceived of and constructed as a whole, it today comprises
over 80 stations on five lines, with steady expansion taking place [4].
Unlike other networks in the USA, such as the New York Subway
and the Chicago El, the system does not regimentally follow the City
grid structure. Many stations are named after landmarks,
attractions, spaces and districts, rather than the more traditional
practice of naming after intersecting streets. In many ways, the
structure of the network resembles those found in medium-sized
European cities rather than the historic networks of the USA. All of
these factors need to be taken into account when devising a network

1.1 Network map, initial impressions

       The map of the Washington, DC Metro dates from the early
days of the network. It is distinctive in many ways but, like almost
all other networks around the world, reality is simplified by removing
most of the details that would otherwise be provided on a standard
topographical streetmap. Other than the lines and stations
themselves, the only remaining details include rivers, parks, county
boundaries, some landmarks, the Washington Beltway and
supplementary station information. Like many other networks, this
is also a schematic map that follows a frequently-used angle-rule
known as octolinear [2, 3]. The complex trajectories taken by the
lines are simplified by converting them into straight lines; horizontal,   thickness be thinned in the future. These factors alone point towards
vertical, and 45˚ diagonals (other than the southeastern end of the        the need for a fundamental redesign, rather than modifications to the
Green Line) with tightly radiused corners. The intention is that these     existing version. Station names are also angled in different ways in
will be easier to follow than if the routes mirrored topographical         many places, and font size and spacing is occasionally reduced so
reality. The designers undoubtedly hoped that this would result in a       that certain stations can be accommodated. Typographically, the
usable, engaging map, conveying the implicit message that journeys         overall impression is somewhat chaotic; any implicit message
by Metro would be simple, effortless, and rapid.                           conveyed by this is almost certainly undesirable from a marketing
                                                                           point of view.
       The most distinctive feature of the map is its thick Metro lines
in relation to the map size and lettering. With future plans                     A more subtle point to note is that the designer of the map has
envisaging the possibility of up to three line colors along at least one   not taken the opportunity to simplify the trajectories of the lines in
corridor, this design style will not be tenable in the future. Less        many places. This is an essential procedure in optimization because
desirable, station names interrupt the flow of lines in many places.       substituting the twisting routes of reality with zigzagging routes on a
The adverse effect of this will become more pronounced should line         schematic map does not achieve simplification (see Appendix A).

                                                                                                                                                 Page 4
                                                                                                       Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

Instead, the shape of complexity is merely changed. For example, the
Green Line to the southeast of the city changes direction three times
after Waterfront Station. This does not help the user plan a journey,
nor choose the most convenient station. The directional information
is merely noise, defeating the notional advantage of a schematic map.
Journeys by Blue Line appear to be particularly unattractive, with
720˚ of curvature between L’Enfant Plaza and Franconia-Springfield.
                                                                                                     Metro           Gallery
Also of note is the twisted route taken by the Green/Yellow Lines                                    Centre           Plaza
north of Shaw. Two right-angled bends and a 45˚ one imply a
circuitous journey for the user, who might make the reasonable                                                       L’Enfant
assumption that the designer has gone to the effort of implying that                                                  Plaza

Columbia Heights and Dupont Circle are within easy walking
distance of each other. This information might be useful in the event
of service disruption were it not for the fact that this implication is

      Overall, there appears to be scope for improvement in this
diagram. There is ample opportunity for simplifying the structure of
the map and calming its typography, thus enhancing its appeal and
usability. Optional travelers need to be given the impression that the      Above: Basic Washington, DC Metro central structure and flow
network is simple, speedy and effortless to use, and one method of
marketing this message is for the map to be likewise.                            In terms of route trajectories, in the City Centre the lines meet
                                                                          to form a rough triangle, with the need for clear placement of station
1.2 Network Topology                                                      names limiting how this area can be configured. The Green/Yellow
                                                                          and Red Lines meet, depart, and then meet again further north, and
       Looking at the actual structure of the network, there are a        this reduces the potential for straightening these. To the southwest,
number of properties that constrain the options for the designer who      the trajectory taken by the Blue Line constrains the map enormously;
is attempting to create the most usable and aesthetic design possible.    only certain configurations of Yellow and Blue Lines ensure that they
It is not a perfectly radial network, and this has implications for how   will meet at Pentagon without unreasonably elongated gaps between
it is mapped.                                                             stations.

       The current map is roughly square-shaped with supplementary              All of these factors should be noted when evaluating the
information giving it a portrait-format page. However, the network        prototypes shown in Section 2. Particular configurations are chosen
itself has a strong east-west axis, with the Dulles Airport extension     with good reason, and alternatives may be impractical.
adding to this. Station names can be difficult to place on lines that
run horizontally. The preferred UK solution is to alternate station       1.3 Topographical considerations
names on either side. Tilted station names are perfectly acceptable in
other countries but should be applied neatly if possible. An                   Many users complain about topographical distortions on
alternative is to slant the lines, but a slope of around 30˚ to           schematic maps, although the difficulties that these cause are
horizontal is necessary for easy placement of a series of long station    probably overstated. Overall, the designer should distort topography
names.                                                                    where this will improve the flow of the lines, but avoid doing so
                                                                                                                                                  Page 5
                                                                           Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

excessively. Whether a user is seeking to identify a start or
destination station, or alternatives in the event of service disruption,
it should always be remembered that a network schematic is a poor
substitute for a detailed streetmap, and direction signage and maps
of local neighborhoods should ideally be provided at each station.

       The Washington, DC Metro has a number of properties that
mean that stringent topographical accuracy is less important than
for other USA urban rail networks.

   • All stations are uniquely named. In New York and Chicago, the
     naming of stations by intersecting street often results in
     duplicated names. A topographical map is helpful in resolving
     such ambiguities, but the Washington, DC Metro has none.

   • Almost all likely transfers are catered for within stations. For
     some networks, e.g. the London Underground, certain journeys
     may be completed more quickly by between-station transfers;
     leaving a train at one station and transferring to another
     station a few hundred yards distant. Planned as a whole, the
     Washington, DC Metro caters for most possible journeys via its
     key transfer stations, and so there is no need for the map to
     indicate nearby stations that could be used for transfer
     purposes. The only possible exception to this is that a journey
     from, say, Shady Grove to Clarendon might be speeded by
     transferring from Farragut North to Farragut West, but the
     time advantage is likely to be small, and this example is
     probably a rarity.

   • The most appropriate station is clear for most suburban
     districts. Many suburbs in London and New York are served by
     multiple lines at different stations, so that the user may need
     to be made aware that there are nearby alternatives. In
     Washington, DC, few suburbs have competing services, and so
     the map need not highlight these.

      Overall, considering topographical fidelity, the designer of the
Washington, DC map has more leeway than most USA networks.
Gross distortions are to be avoided because these will be resisted by
users, but there is little in the way of travel hints and suggestions
that need to be communicated via spatial configurations on the map.

                                                                                                                      Page 6
                             Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

2. Prototype designs

      Several prototypes have been developed and these are
discussed in this section. An explanation of the different angle-rules
that schematic maps may follow is given in Appendix B, where the
nomenclature adopted is also explained more fully. For the
prototypes: size, shape and font are matched to the current design.
They have also been matched for basic supplementary information
(parks, rivers and landmarks) but more detailed information, such as
county boundaries, has not been included. This will be added at
future stages of the design process. Design aspects such as line
thickness, colors, and (uncontroversial) station and transfer symbols
have also been matched so that the maps can be easily compared and
evaluated. None of these prototypes should be regarded as a
definitive final version. Ideally, a systematic, evidence-based
methodology should be adopted, as described in Section 3.

       Section 3 explains that the aim of the early design stages (1 to
3) is to create alternative maps and then identify from users the most
favored of these. If too much supplementary information is included
at this stage, it will be difficult for users to evaluate the basic
designs. Subsequently, the most favored alternatives will be refined
(Stages 4 and 5) and provision will be made on these to include
further supplementary information. However, this will only be added
at later stages (6 onwards) once the preferred network configuration
is finalized. From here, alternatives for station and transfer symbols,
etc., can also be investigated. Hence, in all studies at all stages, users
can give their full attention to the key questions under investigation.

      For all the prototypes, station names are unabbreviated and
none interrupt lines. The Dulles Airport extension is included in full,
and the possibility of a separate designation for the proposed service
from Franconia-Springfield to Greenbelt is adopted. The prototypes
are ordered step by step in increasing complexity of the angle-rules

                                                                        Page 7
                                          Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

2.1 Tetralinear Map: Two angles
(horizontal/vertical) rotated by 30˚

Tetralinear designs are too severe for
general use, all too often resulting in
many corners, considerable
topographical distortion, or both.
Occasionally, a rotated design can be
visually striking. This is the case for
the Washington, DC Metro, where a
very distinctive creation is possible.
This is the only prototype of the five
where none of the station names is

Clean, visually striking, good
typography. Good trajectories for Red
and Green Lines.

Topographical distortion, users may
resist such an abstract design.
Corners are severe (90˚ turns).

                                                                                     Page 8
                                          Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

2.2 Hexalinear Map: Three angles
(horizontal, 60˚ left to right, and 60˚
right to left)

Hexalinear maps can look very
dynamic when matched to the right
network. For Washington, DC, the
steep angle results in some
difficulties in meeting the Blue and
Yellow Lines, hence the ‘hump’ at
Rosslyn. On the other hand, the lines
fan into the suburbs in a satisfactory
way, and the inherent compactness of
60˚ angles enables the Dulles airport
extension to be shown cleanly.

Lines fan cleanly into SE suburbs,
Yellow/Purple/Green and Red Lines
have excellent trajectories. Design is
reasonably compact horizontally.
Hexalinear angles unlikely to
surprise or be resisted by users.

Angles do not quite fit the W/SW part
of the network.

                                                                                     Page 9
                                         Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

2.3 Octolinear Map: Four angles
(horizontal, vertical, and 45˚
diagonals x2)

The traditional angle-rule for a
schematic map fits the Washington,
DC Metro reasonably well, and
considerable improvements are
possible over the current official map
in terms of geometry, particularly for
the east-west lines. However, the Red
Line fares less well, and the lack of
compactness forces a bend in the
Dulles Airport extension.

Standard design technique, therefore
likely to be widely accepted by users.
East-west and Blue Lines have good
trajectories. Low levels of
topographical distortion.

Extra corners required elsewhere,
little overall advantage over the
hexalinear map in this respect.
Dulles Airport extension suffers.

                                                                                   Page 10
                                          Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

2.4 Higher-Order Linear Map: Based
upon 22.5˚ increments, technically

Higher-order linear maps are difficult
to design and should only be
attempted if there is a clear objective
that may be achieved in doing so.
Even so, results can be disorientating
for users. In this case, the objective
was to ‘force’ a perfectly straight
route from Dulles Airport to the city
center. The minimum tilt to permit
this is around 22.5˚ (shallower angles
result in difficulties placing central
stations). Overall, the city is now
slanted, which some users might
object to, although the lines
themselves have the best trajectories
of the four prototypes so far.

Fewest corners, new extension is on a
straight line with clear publicity

Unusual design might meet with
resistance. Largest number of tilted
station names of all prototypes,
although these are arranged neatly.

                                                                                    Page 11
                                          Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

2.5 Curvilinear Map: No straight
lines permitted

Curvilinear maps enable harsh
corners to be smoothed away,
replaced by gentle curves. Some users
initially find this style unsettling,
although many see an immediate
appeal. In general, this type of design
has the greatest advantage over
traditional schematics for very
complicated networks, but the
Washington, DC Metro version
demonstrates its potential well.

Novel design. Corners smoothed away
without excessive topographical
distortion. Appeals to those users who
find strict geometry harsh and

Many users (around 40–50% in the
UK) prefer strict geometry, although
this proportion will be greatest where
the tradition of octolinear schematic
designs is greatest, such as London.

                                                                                    Page 12
                                                                                                     Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

3. Proposed methodology                                                  3.3 Preference studies
       As shown in Section 2, there are many different angle-rules
                                                                                In order to narrow down the options, users will be asked to
that a designer can use to create a network schematic, each with
                                                                         rank-order designs for preference, and describe the perceived
advantages and disadvantages that vary by network. It is therefore
                                                                         strengths and weaknesses for each. To assess the wider impact of
important that the designer takes a systematic approach. Different
                                                                         different designs, ideally at least three groups of users should be
angle-rules must be explored and used to devise prototypes. In the
                                                                         consulted: (a) City experts, (b) Transit experts who are not familiar
process of this, the designer can identify any points of difficulty,
                                                                         with the particular city, and (c) transit/city novices.
along with particular angle-rules that assist or exacerbate these.
       User studies are also important, and cost-effective to conduct
                                                                         3.4 Refinement
in relation to the entire design process. A number of these have been
conducted at the University of Essex and London South Bank
                                                                               On the basis of user ratings, no more than the two most
University in the UK (e.g., [3]). One major finding is that subjective
                                                                         favored designs should be selected for further optimization. Different
ratings of designs (e.g., an estimation of how easily lines can be
                                                                         options can be explored, and final network configurations will be
followed) have no relationship with objective usability measures
                                                                         aimed for. If any prerequisites concerning supplementary
(such as speed of planning a journey between two stations).
                                                                         information, etc., are known, the designs should be made ready to
Essentially, map engagement is entirely separate from map usability,
                                                                         accommodate these, although they would not be displayed on the test
so that an individual may dislike a map that he/she finds easy to use,
                                                                         designs until 3.6.
or like a map that he/she finds difficult to use. Of course, a skilled
designer will aim for an engaging, usable design, but it is important
                                                                         3.5 User testing
that user studies evaluate both aspects of behavior.
       The overall plan is to design a map in stages, weed out the
                                                                               Usability studies should be conducted on different groups to
least liked prototypes, optimize the basic structure of the remainder,
                                                                         ensure that the refined designs are usable and have no pitfalls
establish the most favored design and then determine fine details
                                                                         (modifications are possible in the light of this). Assuming that they
such as station/transfer symbols and supplementary information.
                                                                         are evenly matched for usability, further preference studies will
The sequence of stages would be as follows.
                                                                         determine the most favored design.
3.1 Preliminary stages
                                                                         3.6 Embellishment
      The designer should survey the network if possible, and consult
                                                                               Once the basic network configuration is finalized for the most
with users and management concerning the strengths and
                                                                         favored option, further choices need to be made concerning station/
weaknesses of existing designs. Requirements such as font/font size,
                                                                         transfer symbols and supplementary information. If necessary, these
dimensions, colors, and priorities such as keeping certain lines
                                                                         can be evaluated via further preference studies (which are
straight but not others, should be established early if possible.
                                                                         straightforward to conduct).
3.2 Rapid prototyping
                                                                         3.7 Adoption of final design
       A range of prototypes following different angle-rules should be
                                                                               Consultation with users and management at all stages, along
produced. These will be intended to be well-optimized designs, but
                                                                         with a systematic evidence-based approach, should ensure the
subject to future refinement. At least four should be created:
                                                                         widespread acceptance of the new design by the general public and
traditional octolinear, curvilinear, and two others based upon those
                                                                         the media.
angle-rules that match the particular network well.
                                                                                                                                               Page 13
                            Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

4. Conclusions

       A series of prototypes has been created, intended to optimize
the line trajectories on the Washington, DC Metro schematic, and
therefore usability and appearance. Each is intended to be possible
candidate for the basis of a future official map, and to demonstrate
the level of improvement that is possible. Ideally, the next step is to
evaluate user preferences. An evidence-based, consultative, iterative
methodology is proposed. By developing the favored designs in this
way, continuing to engage users throughout the design process via
journey planning, preference, and subjective evaluation studies, a
distinctive, attractive usable design will result. This will gain
widespread acceptance soon after introduction.

                                                                      Page 14
                                                                                                     WEMBLEY PARK                                                                                                        TUFNELL            HOLLOWAY
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but a browse through a selection of network maps [1] will reveal
                                                                              REFERENCE   (D&/D!.*)1-$                                                  network easier EAST identify and learn. #+!7 BALHAM
                                                                                                                                                                          to PUTNEY
                                                                                                                                                                       FD""$(*2+!0        (-'((*%1))+3"        %+7&"$* 51,,1-+.* L.P.T.B.
some clear patterns across the world. Many undertakings use a METROPOLITAN LINE
                                                        DISTRICT LINE                METROPOLITAN LINE                                   SOUTHFIELDS                                       )1-$
                                                                                                                                                                                 TRINITY ROAD                  !1+&
                                                                                                                                       0',/D!$*2+!0                                                                                                                       2,
                                                        BAKERLOO LINE                      +,2"!)1$                                                              7+!,/1!1*!1+&(TOOTING BEC)                                                                               D
                                                                                                                                                                                         71!$'$3)1$* %+,"&1$'+$*                   %+$1$/D!.*6*"(("?*!1+&                 "+
                                                         some degree, CENTRAL LONDON
topographical map. This might simplify reality toEDGWARE, HIGHGATE for 2+!0*!1.+, LINE
                                                        PICCADILLY LINE                                             (GREAT NORTHERN & CITY SECTION)
                                                                                                                                                                           TOOTING BROADWAY%!"(%"$)           !1+&                                                        /+
                                                                                                                                          WIMBLEDON PARK                                                          %&7280!3%2500(
                                                                                                                                             -+!-'%0*+E"$D"                                                                                                               D
                                                                                                                ,+)'7"!* -"()/1D!$"*                              7+!.,"/1$" WOOD
                                                                                                                                                                     COLLIERS    .01"*2  "D()1$          ()8*2+$%!+(                                                      /"
example by omitting all but the most important landmarks, "+,'$3* the $1!)5*"+,'$3
                                                        & MORDEN LINE                                            !1+&       2+!0                                                 0",                                               1,&*()!"")                             5
                                                                      INTERCHANGE STATIONS                                                                    SOUTH WIMBLEDON                                        +$3",                                                &
                                                                          /!1+&-+.                                   ,+&/!10"*                                                               "D()1$*  '(45".'2               4.'"&2                                       51
                                                                                   lines BOARD
locations of stations, and sometimes even the trajectories of the TRANSPORT +%)1$ 55, BROADWAY, S.W.1 3!1E" /+.(-+)"! 2+&&'$3)1$ MORDEN ()!"")
                                                                                            -"()*        "+()*                     /'(512(*!1+&                    (MERTON)                  (FD+!"   .0"(                                               -"../34(03       D
                                                                                                        +%)1$                     WIMBLEDON                                                                                        711!3+)"
                                                                                                                                                                                         -+!!"$*                            %&.''&                                        6
                                                     ISSUED BY LONDON PASSENGER                                                                             2!+"&*                       ()!"") J. ROBERTS, 18/02/2009, BASED UPON DESIGNS BY F.H. STINGEMORE
themselves will mimic reality as much as is possible on a scale
                                                                                                                                                            ()!"")                                       (FD+!"
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drawing. The problem with such maps is that the complex twisting of%1771$ /D(5
                                                                                                                       51,,+$&*            FD""$(*       7+!/,"* 1?#1!&*
                                                                                                                                                                                           7D("D7             +,&-.%5       &0&&'3!"#2
                                                                                                                          2+!0              !1+&          +!%5
lines adds information that is irrelevant to journey planning (what is                                                                                                                                   %1E"$)*7+$('1$*             +,&3+)"                            ()"2
                                                                 $1!)5#'",&(                        31,&5+-0*                                                                                            3+!&"$* 51D("                                       ()8*7+!.(   3!           #036#'3&
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the best way to get from Station A to Station B?) and 1()"!,".mask the +%)1$*)1-$
                                                                                                                                         5'35*()!"")*        &1E"!*()!"")
                                                                                                                                         0"$('$3)1$ 5.&"*2+!0*%1!$"!
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                                                                                               (1D)5*+%)1$                                                                                                  )"72,"
overall structure of the network, so that the underlying routes 2+!0 the ()+7#1!&* 5+77"!(7')5
                                                   51D$(,1-*"+()               %5'(-'%0*
                                                                                                                                           3,1D%"()"!* /!172)1$*
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lines are harder to identify and learn.                                                         /!110          /+!1$(*%1D!)     %1D!)         !1+&*        !1+&                  -"()7'$()"!                                                                 -+22'$3
                                              51D$(,1-*-"()                                                                                                              E'%)1!'+                               -+)"!,11
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                                                                                                                          )D!$5+7* !+E"$(%1D!)*                                               (1D)5*                                                                               ","25+$)*               !1)5"!5')5"
                                                                                                                           3!""$       2+!0                        0"$('$3)1$       -"()*   0"$('$3)1$      (FD+!"                   2+!0                                          6*%+(),"

      The alternative to a topographical map, a schematic map 0"-*3+!&"$(                  seeks
to simplify reality further by converting the complex trajectories of                 !'%571$&
                                                                                                                     Design rules versus design objectives

routes into simple straight lines. Similar to the design used by the
                                                                                                                                                                                      ()1%0-",,                         3+)"
London Underground for over 75 years, corners are tightly radiused,                                                             A schematic map can assist the user if the complexities of

and a limited number of angles is permitted, almost always
                                                                                                        !"#"!"$%"reality are genuinely simplified. This is important because there is a

horizontal/vertical lines along with diagonals at 45˚ (this particular
                                                                               &'()!'%)**!+',-+.             7")!121,')+$**!,.8

                                                                                                                                                                        that octolinear by itself
                                                                                                                     misconception amongst graphic designers)!'$').*!1+&*
                                                                               /+0"!,11**,'$"                7")!121,')+$**!,.8           (1D)5#'",&(                     /+,5+7

combination of angles, or angle-rule is known as octolinear, see
                                                                               "&3-+!"4**5'353+)"            "+()**,1$&1$**!+',-+.
                                                                                                                                                                                                       UndergrounD                                      9)11)'$3*/"%:

                                                                               6**71!&"$**,'$"                       constitutes some sort of cartographical gold standard, such that maps

Appendix B). There the similarity ends, and there is a bewildering             %"$)!+,**,1$&1$**!,.8         D$&"!*%1$()!D%)'1$
                                                                                                                     designed using this angle-rule will automatically be easy-to-use, and
                                                                                                                                          -'7/,"&1$             %1,,'"!(*-11&

variety of techniques for grouping services and showing stations,
                                                                                                                                                             (1D)5*-'7/,"&1$*                                                                     97"!)1$:

                                                                                                                                                            inevitably have a usability
                                                                                                                     that maps that fail to use this will 71!&"$
transfers, and other information [1]. However, the basic octolinear
                                                                                                                     disadvantage. This belief is easy to refute both theoretically and
straight-line technique for showing the routes of the network                                                        empirically. If we consider that the goal of the designer is simplicity,
remains dominant.                                                                                                    then bad implementation will turn the meandering curves of reality
                                                                                                                                                into zigzagging corners on a map. Reality has not been simplified,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Page 15
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                                   instead the shape of the complexity has merely been changed, and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              R(G*="/7%"&
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                                   too likely. Fundamentally, we J.%6-,1)"do not have rules for arbitrary reasons,
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                                   rules exist so that objectives may be attained. The objective in M35./7
                                                                                                                                                                                                     A poorly designed map with many ='#8'70                                      corners disrupting."#B$() lines (left) will be
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                                   producing a transport schematic is an attractive, simple, engaging,
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                                                                                                                                                                         K'7)#0/1                    harder to use than a map of the same network with fewer corners (right).
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                                   usable design that encourages people to travel and enables them to                             !$"()%0J                J%'+/1#/'5"Q%'N
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                                   plan quickly without making mistakes. Adopting the traditional
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                                                                                                                                                T$%#'/"8*X                                                                                as few
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                                   octolinear angle-rule provides a tool by which this objective may be                  R,').4,,#
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                                                                                                  Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

   street and other details is a skill that could only be displayed          The above points indicate that topographical information, even
   by a user with considerable city expertise.                        on a schematic map, may be of some use, although its importance is
                                                                      probably overstated. If such information is to guide the configuration
• Identification of alternative stations. At times of service         of a map, it is important that it is consistently applied. This is
  disruption, topographical information on a schematic might be       because, from the point of view of a novice user, in the absence of
  useful for identifying a nearby alternative station that could be   further information, it is impossible to know which configurations on
  used instead, although announcements, signs and                     a map constitute travel hints, and which are unintended byproducts
  neighborhood maps may fulfill this function more effectively.       of the schematization process. Even where topography is impeccably
                                                                      accurate, such information is not always usable. For example,
• Disambiguation of similarly-named stations. Where networks          consider one station that is exactly north of another by a few blocks.
  name stations after intersecting streets, topographical             This information can only be used for navigation if the direction that
  information on a schematic provides a way of disambiguating         the station exit is facing is known, otherwise, a compass will be
  them. For example, with five subway stations named 23rd             required.
  Street in Manhattan, an accurate topographical map might
  help the user to identify the target station. The Chicago El is            Overall, although schematic maps can be configured to show
  another example, with four stations named Pulaski.                  topographical information precisely, this can be at the expense of an
                                                                      attractive usable diagram and, in any case, it is not clear that the
• Identifying and locating between-station transfers. For older       user will be able to take advantage of such information without a
  networks, originally constructed or operated by competing           scale streetmap for additional guidance. In which case the streetmap
  companies, potential transfers between rivals were given little     should be consulted for full guidance rather than the schematic.
  consideration. In many cities, London included, certain             From the point of view of the designer, the best strategy is to
  journeys may be completed faster by leaving a train at one          optimize geometry on the schematic as much as possible, taking
  station, and walking a few hundred yards to another station for     advantage of topographical distortion in order to do so, but not
  a new train. Some of these transfers now have official status,      distorting reality to the point at which typical users are taken out of
  and are recommended on the London Underground map. The              their comfort zones. Certainly, it is necessary to avoid conveying any
  introduction of electronic ticketing has led to others that are     information that could be misleading if taken literally by a user.
  not officially recommended. Even so, novice users may be
  reluctant to venture into unknown neighborhoods, and without        Conclusions
  clear signposting, they may have difficulty locating even
  recommended between-station transfers.                                     Blind adherence to traditional design rules is unlikely to lead
                                                                      to a usable map. The designer must take care to optimize its
• Minimizing conflict with users’ mental models of the city. Some     geometry, ensuring that reality has genuinely been simplified. The
  users have very low levels of distortion-tolerance: any             aim is to take the complex line trajectories, and convert them, where
  topographical disruption will lead to complaints, although it is    possible, into memorable, easy to follow straight lines. Changes of
  not clear that this will damage their journey planning. Indeed,     direction – corners – should be minimized: nothing will be gained if
  the people who tend to complain the most are users who are          complex twisting curves are converted into complex twisting zigzags.
  the most expert, and therefore have least need of topographical     In the process of optimizing geometry, some topographical distortion
  maps. Novice users are unlikely to notice even quite high levels    is inevitable. Although complaints about topographical distortion are
  of distortion, especially in suburbs.                               probably overstated, the designer must have some sensitivity of the
                                                                      issues so as not to go beyond people's comfort zones.

                                                                                                                                            Page 17
                                                                                                              Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

Appendix B: Taxonomy of schematic angle-rules                                   Examples
                                                                                The current Madrid Metro map. Many designers seek to use as few
       There are many ways in which to design a schematic map. The              diagonals as possible. For example, in the 1970s the Vignelli New
traditional way, an octolinear map, with four possible angles                   York Subway map was effectively tetralinear in Manhattan.
(horizontal, vertical, 45˚ left to right, 45˚ right to left) is just one of a
family of angle-rules that could be adopted, and have been adopted
round the world by various transport undertakings. What is notable
is that different networks have different structures, and that these
are suited to different angle-rules [2,3].

       The basic categories are outlined in this section, along with
brief notes on their advantages and disadvantages. It is difficult to
know in advance which angle-rules will suit which networks because
this research is still in its infancy. Only the simplest cases are
named, but this list provides a useful starting point for any designer,
irrespective of network.

       This analysis has recent origins and, unfortunately, looks set to
inherit mathematical terminology. The angle combinations available
for a particular map are categorized by their linearity. Imagine a              Above: Current Madrid
                                                                                Above right: New York, 1972
design that will have just vertical and horizontal lines (two angles).
With a blank sheet, the designer has a choice of four directions in
which to draw a line (up/down/left/right). Hence, a two-angle map is
                                                                                Too severe for most
tetralinear. The traditional schematic angle-rule (horizontal/vertical
                                                                                cities, both of the above
lines and 45˚ diagonals) gives the designer a choice of eight different
                                                                                maps are controversial,
directions, hence the map is four-angle or octolinear, and so on.
                                                                                and the Madrid map
                                                                                demonstrates the
B.1 Tetralinear/Two angles
                                                                                difficulty in configuring
                                                                                transfers with this type
                                                                                of design. However, a
                                                                                rotated tetralinear map
                                                                                can be very striking, and
Version a:                Version b:                                            is essentially the design
                                                                                used by Montreal (right).
Relatively compact

Can lead to excessive topographical distortion, or many corners,
sometimes both.

                                                                                                                                                        Page 18
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

                               B.2 Hexalinear/Three angles                                                                                                                                                                B.3 Octolinear/Four angles

                                                                                                                                                                                                              K1/J216.$*6                                                                           X00(),
                                                                                                                                                                                                             P&JB11+                                                                   V#$7+1)"I1(6
                               Version a:                                               Version b:                                                                   V1..$*(+,$"M"O#$.6.1)$
                                                                                                                                                                                                      R15.#,&.$                                                                           N$E+$)
                              Advantages                                                                                                                                                                                  Advantages
                                                                                         O11+6(+$"T&*J                   A(''"L(''"X&6.

                              Fits many networks surprisingly well. Version (a) is inherently !*)16"Y*1Q$
                                                                                     O$6."W()/#'$7                                                                                                                        Ostensibly a design gold standard. Well-known and well-understood
                              compact horizontally. 60˚ angles can give a dynamic appearance to a
                                                                                 W()/#'$7"K$).*&'        I15)+6"Y*$$)                                                                                                     by designers worldwide. Versatile and flexible. Computer software
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             I5/J#5*6."L(''   K#(,B$''

                                         I5*)."P&J                           X&6."W()/#'$7             O11+"Y*$$)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          presets make this easy to implement.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          D1+(),"=&''$7           Y*&),$"L(''
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                                a5$$)6E5*7     K1'()+&'$                        L(,#,&.$           V5*)0(J$"3&)$                                                                                                        Disadvantages O11+21*+
                               More restrictive than octolinear, the designer must abandon either
                                                                                          K*15/#"   L&**(),&7"
                                                                                                                                                                                                   R(6.$*6         L&'$ Frequently abused by careless designers. 45˚ diagonals are
                                                                                                                                                                                                                V1..$)#&-" I'&/J#1*6$" O&'.#&-6.1B"
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        inherently wasteful of space.
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                           A very subtle style, unlikely toO$6.
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                                                                                                                     L1''1B&7"D1&+                                       The first choice for many designers, but often misunderstood. The
           ^$)6&'"D(6$                                                                                                                                                              R.*&.21*+"
 )                         regarding map design. For some networks, such as the London
                                                                                                                K&'$+1)(&)"D1&+    L(,#E5*7"                 L&/J)$7"
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                                                                                                                                                                              L&/J)$7"                                                     40-()6.$*
                                                                                           K&-+$)"                                                                                                                  O&)6.$&+"T&*J
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                                                                                                                                                                                                R.*&.21*+                          40-()6.$*"I*(+,$
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               T&*J L(,#"D1&+          L&-06.$&+                                                  A1*)(),.1)"
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                                                                                             N*&/2"T(##*5                                                                                                                                        Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map
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                                                                Y$.E'$R"V$-/#('                                                                                          Comment ^,'E&#-               \,-+2'$R"
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        by a
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                                                                                                                                                                         cannot be satisfied by using lower linearity. For example,
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A skilled designer can reduce the number of corners on a map                                                                                   Y,''$8)$-"C&-+/,*-        possible (below). N5,88"V*//(%$
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                                        W$#,7('$                                                                                                               ^$-8('"
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                                                                                                                                                                                   T,%2"D*()        T(.08/$()
complicated networks or strongly radial networks.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  N/?"W(-+#(8                                        T*B/*-
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   A**#%(/$                 3,7$#0**'"N/#$$/
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ]**)%$"         D&88$''"
lack visual coherence. Users may resist. Very poor designs can shock. 3(/,.$#"D*()
                                                                                    W(#Q O(Q
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(below). Has been tried from time to time in Paris.
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Page 20
                                                                        Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

B.5 Curvilinear (No straight lines permitted)

Can tame the most complex networks where the only alternative is a
maze of zigzags. Excessive topographical distortion can be avoided.
For around 40% of users, a well-implemented design is flowing,
organic and engaging.

Open to abuse by poor designers. Needs care to implement well and
there are no established aesthetic standards. Resisted by those users
who prefer regular geometry.

Not currently adopted, but designs have
been produced with significant usability
benefits compared with official maps in
Madrid and Paris (right) [2,3].

Although this style shows the most benefits
for complex networks, pleasing designs can
result for simple ones too. The intention of
the designer should be to replace the
zigzags on a conventional map with almost-
imperceptible changes in curvature as the
eye follows the lines.

                                                                                                                  Page 21
                            Future Directions for the Washington, DC Metro Map

Key bibliography

[1] Ovenden, M. (2007). Transit maps of the world. New York:

[2] Roberts, M. J. (2010). Henry Beck rules, not OK? Breaking the
Rules of Diagrammatic Map design.

[3] Roberts, M. J., Newton, E. J., & Lagattolla, F. D. (2010). Objective
versus Subjective Measures of Metro Map Usability:
Investigating the Benefits of Breaking Design Rules.

[4] Schrag, Z. M. (2006). The great society subway. A history of the
Washington Metro. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

                                                                      Page 22

Description: washington DC subway map