Nov
10

Map of the Day: A new New Jersey rail diagram

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The new New Jersey Transit rail diagram brings a retro look to the Garden State. (Click to enlarge)

Geography or schematic? That is the question. In a new map showing the state’s commuter rail network, New Jersey Transit has gone with the latter. The new diagram, unveiled yesterday, is supposed to be “customer-friendly” with “more open design and new color scheme for easy customer reference,” the agency said.

“The new design is intended to be simple, familiar and inviting, not only for our regular customers, but also for those residents and visitors who have never before traveled on the State’s rail network,” NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein said. “We hope that customers will find the new map to be a valuable tool in their travels on our system.”

The map, designed in house, marks a move from the previous version which featured the train system in a purely geographic setting. Through color-coding and a streamlined design, the map now better highglights transfer points and routing. It also features the “completion of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail 8th Street Station, accessibility improvements at Somerville, Ridgewood and Plauderville stations, and the addition of the future Pennsauken Transit Center.”

Still, despite the upgrades, there’s no small bit of state-based protectionism involved. While the PATH system gets its day in the sun and the Port Jervis line branches into New York, New Jersey Transit pays scant attention to SEPTA’s connection from Trenton to Philadelphia and beyond. Transit networks are regional, but this map doesn’t extend far beyond the borders of the Garden State.

While I like the simplicity of the design and the idea behind it, it certainly has its flaws. Over at the Transit Maps tumblr, Cameron Booth is not a fan. Calling the map “sad, tired and amateur,” Booth finds it an unwieldy amalgam of styles: “It seems to have taken elements from many different transit maps and mashes them into one big mess. We have the thick route lines and giant circle transfer stations of Washington, DC Metro, icons for the lines similar to – but nowhere nearly as well executed – the Lisbon Metro, and different station symbols for each and every mode of transit.”

Form vs. function. Design vs. geography. The rail map battle always rages on.



19 Responses to “Map of the Day: A new New Jersey rail diagram”

  1. Marc Shepherd says:

    Someone who liked the Vignelli map would like this one.

  2. Christopher says:

    I’m a fan of the Vignelli map and diagramatic maps in general. (It’s actually much closer to the way we draw maps ourselves — not to scale but to figure out A to B.) I like to think of these as being specialty maps. With every map you choose how much to show and how little. You’d never use a satellite image for instance to try to find your way around a city. Well you might if you prefer complexity.

    And while I think this is a good effort. The comments on it are right. It lacks internal consistency and looks too much like someone in the office kept saying. No make it more like DC. It suggests a bad internal client and a designer unwilling to challenge the directions she/he was given. Probably not usually for an in-house design team, especially at a public agency. You can’t really fire the client in a situation like that.

    • Nathanael says:

      Yeah. This is not a good piece of design. It doesn’t *suck*, it’s just not very good.

      I like what they did with the Erie lines, but somehow the representation doesn’t carry over to the other lines.

      They should try the style where thicker lines indicate more frequent service, and they should attempt to represent the expresses in a more coherent manner.

  3. Larry Littlefield says:

    Kind of shows why South Jersey governor Christie scrapped ARC and plans to widen the New Jersey Turnpike where it shrinks from 12 lanes to six.

    Then again, most of the people and tax payments are in North Jersey.

    It’s kind of like Upstate Vs. Downstate.

  4. Eric F. says:

    The prior map was much more to my liking because it showed the geogroaphy of the state much better than this. It also celebrated the history behind NJT’s train lines, making it unique in the area. This looks like a glorified PATH map, which is also awful.

    Here’s a shot of the old one:

    http://www.njtransit.com/images/railmap06.jpg

    • Eric says:

      That map makes my brain shut down.

    • ajedrez says:

      I like the map, but I think there should’ve been more color contrast (the background should’ve been a beige color rather than dark blue)

      I think schematics are easier for the average traveler to figure out, though. They’re easier to figure out at a quick glance.

  5. Al D says:

    Where’s the darned bus map, already? Or, do like the MTA does, make a number of geographic specific bus map.

  6. Frank B. says:

    I do want to point out that in this NJ Transit Map, they have specifically labeled Staten Island, whereas they don’t label Queens, Brooklyn, or the Bronx, as they do not, and likely will not, ever directly serve these areas.

    Yet, they have labeled Staten Island. I’m not saying it means that it’s hope for trains to Staten Island at last, but perhaps its of some kind of significance in some NJ Transit Executive’s office, planning to expand Hudson-Bergen both northward and southward concurrently.

    • pea-jay says:

      Speaking of beyond state boundaries, where’s the NY/PA stateliness?

    • The Cobalt Devil says:

      Wow Frank, you really are reading a LOT into that. I’m thinking since Staten Island is just so geographically close, it would be weird NOT to label it as such. What I do find weird is that Manhattan is not labelled, just lumped in as “New York” with the other boros. Could be that NJT just forgot SI is part of NY! Either way, I think NJT gives about 0.0002% thought to bringing any kind of transit to Staten Island anytime soon.

  7. Lou says:

    Christe is from north jersey. Mendam to be exact where there is no transit. He was born in Newark.

  8. Scott E says:

    I see no problem with a diagrammatic map for a regional rail system. Unlike rapid transit, where someone might want to see “what’s the best train(s) to get me to 17th and 5th (selected arbitrarily, by the way), someone looking to get to, say, Rahway, need only know that they should go to the Rahway stop. Then they consult a local map to figure out where the train station is in reference to where they’re going. Regional rail is fundamentally different than rapid-transit.

    As far as the straightening of all the lines, that may be a marketing perk more than anything else. Many of the lines, particularly the Morris-and-Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines were historically freight lines that meander around terrain and towards former manufacturing/industrial facilities. They are a very slow trip, and the path between two points is far from a straight line. The newer map makes it look like a much easier trip (until you check the schedule, that is!)

  9. Tsuyoshi says:

    I like this new map. I especially like how it just stuffs almost every rail line in there, even the virtually useless Newark Light Rail. One obvious improvement, since geographic accuracy does not seem to be the goal here, would be to reduce the size of Staten Island so that the southern portion of Husdon Bergen Light Rail would not be so crowded.

    What I’d really love though is a map with all of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut together…

    A New Jersey bus map, too. Actually even just a Hudson County bus map would be nice.

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