walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

How Not to Write About Subway Diagrams


The setup is a gimme: after all, transit diagrams are _not_ designed for occasional users. They are aimed at people who already have a solid grasp of how their city is put together by walking all over it. Those are the people who, tired, would like to ride where it is appropriate.

But even if you are just visiting a city for the first time, there is a rule of thumb when it comes to undergrounds/subway/heavy rail in the middle of a city that I can say with a lot of confidence is _never ever ever ever violated_. If your proposed route involves 2 or more transfers in the heart of the city, you should walk instead. Honestly, even that first transfer is suspect. Transferring out along a line (especially from subway to commuter rail) makes sense.

So to harshly judge effective diagrams because some dumbfuck doesn't know the first damn thing about public transit hardly seems fair. Who, then, did Noah Bierman find to go along with his silly criticism?

Well, Nigel Wilson was subtle, but he tried his best to point Bierman in the right direction. Don't think like an engineer, and besides, the station has maps with details that don't fit on a diagram.

Eric Scheier was a little more direct: dude, it is not a map. Don't act like it is and you won't do foolish things.

The print sources he finds on the subject (a) praise an earlier diagram of the T and (b) explain why these diagrams look the way they do.

But at Boston Public Library, he finally found someone sufficiently disconnected from experiential reality to voice what was clearly on Bierman's mind: it doesn't match top to bottom, and that's annoying.

Get over it, Bierman.

Points to Bierman for finding Ovenden's book of transit maps, which I reviewed very positively recently.

ETA: h/t my husband for finding the article and sending it my way. I'm _hoping_ he was anticipating criticism of the article. ;-)
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