Victoria Frequent Transit Map – First Complete Draft

I did it. After over three years in the making, here is the first complete version of my frequency enhanced transit map of all fixed-route bus services within Victoria, British Columbia.

Victoria Frequent Transit Map – Cover

Victoria Frequent Transit Map – Inside

Click here to download the full PDF.

There were two primary purposes for this map: to make routes more legible from end to end, and to show different levels of service frequency.

The overall design is greatly influenced by the work of CHK America, in particular their Austin, Honolulu, and Orlando transit maps. The 2016 redesign of the Toronto Transit Commission system map was also an inspiration.

I’ve simplified (and somewhat distorted) the geography and separated as many routes as possible into their own lines. Streets/routes have also been simplified, mostly using a 15º grid. The L-shape of Victoria’s service area did unfortunately mean I had to use inset maps.

For the different frequency levels, I’ve set three line thicknesses for daytime service levels: one for 15 minutes or better, one for 30 minutes or better, and one for all other all-day weekday service. Limited stop/express service is displayed as an inline dash for any of these frequencies.

Then I set three different services types, each with its own colour:

  • Peak routes operate only Monday to Friday, at peak hours. Peak routes also have route numbers displays separately to help differentiate their service levels.
  • Standard routes operate all day, Monday to Friday, with most operating on weekends and in evenings.
  • Frequent routes operate seven days a week, with 15 minute or better service Monday to Friday during the daytime and evenings, and Saturday during the day. These routes also operate with 30 minute service or better at all other times.

Some Standard routes operate 15 minutes or better during the day on weekdays, but not in evenings or on weekends (such as 2/2A and 11), so they keep the same thickness as the Frequent routes but have Standard colouring.

Route colours were chosen to be bright, but not too ‘neon’ while also being colour-blind friendly.

I tried to make fonts as large as possible, keeping in mind the larger number of older transit customers. Street names are 7pt, route numbers are 8.25pt which are pretty large for a transit map. I had originally started with DIN Next, but switched to Roboto as I thought it would be easier for others to work with in the event that this map is released open source.

This map is sized at 28″x18″, which folds down nicely to 4″x9″ – the same size as BC Transit’s Riders Guide (I had originally wanted to go with 24″x18″, but I couldn’t fit in all the insets and legend). It will fit nicely into rack card holders on buses, in libraries/stores, and on BC Ferries. The number of folds is kept somewhat minimal (seven total) and completely unfolded, the map shouldn’t be much wider than a single seat on board a bus.

I’m also considering folding it down to 3.11″ x 6″ (ten folds total) which makes it roughly pocket/iPhone Plus sized

It can also be easily adapted to a 24″x36″ poster! Several bus exchanges throughout the region already have information boards where this poster could fit. Granted, it would probably be hard to read at a distance, but the opportunity still exists to provide an overview of the entire Victoria transit network.

Victoria Frequent Transit Map – poster example

Some things I may consider changing/revising:

  • Improve coastline
  • Possibly eliminate the 15 minute Standard line thickness. Might be too confusing being the same thickness as the Frequent network
  • Inset maps for complicated portions of the map, such as Langford, Royal Oak, and Sidney
  • Add in the Galloping Goose and E&N
  • Changing the copy on the print version (I just used some edited content from the BC Transit website)
  • Better cover design

Also my research into frequency and routing has been spaced out over three years, so some of this information may actually be out of date. I went back to double check everything, but I’m sure I missed something.

This is by no means the final version of the map. But I was tired of it languishing on my hard drive incomplete. So this is the first release of the whole thing, and I hope people enjoy it.

Victoria Streetcar Map from 1902

Victoria Streetcar Map 1902 – Full

Recently, Cameron Booth (aka @transitmap) posted a small thumbnail of an Victoria streetcar map I’d never seen before. Apparently at one point in time it had been posted to but the links and map viewer were no longer working. Information on lead me to contacting Dr. Patrick Dunae, who is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Victoria. He very kindly answered my questions and provided his original scan of the map (which can be downloaded in high-res here). Dr. Dunae also said that his notes indicated this map was from 1902.

Victoria Streetcar Map 1902 – Downtown

This map is beautifully detailed, showing forest, farmland, naval vessels, some select buildings, and my personal favourite curiousity – “headquarters of the sealing fleet”. The streetcar system (run by the British Columbia Electric Railway) is clearly shown in red, with almost no street names being listed except where the network runs. Interestingly, this other map (listed as ‘December 1902’) shows several more lines extending into Fairfield, Vic West, and Hillside. It’s possible this map is from earlier than 1902, but it’s also certainly possible Victoria (and its streetcar network) expanded quickly throughout 1902. Also worth noting is the Mount Baker Hotel, which is shown here perhaps for the last time as it burns down in September of 1902.

Victoria Streetcar Map 1902 – Oak Bay/Fairfield

The last streetcar ran in Victoria in 1948. Today there’s constant talk (and little more) of bringing commuter rail back to southern Vancouver Island. But it’s doubtful we’ll ever see rails in Victoria’s streets again, despite what some might dream up.

Victoria Frequent Transit Map – An Update

Happy 2017! As a present to myself (and to whomever actually reads this), here’s an actual blog post to start the year! And guess what? This post will be an update on the last post (from over a year ago). Below is the exact same map region as what I posted in October 2015, but with a few changes.

Victoria Frequent Transit Map – January 2017 Update

What’s different?

  • Updated colour palette to be a bit brighter
  • Route numbers now indicate daily service vs weekday only service
  • Improved directional arrow design
  • Removed one more service frequency level to further simplify look (the dashed route line on route 13)

So I’m actually getting close to actually finishing this project. But what’s left to do? Consider the following part of my New Years Resolutions:

  • Clean up/improve shoreline
  • Downtown inset map
  • Cover design
  • Make sure map is up-to-date with BC Transit’s service updates

If you want to see the full Victoria/Saanich/West Shore region of the map as of this morning, you can see it here.

Work in Progress – Victoria Frequent Transit Map

Unlike my previous mapping project for Victoria, this latest one uses only existing services. This is an attempt to improve the clarity of the current Victoria bus network, and create a legible, usable map. The end goal is to print a physical map, sized 24″x18″ (which would fold down to 4″x9″, matching the size of the current Rider’s Guide). Victoria and the West Shore are on one side, and the Peninsula is on the reverse. As a single piece, it’s 24″x36″, which could potentially be used as a poster at bus shelters.

Victoria Frequent Transit Map

There are two primary purposes for this map: to make routes clearly to follow, and to show different levels of service frequency.

The larger print size does help make the routes more legible, but I’ve also simplified (and somewhat distorted) the geography and separated as many routes as possible into their own lines. Streets/routes have also been simplified, mostly using a 15º grid.

For the different frequency levels, I’ve set three line thicknesses for daytime service levels: one for 15 minutes or better, one for 30 minutes or better, and one for 60 minutes or better. Anything less than 60 minutes gets a dashed treatment. Limited stop service is displayed as an inline dash for any of these frequencies.

Then I set three different services types:

Commuter routes operate only Monday to Friday, at peak hours.

Regular routes operate all day, Monday to Friday, with most operating on weekends and in evenings.

Frequent routes operate seven days a week, with 15 minute or better service 7am–10pm Monday to Friday and 8am–6pm Saturday, with 30 minute service or better at all other times.

Each service type has its own colour and line design.

Some Regular routes operate 15 minutes or better, but not in evenings or on weekends (such as 2/2A and 11), so they keep the same thickness as the Frequent routes but have Regular colouring.

At this point, this map has gone through numerous revisions and I’ve redrawn it about 4 times already. Originally I had designed it to be much larger, but then chose to consider a smaller map that would be easier to handle physically. I also showed a fourth service type (Express) but with only three routes meeting that criteria, it just added unnecessary noise. Type has changed, colours have changed. Right now only a small portion of the map is what I would call ‘final’. There’s still a lot of work to do, but at least at this point I’ve nailed down the sizing. Now I’ve just got to draw the rest of it out.

At some point in the future, I will post the final map and also a comparison with the existing Victoria transit map. Hope no one changes any services until then!

Post Evergreen Line SkyTrain Preview?

I came across this interesting (but unfortunately low-res) photo in the 2013 TransLink Annual Report (PDF). It’s worth noting that this photo is at least a year old and has no context, so what follows is pure conjecture.



It looks like a generic staff-in-action shot, but what’s interesting to me is in the background. There are a series of strip maps being reviewed (either for station platforms or in-car above the doors) that appear to the SkyTrain system after the Evergreen Line opens (or, more accurately it seems, after the new extension of the Millennium Line opens).

It looks like the Evergreen Line is to be absorbed into the Lougheed Town Centre – VCC-Clark section of the Millennium Line and the Expo Line will have two branches. One branch will take over a portion of the Millennium Line from Columbia to Production Way-University and the other is the current line that terminates at King George.

Physically, it would make more sense to have the new Expo Line branch terminate at Lougheed Town Centre (with its extra platform). But SFU is a popular regional destination, and forcing people to transfer trains from Expo to Millennium for a single stop might not go over well with a lot of commuters.

The part that pleases me the most about these changes is the Millennium Line loop no longer loops over itself. That should help reduce some confusion for users new to the SkyTrain system.

Lastly, this means I have to update the map I was working on in the previous post.

Work In Progress – Vancouver Transit Future

Since this past February, I’ve been working on a new transit map, based on the Mayors’ Council Vision for Metro Vancouver (available here). Conceivably, this map is what Metro Vancouver’s major transit services could look like by 2026. According to the Mayors’ Council Vision, SkyTrain will extend down Broadway to Arbutus within the next 10 years. LRT will be constructed between Guildford and Newton in 10 years, and down Fraser Highway to Langley in 12. There’s no firm timetable on B-Line service, though a chart in the Vision indicates that every route in the map will be delivered within 10 years.

Broadway Corridor SkyTrain and Surrey/Langley LRT routing and station locations are based on TransLink’s Rapid Transit Alternatives Analysis documents (available here). B-Line routes are my best guesses based on existing bus services and the Mayors’ Council map. Station naming is entirely speculative.

I’ve had to put this project on hold for the past couple of months due to other work. I’d say it’s about 85% done. It needs a little bit of cleanup, and then I will write a more thorough review of the whole map and system.

Vancouver Transit Icons

New Westminster/Surrey Detail

Vancouver Detail

Transit Apps vs Transit Maps

App Vs Mapp

The city of Calgary’s transit agency is working on updating its website, the first rebuild in over a decade. And while the current website has a trip planner, there are complaints that it’s out of date or fails altogether. As part of the redesign, Calgary Transit plans to integrate Google’s transit functionality into their planner. This new site won’t be launched until later this year, but Calgary is already one of the more than 60 Canadian agencies that are providing transit data to Google.

In Canada and in many other parts of the world, Google has become a major player in public transit, both for service providers and riders. By developing a common format for transit data (GTFS) and encouraging public access to this information, agencies can quickly share information for both their own use and for third-party developers. For a transit customer, Google Maps provides instantly accessible data on a multitude of devices with a universally familiar user interface.

Though many agencies still use transit-specific software for providing customers with maps and schedules (such as HASTUS or Trapeze), it’s becoming increasingly common to see Google Transit integrated in some way for the public.

With the proliferation of smart phones, a transit user can also skip dealing with a website altogether and find their way around town with an app. Nothing beats the convenience of being able to plan a trip from anywhere you’re standing. Some agencies have their own apps, but, once again, Google Maps has their own app with transit data integrated (with the added bonus of being able to plan alternate modes of transportation such as cycling). Other transit specific apps are available that provide support for multiple agencies (which can be useful if you travel a lot) or more transit-specific functionality. Transit is one such app, with features such as real-time vehicle tracking, a nearby route locator, and support for over 60 regions worldwide.

Instant transit data is available anywhere you can get an internet connection, so is there still room in this world for the printed map?

A big piece of folded-up paper seems about as relevant today as hauling around a Discman or a roll of film. Updates are infrequent. For the directionally challenged, location services aren’t available. And planning a trip via printed timetables can be akin to writing a Master’s thesis about filing tax forms for a moon landing. But despite the numerous advantages of digital navigation, print maps remain vital to a transit agency.

  1. Digital information isn’t everywhere
    Last year, 57% of Canadians owned a smartphone. While that number is above the global average, it still means more than four out of 10 Canadians can’t be accessing data via a handheld device. Whether it’s a matter of income level or comfort with technology, printed maps will continue to be important to those who can’t – or won’t – own a smartphone. Even if users aren’t carrying a folded up piece in their pocket, there are still station diagrams, vehicle interior maps, neighbourhood wayfinding, schedule leaflets, and many other applications to consider. Additional tools to navigate a system can appeal to a wider audience.
  2. See the whole system
    Google Maps and other mapping software and trip planners are great for viewing how to get from point A to point B. But to get a sense of a transit system in its entirety, it’s far easier to see a full network laid out on a physical map. While Transit does show nearby routes, you can still only display one route at a time on a map. If you want to see, say, every route from one station, it’s far easier to trace this on a well designed print piece. A good system map is particularly useful to people new to a city and unfamiliar with their surroundings.
  3. Reduce clutter, improve clarity
    How good transit map is depends on its intended usage. A schedule leaflet might just show one route, in detail, to help people along that route find out where is the closest bus stop. A full network system map might show hundreds of bus routes or dozens of metro lines. As the amount of information on a map increases, it gets harder and harder to decipher a network. With a complex network, it’s best to use a map that’s more diagrammatic and less topographical. Removing cruft helps highlight what’s important: routes and destinations. Care must be taken though; remove too much information and a map can become unhelpful or unfriendly. A printed map allows an agency to decide exactly what to display. Digital solutions rarely allow this level of control.
  4. A brand opportunity
    A brand can be integrated into a transit map, or a transit map can even be the brand itself. Some transit maps have become icons. The London Underground map is famous around the world and often used as an element in many other design pieces – from annual reports to advertising to construction signage. Massimo Vignelli’s New York City map is in the Museum of Modern Art. Though it might be just a fraction of a transit system’s overall revenue, there is also money to be made in licensing map designs. New York City and London both make over $1 million annually with map-related merchandise. Just last week, Toronto opened an online store for TTC merchandise which includes a vintage poster of their earliest subway map. Transit maps are an excellent opportunity to show off design, and good design can help attract more riders.

Transit apps are incredibly convenient. With technology improving and better information accessibility, their usage will continue to increase (at least until the next big tech gimmick). But well-designed, well-thought-out maps remain vital to the success of a transit agency.