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What’s the Best Way to Choose a New Subway Map?

Posted by on Sep 24, 2013 in maps, personal navigation, subways, transit maps | 0 comments

What’s the Best Way to Choose a New Subway Map?

Boston, MA and Washington, DC have recently decided put several short-listed, new subway map designs to a public vote. While this is good PR for their respective public transit systems and fun for those who participate, is it really the best way to make these important decisions? “No,” says Max Roberts, a psychologist at the University of Essex (Great Britain), interviewed by NPR’s Rachel Martin.

Rather than asking people to vote on their favorite maps, Roberts prefers to test map usability: finding stations, planning journeys, etc. In his own research, he asks users to do these tasks and then determine which map is easiest to use. This tends not to correlate at all with “like-ability”.

Roberts says that map design criteria include simplicity of line tragectories (straight rather than zigzagged), coherence (overall shape and organization of the map), balance (spreading out the information), harmony (making the map pleasing to use), and minimal distortion of the actual geography.

Read more about it:

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If you’re directionally challenged you need the book, Directional Sense: How to Find Your Way Around, by Janet R. Carpman and Myron A. Grant.


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