The Octopus Map

Capitol Hill, Metro system map

I’ve traveled recently through cities with real rapid transit systems and have been reminded of just how easy it becomes to form a mental map of a city based on its transit map. My neighborhood in Seattle is served by a network bus routes that come every 10-15 minutes most times of day, so one can just wait at a stop without worrying too much about bus schedules. The bus isn’t as fast as a subway train, but the buses come almost as frequent. Looking at Metro’s map, however, it’s hard to form the same sort of mental map, as frequent buses are mixed with infrequent ones and unfamiliar routes are hard to follow visually. The map also makes it far from obvious that the 11 becomes the 125 and provides a single-seat ride from Capitol Hill to West Seattle.

Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Metro Transit helps highlight the more rapid aspects of the bus/light rail system there with the Hi-Frequency Network signage and map. I like the easy visualization of the high-frequency system (and the hi-frequency highlights on the main map), but I wanted to start local. The blog Capitol Hill Seattle provides a very local bus map, showing detail that can’t be found in the Metro system map. I’ve created a map somewhere in between a detailed local map and a systemwide map like the Hi-Frequency map or a subway map, and I call it the Octopus Map.

Capitol Hill Octopus Map

The Capitol Hill Octopus Map shows the major routes from the neighborhood to downtown, the U District, Central District, Queen Anne, and other neighborhoods. The extended version of the map includes more routes on the Central District side of things, as well as less-traveled routes like the 9 and the southeastern section of the 8. On either map, you’ll note that you don’t see every intersecting route nor every kink along the line. For detail down to the block level, go to Metro’s map for that particular route, or look for the bus stop location on Google Maps. For a broader overview, and to help form a vivid mental bus map for the neighborhood, try the Octopus Map.

For more on transit maps, and why a diagrammatic map can be such a good thing, check out the excellent Transit Maps of the World. It includes the Kick Map, seen below, which is my favorite NYC subway map. It’s less strictly diagrammatic than the Massimo Vignelli map, and more diagrammatic than the very geographic MTA map.

Kick Map, Midtown Manhattan

Extended Capitol Hill Octopus Map

Minneapolis Hi-Frequency Map

This entry was posted in Graphic Design. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Octopus Map

  1. jseattle says:

    Awesome map. I’d like to feature it more prominently on my site — would you rather I hot-link to your image or can we figure out a fair way to hos on People should see this! :)

  2. Lovely clear maps. Just wanted to give remind people of the grand-daddy of all symbolic transit maps: the London Underground (aka the Tube) Map:

    In brief (from Wikipedia): “As a schematic diagram it shows not the geographic but the relative positions of stations along the lines, stations’ connective relations with each other and their fare zone locations. The basic design concepts have been widely adopted for other network maps around the world, especially that of mapping topologically rather than geographically.”

  3. jonglix says:

    Love the cap hill octopus ! (I’m also a big fan of Transit Maps of the World)

    My only suggest would be to thin the lines for the less frequent routes (8, 11) and dash the lines for the no night/weekend routes (9). You could also note the 43 continuation to Ballard on nights/weekends / 49 to Rainier.

  4. afiler says:

    jonglix, I like those ideas. I’d thought about showing the 43->44 and 49->7 but wasn’t real sure whether to include them since the continuations only happen at odd times (as opposed to the 11->125 which happens almost every trip). I think I’ll come up with some sort of notation for those two.

  5. something else says:

    I love this map! Thanks!

  6. metro rider says:

    totally dig the octopus map. great job!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>