Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Going Underground - London Transport Maps

Harry Beck's map of the London Underground network, first released in 1931, is rightfully recognised as a design classic.  However, when Beck first mapped out the Underground network only seven lines existed.  Since this time numerous lines have been added as well as Zone boundaries, information on disabled access and connections to additional public transport.  Yet the tube map still remains an excellent piece of design and a key information resource.

Despite this many tourists can still be found with a look of puzzlement in station ticket halls across the city as they plan their journey to Buckingham Palace and Harrods.  What the tube map gains in design quality it lacks somewhat in geographical representation.  A test site has therefore been established to present a geographically accurate map for all London Underground and Overground lines. The map can be found here and while some tube lines retain their original depiction, the proximity of Central London stations becomes crystal clear. 

A geographically accurate depiction of the London Underground in Central London
Central London is spoiled for choice with access to different tube lines, a situation that would not be repeated today if the tube was planned from scratch (as I have discussed before here).  Therefore this geographically accurate map could save commuters (Londoners and non-Londoners alike) from switching between lines when on the surface it would be more efficient to walk for a few minutes.  Overall I have found the level of public information on the London Underground very impressive (especially compared to Vancouver - see here) and this new map could complement Beck's original map to avoid people having to reach for Google Maps at the first sign of being lost.

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