This is a repost that was first published by Nicolas Reid on his Linked In page.
Ten years ago while working on Auckland Transport’s New Network I sketched out a public transport network map for Auckland. This was intended as a tool to help communicate the differences and benefits of the new integrated bus network that we had just designed around a new connective service model. That was my first map, and while a little amateurish, it was spruced up by a design agency and was used publicly for a while.
Public transport patronage has dropped over the past two years of the pandemic with people working from home, lockdowns and being more cautious about risks in public spaces. However, the next three years will see some very significant improvements to the public transport network that will support patronage growth.
To highlight this I decided to design a new integrated network map for Auckland showing what the system could look like in the near future. This incorporates some of the things I’ve learned about network cartography over the years, and includes some changes in content and presentation that I think are helpful.
The new map is a diagram of where the ‘rapid transit’ public transport network should be in about 2025 when the City Rail Link and a few other rapid transit projects, like the Eastern Busway, are finished. It also shows what the ‘frequent service’ bus network will be if the proposed Climate Action Targeted Rate (CATR) goes ahead to fund a range of bus network improvements, most of which involves upgrading lower frequency bus routes to the frequent, every 15 minutes, service standard. Naturally I’ve had to make a few guesses and assumptions about future routes, and in one case added my own suggestion (combining route 20 and 64 into one line), so don’t take this as gospel for what will actually be.
I’ve included the ferry network too, partly because they do meet some of the ‘rapid’ characteristics of rapid transit even though they have low frequency and limited service-span… and partly because the first thing everyone says with something like this is ‘but what about the ferries?”.
In no particular order, I’d like to cover a number of design elements and decisions I’ve integrated into the design.
The design concept:
- A user focused design. The point of a map like this is to clearly show the routes people can take to move around the regional network, and where they can connect between them. We transport planners are often guilty of focussing on things that are important for the planning process, but not important for the people who actually use it. This map avoids other planning or operational information that isn’t useful for users.
- Diagrammatic and simplified. Like the famed tube map of London, this isn’t actually a map per se. It’s a diagram intended to be clearer and more legible than a true map. This is primarily to show the network as a whole, as much as the individual routes, and make it easier to see how you can travel around the network by connecting between lines.
- But (mostly) geographically accurate. To give an accurate sense of the distances between places and the expected travel time, this diagram was based on a real map of Auckland and almost all the stations and labelled points are close to where they are in reality. The only real deviations from this are that the centre of the network is expanded a little around the city centre where it is most condensed and complex. Also, the rural ends of the routes to Hibiscus Coast in the far north, Pukekohe in the deep south and the outer ferries to the eastern gulf have been compressed to fit in at the same scale as the main suburban network.
- It shows the frequent network only. Apart from the ferries, this map includes only frequent transit services, ones that runs at least every 15 minutes from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. It’s a map of the parts of the transit network where you can just ‘turn-up-and-go’ at pretty much and time of day or evening without consulting a timetable (there are plenty of other local bus routes that aren’t shown because they don’t run frequently or have short service spans). In that way it is really an attempt to map the extent of the Auckland transit network that approaches the accessibility and freedom of the private car.
How the routes and lines are shown
- Service-led and mode agnostic lines. The map shows one joined up network of bus, busway and train routes with little differentiation between them, because it aims to show all the routes that have that same ‘turn-up-and-go’ frequency and legibility. Plus when these routes have the same service levels, whether the transit vehicle’s wheels are made of rubber or steel is pretty much irrelevant.
- Rapid transit vs. street transit. There is one element that is shown because it is important information for how someone might use the network. Sections of routes that run rapid transit style and only stop at the stations show are solid lines. This covers all the rail lines, most of the busways and some places where buses run on the motorway. But conversely, bus routes that also make intermediate local stops are drawn as split lines, to indicate that you can also get on and off in between the major points shown.
- Simplified routing paths. Some of the routes that the transit lines take between stations and town centres are highly simplified compared to what they do in real life. However, this isn’t a problem for a user because people can only get on and off transit at the stops. The specific route isn’t actually important, as long as the stations and stops are shown in the right place and the right order.
Representing the stops and stations
- Interchanges and stations as single nodes. Stations/interchanges are shown as a single point where all connecting lines are joined, even if these may be across more than one set of bus stops near each other, or between a bus stop and train station or ferry wharf that are naturally located a bit apart. What’s important here is showing that transfers can be made between the lines, even if that requires a short walk sometimes. Nonetheless, at a few points in the city centre I’ve used a connector between two or more major stops to give the user an idea of which connections are close, and which are far apart.
- Mode-agnostic stations. Major bus stops at town centres and other points of interest are shown the same as a train or busway station, because they effectively are one. Together this means all the connection points where you might change from one line to another, and all the specific destinations are shown as a ‘station’, regardless of whether that’s a train station, bus stop, ferry wharf or some combination of them in the same area.
- Station markers. I’ve included ‘dots’ in each interchange roundel confirm which lines stop at the interchange location. There are a few places where some routes come close to a station or destination but don’t actually stop there, so it’s important to be very clear on this.
All in all, I think this is a successful attempt to capture the potential of Auckland’s public transport network, especially what the integrated frequent service network could look like within a few years when a few upgrades are delivered. It also provides a nice base to look at further network improvements or route changes on.
What are your thoughts on the map design or the way it’s presented?