BART Map Revamp: Getting Better or Worse? You Decide

Categories: Public Transit

As divulged in an article in today's SF Weekly print edition, BART is revamping its route maps to make them straighter and easier to read.

While we've never gotten lost as a result of a BART map, a quick glance at the book "Transit Maps of the World" by Mark Ovenden revealed that the Bay Area Rapid Transit system's guides used to be far easier on the eyes. Take this rare gem Ovenden claims is from the late 1960s, before BART even began to run:


While the cartographer has inexplicably decided to color the land blue and the ocean grey-brown, the artificially straight lines are easy to decipher and the minute-times between stations were handy for an age when not everyone carried a calculator/camera/nuclear power plant in their hip pocket.

Some of you...

may remember this 1970s and '80s-vintage map:


Thanks to the straight lines and uncluttered text, it's still easy to follow. Which leads us to this:


Yes, the current map does look like multi-colored spaghetti strands tossed on a Bay Area map. And, yes, the station names are so cluttered, it induces a bit of paranoia to search the map -- and I was born here, damn it!

For those who note that BART has grown a lot since the late 1960s, that is true. But as Ovenden reminds in his book, the London Underground system has added 110 stations and six rail lines since adopting Harry Beck's ingenious mapping system in 1933.

Here's hoping BART's new map system is every bit as malleable -- for the days the rail lines stretche out to Reno, Salt Lake City or Chicago!

-- Joe Eskenazi

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