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Is the new TTC system map easier to read?

Posted by Chris Bateman / February 20, 2014

toronto ttc mapThe Toronto Transit Commission is seeking public input on its new system map, the wayfinding image that's supposed to be an easy-to-read, comprehensive overview of all subway, streetcar, and bus lines.

The TTC announced it would be overhauling the cluttered system map in October last year as part of a general commitment to better design. The plan to number the subway lines and create a new set of standards for internal signage was revealed at the same time.

Recently, as part of promises made in the TTC customer charter, the mess of handwritten signs and other detritus has been gradually stripped from many subway ticket booths, too.

ttc transit mapWithout the old map for comparison, not much is different. The green and yellow of the Yonge-University-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth lines (sorry, Line 1 and Line 2) stand out better against the pastel background and bus and streetcar routes are still bright red, though easier to distinguish.

The design overhaul is more a case of addition by subtraction. Gone are streets not served by public transit, landmarks like the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Fort York, and Riverdale Farm, and other landmarks deemed unnecessary visual clutter. What's left is a simplified overview of public transit, including express and community bus routes.

A thick red line indicates a line, bus or streetcar, with service every 10 minutes or less. Thinner red lines are reserved for surface routes with all-day service. Dashes are used for infrequent or limited services. For TTC purists, the much-loved subway font makes a return on subway stop labels.

toronto ttc map legedThe TTC is seeking customer feedback via an online web survey. The deadline to add your thoughts is in March. The full version of the system map, available as six individual panels or one massive city-wide view, is available here. For comparison, the last edition of the old design is still online at the TTC website. The final version of the new map will be printed in next season's Ride Guide.

What do you think of the new look? Will the TTC's focus on better design result in better customer service?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: TTC



iSkyscraper / February 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm
Streetcars are not grade-separated rapid transit, but they are not buses either. They are streetcars - higher capacity, smoother ride, serve walkable neighborhoods and attract development. Plus they are a major tourist draw. No other city in the world confuses them graphically with buses -- for the city with North America's largest network to do so is asinine. What, are tourists supposed to know that a 500-series route number is a streetcar route?

This constant map screwup is moronic, it's confusing, it goes against best practices and is indicative of everything wrong with how the TTC is run.

There is no cost to breaking out the orders of transit on a map. Buy another crayon, whatever. For Christ's sake, JUST DO IT.

Spike replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / February 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm
Once again, iSkyscraper nails it.
G Valentino / February 20, 2014 at 12:49 pm
The labels for subways are harder to read without the black background, especially around Osgoode. The way Broadview and Castle Frank overlap is also very confusing.

Having the labels sometime above, sometimes below, and sometimes askew of their stations makes it look sloppy also.
CAPS LOCK / February 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm
W. K. Lis / February 20, 2014 at 01:36 pm
Streetcar routes should be a different colour (orange?), even if just a different shade (dark red?) different, than bus routes.
mar / February 20, 2014 at 01:47 pm
So much better
Marc replying to a comment from W. K. Lis / February 20, 2014 at 01:56 pm
Especially ones with ROW.
Foo replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / February 20, 2014 at 01:58 pm
I only just found out due to iSkyscraper's comment that the streetcars are 500s, so I took the survey and recommended another colour or style be used for street car routes on the map.
G / February 20, 2014 at 02:16 pm
Are streetcars really a major tourist draw?

Also, differentiating between streetcars and buses imply they provide different levels of service, which they don't.
Moaz Ahmad / February 20, 2014 at 02:26 pm
As long as TTC continues to treat the streetcars like large buses, they may as well label them like buses. I think they should have a clear and distinct label for routes when in some sort of Transitway (protected right of way)....either the colour orange or something similarly bright. Personally I think that buses should be identified using black lines since the buses are mostly black anyways.
Mike / February 20, 2014 at 03:21 pm
Would still rather see routes labeled as a point symbol on top of the actual route line using a more consistent point symbol shape (square/rectangle instead of a hexagon). It would make for a cleaner representation and less ambiguity, especially in situations where a route number may be positioned close to another route line.
Rid The Streetcar replying to a comment from G / February 20, 2014 at 03:23 pm
Hey G, with regards to "Also, differentiating between streetcars and buses imply they provide different levels of service, which they don't"...
It's not purposely different, but the streetcars are a completely inefficient and unreliable vehicle for this city, especially in the core. Time to bring back the (articulated) trolleybuses. A vehicle that can go around another broken down bus, or double parked car or accident... And an end to the relentless track construction year after year after year.
Rid The Streetcar / February 20, 2014 at 03:26 pm
The buses and streetcars should be different colours on the map.
Chris / February 20, 2014 at 03:38 pm
The new map doesn't solve any confusion IMO if anything it's worse, the street car routes should be wholly differentiated from buses ie they should be a different color than a bus route
jerobi / February 20, 2014 at 03:48 pm
I'm a designer and can say that this is a small, very small improvement. Not sure why they can't hire a professional map designer to take care of this. Even a design student could probably do better.
Bert / February 20, 2014 at 04:29 pm
It's the same system, so no map is going to improve anything
Simon / February 20, 2014 at 06:18 pm
Fix the labels and stick to cartographic symbology standards. Obfuscating map features with labels is a major design fail. Labels are supposed to run parallel to linear features. I can't tell the 97 from the 6. In fact I don't think the 97 is labelled at all. Does the 508 run on Queen St. or King St.? Are Queen St. and Eastern Ave. the same street, because it certainly appears that way. Why are they using blue lines for something other than a river? Especially as one of them runs parallel to a river, a route which, like most others, is sloppily labelled and not done according to convention. The whole Financial District is a crowded mess. Is this cartographer supposed to be a professional? Because these are all mistakes that would earn any first-year student a C- at best. Seriously, what is this shit? This is what passes as work from whatever firm got this (most likely no-contest and most likely inflated) contract? It's fucking rude is what it is.
shivani / February 20, 2014 at 09:46 pm
it's hard to read but everything about the ttc is usually tough and difficult. just enjoying the nice dogs you see here and there to calm me down.
Meg / February 21, 2014 at 07:47 am
I have this thing called Google Maps, which I can access from my phone, or print directions from off of my computer before I go out (say, if I'm going on a trip & won't have Internet access), which kind of precludes the need for this. Anyone else heard of it?
rid rid the streetcar / February 21, 2014 at 09:16 am
Hey rid, tell that to the three us cities opening new downtown streetcar systems this year. No one in their right mind would rid themselves of a multi billion dollar asset other cities would kill for.
Brent replying to a comment from Simon / February 21, 2014 at 11:43 am
Blue route lines are a problem not because they could be confused for rivers (rivers are shown in lighter blue consistent with lake), but because they are shown exactly the same as the Blue Night routes are shown on the individual route maps. Using blue for express routes is confusing and dilutes the "blue night" brand.

Once these maps are up in shelters for any period of time long enough that the red and yellow has faded, all we will see is a map of street names, the GO and subway lines and stations, and the express routes.
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