Time To Get Rid Of The Tube Map

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Photo / edwardkimuk

Is it time to come up with a new map for London’s transport network? This is the puzzler posed by Jonathan Glancey, who, upon seeing the explosion of arterial tracks the new Oyster-enabled National Rail routes has brought into being, thinks that it’s time we ended our seventy-year reliance on variations of Harry Beck’s classic layout.

Glancey posits that we need a visionary in the Beck mould to work up a new map, somebody who can “make clear, graphic sense of so many routes and different modes of transport”. He suggests that TfL launch a competition to design a new one (our Mayor does like his transport-themed competitions, after all).

The trend for tube map simplification (which recently reached its logical conclusion) is an understandable one, and the guide’s complexity will only deepen as the years progress, when the likes of Crossrail join the map. But the best solution might just be to keep the different modes of transport on different maps where appropriate. Currently, the ‘London Connections‘ (PDF) map, which depicts the overground lines that run into the capital, can be found at stations, alongside the more traditional-looking Tube map. Both have their uses, but it’s a mistake to think that a one-size fits all approach to mapping the capital’s transport networks is the best approach.

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  • http://undefined steve

    I concur.

    The trend for tube map simplification (which recently reached its logical conclusion) is an understandable one, and the guide’s complexity will only deepen as the years progress, when the likes of Crossrail join the map. But the best solution might just be to keep the different modes of transport on different maps where appropriate. Currently, the ‘London Connections’ (PDF) map, which depicts the overground lines that run into the capital, can be found at stations, alongside the more traditional-looking Tube map. Both have their uses, but it’s a mistake to think that a one-size fits all approach to mapping the capital’s transport networks is the best approach.

  • http://www.blowstar.blogspot.com JohnnyFox

    There might be an argument for a homogenous map if there were greater actual juxtaposition of tube and overground stations – often a draughty and dangerous walk apart.

    As in so many aspects of London life ‘integration’ is an ideal not widely practised.

  • http://undefined Kingpin

    I don’t think Glancey appropriately appreciates the complexity involved with ‘making a new Tube map’.

    Beck’s design has stood the test of time over half a century, and has gone on to serve as the model for public transportation maps across the globe. The map is still pretty easy to understand even with the more modern additions.

    I’d be very skeptical of any design that claims to make the route ‘simpler’ and ‘clearer’ to understand.