The new PTV Rail Map is finally here!

ptv-map-official-2017
Look at all those pretty colours! PDF Version available from PTV.

I want to say before I start, I actually really like the new map. It’s miles better than the current Yellow and Blue one that actually doesn’t tell you much information, and it has been extended to cover the V/Line routes as well, showing all V/Line and Metro services.

The project that got the ball rolling originally started back in 2014, and the previous versions released to the public went through several different versions, some of which were featured on Daniel Bowen’s Blog.

There’s just a few little things that kind of bug me about the new map, and I’ve listed some down below. Unfortunately, this is the version of the map that is being published everywhere, so opportunities for improvements will have to wait until the next version, which possibly won’t be until the Mernda Extension is finished in 2019, given Southland is already on the map.

Line Groupings

The map splits up the Network into its operational groups and assigns them colours. Some of these colours differ from the drafts that were posted back in 2014, with the Cross-City group switching from Purple to Green and the Dandenong Group switching from Green to Light Blue. This changes seems to have been made to allow V/Line to be given its rightful purple colour.

key
The Line groups and their colours going into 2017. Will the rainbow boards be changed to match? Probably.

Unfortunately, the Glen Waverly Line and Alamein Lines have been placed back in with the Lilydale and Belgrave Lines, despite running separately for most of the day. The draft map showed that these lines generally had different operating patterns, and that passengers were more likely to need to change for these services. The new map does not show this.

Curves

The most minor of complaints from me comes from the curve between Flinders Street and Richmond. The curves do not all line up nicely as they should, with the Dandenong Group’s curve not having the same centre. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. The Cross-City Group’s curve between Flagstaff and Southern Cross uses a similar trick.

ugly-curve
How did they not notice that ugly curve? What were they thinking sending this off to the publisher like that?

Interchanges and Station Status

The map uses a nice little bubble to denote an interchange station, except at Essendon for some reason. The reason is that the station bubble also indicates a station that has a particular level of customer service. Which is what Essendon has. So why isn’t it a bubble, and not two ticks which don’t appear anywhere else on the map?

Some of the other V/Line interchanges are also rather inelegant. Sunshine and North Melbourne, where some V/Line lines stop, and others do not, have this weird compromise going on. Sunshine is particularly ugly. I whipped up this example in 5 minutes, with the Sunbury Line being moved to the other side of the line, and the Bendigo Line passing right through without the need for a convoluted bubble joiner. A similar thing could be done at North Melbourne, which suffers from the same fate.

sunshine-re-route
Like I said, I did this in 5 minutes. An actual version would be much neater.

I’ll explain the Bendigo Line being an open line in a minute (depending on how fast you read).

Southern Cross has the V/Line lines turning away from each other to show that they do not run through to each other, but it does make it look like they run into other lines. Having two distinct boxes as I’ve done below makes it a little clearer I think.

another-southern-cross
A possible design for Southern Cross that doesn’t resort to crashing the Vlocities into those Siemens. Again, an actual version would be much neater.

I’m not convinced the station names need to denote the level of customer service either. The map has an attached station index, where this, and the zone number could be placed. The Zone numbers are entirely missing outside the grey area on the map being Zones 3-13 and beyond.

V/Line’s inclusion in general

I like the idea of including V/Line services, however, when they extend out from the centre of Melbourne in 8 different directions, it makes them hard to fit on a single map. While Victoria is longer east-west than it is north-south, most of the rail services are heavily concentrated in the centre of the state, meaning that trying to represent lines geographically are significantly harder.

Of course, this isn’t a geographic map, but it helps when things are more or less where they should be. Echuca for example, is actually to the North East of Bendigo and is quite close to Shepparton, something you will never get from this map. Bairnsdale is nowhere near Belgrave. The Werribee line has to turn back inland to meet the Geelong line, as the Warrnambool Line is condensed to make room for the massive legend box.

The use of a solid coloured line to denote them also makes them look like frequent services, or at least comparable to Metro. This is why I used an open line to denote the Bendigo Line. While the RRL has 20 minute frequencies most of the time, the other commuter lines are still much less frequent, hourly or even less at some points of the day. Much like this map has done with the Stony Point Line, an open line implies that you should check the timetable when travelling, as you cannot turn up and go.

I think the hatching of the long distance lines is also problematic. In the City Loop, it is used to show weekend services. The Long Distance services run every day of the week, so the use of the information is inconsistent. I think a better option would be to have them as an open grey line. Better yet, don’t include them, and instead have arrows to show some continuing services, as the Tube Map showing the Elizabeth Line was to do. This would help things be a bit more geographically accurate.

elizabeth-line-56cd62d6bc9dd
Look at those little arrows in the top right and centre left to show the services are long distance. Sourced from City A.M. as TfL are now using a different version.

Summing Up

Overall, I like the new map, I think it’s a great step forward. Really it comes down to what information you want to display on a map, and how that information is presented. On overseas networks such as the London Underground you can plan a journey simply by looking at the map. That isn’t yet the case here due to frequency and inconsistent operation, but this makes it much easier.

Some of the complaints I had about the draft maps have been addressed, such as the V/Line Purple, but other things I liked such as the Glen Waverly Line being separate has gone. At least we’ve got rid of the Yellow and Blue abomination now, kill that thing with fire.

yellow-and-blue
Who seriously thought this was a good idea? Like really?
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