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Ross Bleakney
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I think the new map is quite good. The little snippet doesn't do it justice. Most of the color on the map is reserved for the rail service, a reasonable choice. This leaves very little color available for the buses; the designers chose one (blue). Given that, they broke it down into three levels: frequent, standard and rush hour. My biggest problem is that I have no idea what frequent means. Maybe that is explained on the other side. It is also somewhat arbitrary. What if a bus barely misses the "frequent" cutoff, while another bus travels half as often. Having only two levels is not that helpful. Consider this map based on a restructure proposal -- http://tinyurl.com/q6gxnr7. NOTE: This is a fictional maps, based on a proposed restructure (http://seattletransitblog.com/2013/08/19/your-bus-much-more-often-no-more-money-really/) -- if you go to Seattle and expect to take a bus based on this map, you will be disappointed. There are several things I like about the map: 1) There are several levels of frequency (five if you count light rail). 2) It is clear what that frequency is. 3) The map uses a standard street map as a background, allowing you to zoom in and out. My problem with this map is that it lacks the following item: 4) Each color should progress in an intuitive manner. The color progression (from frequent to infrequent) is grey, yellow, red, green, blue. This reminds me of weather maps, where they switch from grey scale to color, yet have no obvious meaning to the color. To be fair to the author, the lines also vary by thickness (which is intuitive). There are a few ways that this can be fixed. One would be to stick with a single hue, and then vary the intensity (darker means more frequent). This could be problematic with a busy background. There has to be enough contrast with the street layout. Another option is a divergent palette (e. g. red to blue). There are issues with color blindness of course, but that could easily work. Another option if you only have three or four different values is to use green, yellow, red and black. Traffic maps are often shown this way. It is very intuitive, since it corresponds to traffic signals. Unfortunately, I don't think it works that well with buses (is green most frequent, or least frequent?). But at least you would assume that yellow is in between. Regardless, if bus routes are shown with color, I suggest that the colors be as bright as possible. An example of this is Green Trails Maps, which makes a series of hiking maps in the Northwest. These maps have become quite popular in part because they emphasize the trails. Despite picking the color green, the trails "pop out" because they are so bright. Most of the background is green (the background is a USGS map, where green represents forest) yet the trails are so bright that you can see them easily even if you are of a certain age and forgot your reading glasses. Balancing these different ideas are tricky. Varying hues (one suggestion) could easily lead to a very faded, muted map. But if you are only showing three or four levels of surface (and I would only show that) then it should be possible to come up with a color pattern that works. Reference (I'm sure there are plenty of others out there): http://www.perceptualedge.com/articles/visual_business_intelligence/rules_for_using_color.pdf
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Oct 6, 2015