Considering that I spent this past weekend back home in Chicago, I figured an apropos example of an effective information graphic outside the new realm was the Chicago Transit Authority ‘L’ map. The map/diagram displays the City of Chicago’s grid structure with the route of each of the eight elevated train lines that travel throughout the city proper, as well as through some of the nearby suburbs. The map also includes a close-up look at the Loop stops and transfers since the lines all essentially converge and overlap around the downtown area.
The routes are fairly clear, bold, and distinct so that the map remains intuitive. And I think one of the details that help establish the organization and accessibility of the map is the inclusion of the grid structure in which the city was planned. Because all stops are labeled with the street name of which the station is located or intersects with, virtually every street in the city is labeled somewhere.
Thus, if you find yourself at an unfamiliar intersection or don’t know where the nearest CTA station is, you can simply follow the grid horizontally and vertically until you find the label for the nearest streets. This is all clearer when you look at the actual map, but that seems like the best way to explain it.
This is all to say that, not only does the map work as a public transit resource, but it also is a great aerial view of how to get around the city by any means of movement—car, walking, bus, or train.
I know Washington D.C. has a notable public transit system, but there’s seems a bit more cluttered and less intuitive. If you’re looking to stay near the Mall or in the general downtown area, it seems helpful, but beyond that, it just sort of looks like a tangle of colors.