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Six of our favourite metro maps from around the world.

Posted by Dave Songer on Dec 1, 2017

Hyderabad - Metro map.jpg

Cartography may not be a specific area of SmartRail World’s expertise but, certainly where rail is concerned, it is something that interests us immensely. The task of squeezing such large numbers of stations onto a map that also has to reflect – at least partially – the geography of the area while still being legible shouldn’t be underestimated.

Technology has developed immeasurably since the first subterranean train journey took place between Paddington and Farringdon 154 years ago, and has now led to a situation whereby millions check maps digitally than on paper. However, despite these technological developments the need for easy-to-follow and engaging maps is as strong as ever.

In honour of transport authorities’ efforts, and to mark the arrival of the Hyderabad Metro this week, which brought with it another map for us to admire (above right), Dave Songer is giving a little detail on six other of the world’s metro maps for this week’s Friday feature on design and creativity in our industry. 


Brussels_new.jpgKicking things off is a relative newcomer to metro; Brussels’ first line was completed in 1976 when there was just one line with 16 stations. 40 years later and that figure has now increased to 59 stations, thanks to the addition of three extra lines. Different to many of the world’s metro maps, Brussels has made room for the two languages most widely spoken in the Belgian capital: French and Flemish, making the design less than straightforward.

Brussels overcame this challenge by taking inspiration from the circuit board-style design used to great effect by Harry Beck for the London Underground map.
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Chicago_new.jpgCalled the L train due to the fact the network is in an elevated position above street level, the planners of Chicago’s map were given something of a helping hand by being able to call on the US’s famous grid-based system of blocks and roads as a useful framework. The map shown here is part of a jigsaw of six that cover the Chicago area. Second only to New York in terms of being the busiest mass transit system in the US, the L train’s network stretches 102 miles and serves 145 stations.
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Istanbul_new.jpgAs shown on this continent-crossing metro map, there is a large amount of work planned in Istanbul that, when complete, will nearly double the number of stations from 73 to 144. An entire new line is planned for the Asian side of this fascinating city and a major extension to an existing one that will add 25 stations.

Despite the fact Istanbul actually has the second-oldest subterranean line, the city’s metro only began operating in 1989, an infancy that partly explains why its currently short network comprises of just 59 miles.
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Latest montreal map.pngBeginning life with 26 stations spread across three line (orange, yellow and green), today’s Montreal Metro comprises just 43 miles of track. Despite its relatively short track length it carries a very high number of passengers – behind only New York and the previous entry, Mexico City, with around 1.2 million daily passenger journeys Monday to Friday. As one may expect with a four-line network, the map itself is far from complex but any doubt over which connections to take have been averted with this clear and colourful design.
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Seoul_new.jpgBy far and away the biggest of all the maps in this feature, Seoul Metro transports more than 2.5 billion passengers across its 21 lines that total just over 200 miles. Those are hugely impressive figures considering that the line only began operating 43 years ago in 1974.

There’s no getting away from it, one needs seriously sharp eyes to navigate this seriously complicated map – and of course a pretty comprehensive legend to find one of the 706 stations.
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St Petersburg

St Petersburg_new.jpgAnother of the smaller metro networks represented in this feature, St Petersburg’s holds the honour of, on average, being the deepest of all the world’s underground networks. The Cold War is the reason for such deep excavations, with the stations offering the perfect cover as bomb-proof air raid shelters should the need arise. First known as the V.I. Lenin Order of Lenin Leningrad Metropoliten when it entered operation in 1955, St Petersburg Metro and now carries more than two million passengers every day, just over 760 million annually.

A much longer line than it is wide, today’s network consists of 67 stations, if plans are realised then that number could, like Istanbul, also close to double – with 126 stations planned.
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You may also be interested in these stories from SmartRail World

Read: 8 unique (and amusing) rail and metro posters from around the world.

Read: €353m Brussels Metro contract awarded; 43+ trainsets and CBTC upgrade.

Download: Emerging technologies to effectively manage growing rail networks.

Visit: SmartRail (Amsterdam, April 17th-19th, 2018). 

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Topics: Passenger Information Systems, quirky

Dave Songer

Written by Dave Songer

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