The new(ish) MBTA Map

Category : Graphic design

I like the new T map, but I have a few complaints about how one design problem was addressed.


The Silver Line is a pretty solid example of politics and poor planning ruining a good idea. When I lived in Boston in the late 90’s, the silver line was being pitched to the public as an elegant answer to the city’s need for another rapid transit line: electric trackless trolleys running through a combination of subway style tunnels and dedicated surface paths. It would be the same concept as the existing green line trains without the expense of installing track. What we got was a confused mishmash of five different bus lines running independent of one another but branded as a single transit line.

The newer map does a really great job of confusing the traveller. The older map was more streamlined in a way that reflected the branding of the line over the navigation. I guess if you’re going to suffer the delusion of the silver line as a single entity you might as well represent that in the wayfinding, however misleading:


All that aside, the choice I question most is the use of chevrons at the end of the routes. I feel like there is a puzzle I have to solve. Does service terminate there? Does the bus turn around and go back along its path? Is this a tunnel? A portal to another world?

Perhaps treating the silver line as a bus for the surface routes and light rail for the underground portions would be a clearer representation. I would also support ultra-simplification (I am a big fan of the Massimo Vignelli subway map.) Sometimes it is too easily forgotten that a map is a tool for the consumer above all else.