The New England Transit Map is a comprehensive diagram of current and future rail and bus rapid transit routes throughout the six-state region. It shows how transit lines operated by multiple agencies can work as a comprehensive system, building on the regional approach I began with the New York & New Jersey Subway Map.
To create a map that is purpose-built for seamless regional transit, I used a combination of time-tested design principles. First, to make the map recognizable at a glance, I nodded to the region’s geography by including state and water boundaries that reflect the “shape” of New England.
For the transit network, I employed a diagrammatic design that emphasizes central areas where lines and systems converge. I centered accessibility in station markers, worked with the colors from each agency’s brand standards, and used typography to emphasize readability. I also incorporated future service into the map’s design to build awareness of where transit will go in the years ahead.
What’s on the Map?
Amtrak – Intercity rail service connecting Albany, Boston, Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, New London, New York, Portland, Providence, Springfield, Stamford, and Worcester (navy blue solid lines)
Boston T (MBTA) Rapid Transit service in the Boston metro area (multiple colored solid lines)
CTfastrak – Bus rapid transit connecting Hartford to New Britain and Waterbury (light green solid line)
Hartford Line – Regional rail service connecting New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (blue and red striped line; blue denotes that some Amtrak trains also operate as Hartford Line trains)
New Haven Line (MTA Metro-North) – Regional rail service along Connecticut coast connecting New Haven to New York (red solid line)
Rhode Island R Line – Bus rapid transit connecting Cranston to Pawtucket via Providence (dark green double line)
Shore Line East – Regional rail service along Connecticut coast connecting New London to New Haven and Stamford (fuchsia solid line)
Boston-Springfield-Albany – twice daily Amtrak service on existing route, with new infill stations at Palmer, MA and Chester, MA (opaque station markers)
Boston-Manchester-Concord – proposed Amtrak extension with stops at Lowell, MA (interchange to MBTA Regional Rail), and Nashua, Merrimack, Manchester, and Concord, NH (navy blue opaque line)
Brunswick to Rockland, Maine – proposed Amtrak seasonal service (navy blue opaque line)
Green Line Extension – MBTA Rapid Transit extension under construction to Union Square and West Medford (yellow and black striped lines)
Portland to Lewiston/Auburn, Maine – Proposed extension under study by Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (red opaque line)
Rutland to Burlington, Vermont – proposed extension of Amtrak Ethan Allen to Burlington, Vermont’s largest city (navy blue opaque line)
South Coast Rail – MBTA Regional Rail extension. Phase 1 under construction to Fall River and New Bedford, MA (yellow and black striped lines). Phase 2 proposed to connect Fall River and New Bedford to Northeast Corridor (purple opaque lines)
St. Albans, Vermont to Montréal, Canada – proposed extension of Amtrak Vermonter to Montréal, Canada (navy blue opaque line)
Design: Integrated & Inclusive View of Transit
In an era of apps, digital maps, and trip planning tools, aesthetic transit maps have an important role to play. A transit map whose fundamental elements are consistent and recognizable can reinforce a sense of place, and build confidence that transit is there to take people where they need to go. An aesthetic transit map lets us see the big picture, reassures us that “here will always go to there”, and helps us rediscover ways to travel that let us reclaim time for ourselves while strengthening our communities and helping combat climate change.
The New England Transit Map draws on durable, time-tested design principles to deliver a map that is purpose-built for seamless regional transit. The map’s design language traces its history to the early 20th century British train maps by George Dow, and the successive advancements by MacDonald (Max) Gill, Fred Stingemore, and Harry Beck that made London’s Tube Map one of the most successful and recognizable transit wayfinding tools. Stingemore’s 1931 Underground map introduced an enlarged central area to improve legibility. Gill’s 1922 Underground map omitted geographic features to focus on the transit lines. He also created the playful and light-hearted Wonderground Map, a celebration of London’s quirks and attractions displayed throughout the Underground just as the UK was facing war in 1914.
To underscore that accessibility is central to making transit equitable, safe, and convenient for everyone, I placed the International Symbol of Access (ISA) at the center of the circular visual marker for every accessible station. This design is also future-proof. As stations are upgraded to be fully accessible and ADA-compliant, the designation can be added without rearranging the spacing of stations and labels.
To make it easy to see which transit systems serve stations, I colored lines and stations according to each agency’s brand standards. Interchange stations use the neutral color black, and seamlessly convey meeting points in the network, regardless of agency boundaries.
Rules sometimes require exceptions. Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) uses red for the Hartford Line, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority also uses red for the New Haven Line. This could create confusion, because the two lines interchange in New Haven. Since some Amtrak trains also operate as Hartford Line trains, and accept Hartford Line tickets, I chose to color the Hartford Line in alternating Amtrak blue and CTDOT red stripes. This clearly differentiates the Hartford Line from the New Haven Line, and indicates that the line is served by trains operated by CTDOT and Amtrak.
The integrated presentation of Boston’s rapid transit and regional rail on the New England Transit Map was influenced by the 1976 and 1979 T Commuter Rail System maps, which used purple to create a cohesive view of regional rail lines transitioning from the Boston & Maine and Penn Central to the newly formed Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The 1976 map included the T rapid transit lines, without station labels, to show how they relate to the regional rail lines. The 1979 map used only black for the T rapid transit lines, and added labels to the terminal stations.
On the New England Transit Map, I incorporated the colors for the five T rapid transit lines, and emphasized their local focus with a thinner line weight than the regional and intercity rail, consistent with the thinner line weight for CTfastrak and the Rhode Island R Line. To strengthen the connection between rapid transit and regional rail, I included and labeled the four downtown core interchange stations and the connections to commuter/regional/intercity rail at North Station, South Station, and Back Bay in addition to the terminal stops on each T rapid transit line.
I used the Helvetica typeface to convey a standard, system-agnostic approach to labeling elements throughout the map. To make the map easy to read, I set all station labels in horizontal type. Along with expanded central areas, horizontal labels enhance the map’s usability, especially where the close physical proximity of transit lines would be difficult to represent in a geographic map. Bold labels are used for interchange stations, underscoring their role in helping people transfer at key points where lines connect.
My use of sans-serif type was influenced by Fred Stingemore’s 1931 London Underground map, and by Paul Shaw, who illustrated the mid-20th Century move to standardize transit information design and wayfinding tools his 2011 book Helvetica and the New York City Subway System. Shaw’s 2011 poster for a talk on his book cleverly illustrates the motivation to replace what he called a “competing jungle of signage” with a modern system. My use of horizontal type was influenced by Erik Spiekermann, who led the redesign of the passenger information system for Berlin’s transit.
In addition to existing lines, the map shows how the region is making progress on expanding transit. Including future lines and stations now helps build awareness of projects that will make it even more convenient to take transit. It also makes the map design more durable, because it won’t need to be redrawn to make space for these additions. To indicate projects under construction, I used yellow and black striped lines with opaque station markers. Proposed services are shown using opaque lines and station markers.
Updated November 20, 2021 by Stewart Mader