Muni to Launch a New, More Legible Map

A snapshot of the new draft Muni map. Image: SFMTA

Tired of looking at Muni’s cluttered map? Good news: The SFMTA plans to roll out a new, more legible map of the Muni system.

The map was drafted over ten years, in the spare time of cartographers David Wiggins and Jay Primus, who also manages SFpark for the SFMTA. The two are donating their work.

“It’s really a labor of love for them,” Julie Kirschbaum, Muni’s operations planning and scheduling manager, told the SFMTA Board of Directors today. Kirschbaum said the map will show up on Muni shelters and on printed maps, as part of a larger branding effort called Muni Forward.

The map “helps visualize the service hierarchy,” said Kirschbaum. “Customers can see where there’s more service, and where there’s less service.”

The map uses more “sophisticated cartography techniques” to convey more information in a cleaner way, Kirschbaum said. Different colors, thickness of lines, and text sizes differentiate between characteristics like route frequency, rail lines, limited-stop, and express bus services. The names of transit-heavy streets appear larger than minor streets, and the text uses a more legible “title case,” instead of all capital letters. The map also uses symbols to mark major institutions, like schools and libraries.

Conveying the difference between faster Muni routes and local transit service “is a really important thing to communicate when we’re trying to drive people to our premium routes,” said Kirschbaum.

The map isn’t finalized yet, and will continue to be reshaped as Muni makes route changes and speed upgrades as part of the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project. So far, the SFMTA has only publicly released the snapshot shown above, which includes the Western Addition, Cole Valley, the Castro, NoPa, and the Upper and Lower Haight.

Kirschbaum said that Muni is also considering changing its route names, so that they more accurately reflect the streets they serve. As an example, she noted that the 6-Parnassus could be re-named the 6-Haight/Parnassus, to let tourists know that they can use the lesser-used trolley bus line to reach the world-famous destination of Haight-Ashbury.

For the hand-held version of the map sold in stores, Kirschbaum said the SFMTA is also developing a similar bike network map to be printed on the opposite side.

A requirement in the map contract says that the SFMTA must install the newly designed Muni map on at least 75 percent of its transit shelters by May 1, 2015.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    This looks like an incredible improvement from the existing map. It’s a shame that they have to donate their time – a brilliant upgrade in usability like this should be rewarded.

  • withak30

    IMO the title of the 6 is perfect. Not stating that it goes to Haight Street keeps the riff-raff away and makes for a (relatively) more pleasant commute.

  • Justin

    I actually like the old design, but I don’t mind this newer more modern look too because it looks well done artistically as well. Still looks cool, hopefully it will be cool

  • davistrain

    The map shows a 7 line on Haight St.–the 7, a designation that goes back to the wooden streetcar era, was discontinued a few years ago.

  • Maybe we’ve stumbled upon a top-secret plan to bring it back, wooden streetcars and all!

    Sorry, I was just dreaming for a second there.

  • David Marcus

    What the heck is the 5R?

  • vcs

    Noticed that as well. I am hoping it’s a hint Muni will renumber the 71 to 7 (which the 71 replaced). The bus system is more understandable if the major lines have nice low numbers.

  • vcs

    IMO, the existing map is a fundamentally a pretty good map, or at least it fits my ‘mental model’ of getting around the city. Details like the font and the all-caps labeling are passe now though, so it makes sense to get the map into the 21st century.

    And Haight-Castro is a nice pretty part of the system. I want to see how they’ve detailed out downtown and the financial district. That is the challenging part of the system.

    My only real complaint about the image is how the “red’ N/J streetcar lines suddenly disappear and turn “black” in the subway. It looks like they don’t really go through. The existing map uses dashed-lines and shading to let you know there is actually a Muni subway. (for some definition of actually)

  • hp2ena

    I think MTA is supposed to reintroduce the 7 because the 6 rerouting fell through. That and some trips on the 6 actually mimic the old 7 routing, so it makes sense to differentiate between the routes to minimize confusion.

  • hp2ena

    Map looks great. Except at where buses make 90-degree turns (Central/McAllister and Fulton on the map), I wouldn’t interpret them in a circular manner as it goes against the theme of a clean map this particular map is trying to convey. Or at least reduce the radius of the curve. Apologies if this comment may be off-topic

  • hp2ena

    The old map is great, but it’s very cluttered! The way the routes are categorized now are useless if they are not categorized in a way that allows one to determine frequency. And it shouldn’t just be limited to major transit corridors. Actually, just simply highlighting streets as major transit corridors are oblivious in itself; while we know service is frequent, we want to know how. The new map appears to address some of these concerns.

  • Stvr

    Why aren’t they being compensated?? That seems totally wrong. Maybe illegal. Are cities allowed to accept no-wage work?

  • J

    Awesome! Another city moving to make their transit system easier to use and navigate. Also, this looks an awful lot like the DC bus map. 🙂 [Warning, pdf.]

    More on high frequency network maps:

  • Brian Stokle

    5 Fulton Rapid, which is proposed in the Muni Forward Project.

  • Brian Stokle

    Not being compensated at all is not right. Muni needs to give them SOMETHING. They should get at least four-digits! Or at least lifetime Muni Passes (although that only works if they live and continue to live in SF).

  • Shout out to my 37, the best bus line in the city. Just look at all those twists and turns.

  • Bruce

    The 7 Haight is coming back? 😛

  • john

    they’re not ‘transit shelters’. they offer little to no shelter. they’re advertising kiosks.

  • Cody Hicks

    Isn’t in the 5L – limited? That’s what they’re piloting now….

  • njudah

    the SFMTA is clueless. they wil toss in the dumpster all the existing maps when they could in fact SELL THEM ON EBAY and make some cash. How do I know this? During the last revision in 2009 I got a shit-ton of them thanks to Mr. Judson True, who was a rockin’ spokesman for Muni. I framed one and kept the rest and all along the way home I had Muni employees and Owner/Ridres BEGGING ME to buy one off of me.

    Watch how fast they toss the old ones into the burner. Watch. Duh.

  • anonymous

    “The two are donating their work.”


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