Here's another unofficial tube map that might be better than the real thing

Another amateur designer takes on the tube map. Image:

Oh hey, so, apparently we're not the only ones who've got the hump about the poor quality of London's new tube map. Yesterday, we received an email from Jug Cerović, a Belgrade-born and Paris-based architect and designer, which included the following:

...I must say I fully agree with you on the poor legibility of the new map.

You see? We're thought leaders round here.

I am also very happy that you have featured Sameboat's map from  Skyscrapercity/Wikimedia. [It shows] that map drawing is not any more the personal monopoly of a few administrative bodies.

And then, to prove his point, he attached a map of his own.

In places, Cerović's map, even more than Sameboat’s effort, departs radically from the Transport for London design we’re all used to. In the suburbs, it throws geographical accuracy to the winds to an extent that would make even Harry Beck shudder.

And yet, for all that, in terms of legibility and aesthetics, it’s actually rather good.

In the centre of town, the map, while stylised, stays relatively true to physical geography. Note the presence of Hyde Park, for example, or the way you can now see that Paddington is quite near to Lancaster Gate (something TfL has always preferred to keep secret).

Further out, though, the map abandons geography entirely, allowing the map to stay compact while keeping lines quite evenly spaced. So, for example, lines that head broadly east now take a sudden right angle towards the top of the map:

You'll recall that we had a number of complaints about TfL’s latest effort. One was that it made no effort to distinguish between lines that run every two minutes, and ones that run twice an hour. Another was that it was uses a hideous white/grey two-tone background to represent the fare zones. Another was that parts of it were now so cramped that it was just plain ugly.

Cerović's effort sidesteps some of these problems. The zonal map has been replaced by tiny numbers next to station names:

And less frequent parts of the network appear in less vibrant pastel shades, so that the eye is more likely to skip over them. That includes the Overground, and (something absent from the standard map) the main rail links to London’s airports:

Different DLR routes are shown in different colours, based on their northern or western terminals. (The Stratford and Tower Gateway colours are a bit similar, mind.)

The map's even been designed so you can drop Crossrail in without ruining everything:

There are things we're still not nuts about. The various Overground lines are still all in one colour, which gets a bit confusing in places.

And the use of pastel colours to represent entire networks can be a bit misleading: far more trains serve most of the inner sections of the Overground than do some of the outer reaches of the tube.


Once again, though, it's hard to avoid the feeling that more thought has gone into this amateur map than has gone into TfL's official one for a very long time.

You can see more of Cerović's map on his website, here.

If you have a metro map you'd like CityMetric to publish as part of our never ending, self-indulgent search for viral traffic, then email Jonn.Elledge@CityMetric.com.

 
 
 
 

What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.


Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.