We kind of love this new, circular take on the Paris metro map

Central Paris, on the new map. Image: Teeter-totter-tam.

Paris is a serious contender for the title of the most beautiful city in the world – a city famed across the globe for its panache, its style.

Odd, then, that its metro map should look like a cartographer had some kind of breakdown with a plate of spaghetti and some crayons, and yet there it is:

Click to expand, if you must. Image: RATP.

The colour scheme is confusing, with yellows/golds/browns and pinks/purples blurring into each other, so that you’re never sure if you’re following the right line. Bits of the map are almost illegible...

What? Image: RATP.

And occasionally, a line makes a sudden, unexpected right angle. This isn't a metro map, it's a screenshot from Nokia phone classic, Snake:

Mind that wall! Image: Nokia.

But fear not, for the world is full of designers, touting for business by redesigning some metro map or another. This week it's the turn of Constantine Konovalov, of Moscow design studio Teeter-totter-tam, which has released its own take on the Parisian metro map.

Here’s the blurb:

We looked at Paris from a different perspective and it inspired us to create this fundamentally new map of Paris metro system, regional trains, and trams. Every line and all the elements of the map have been rethought and brought to a new visual form to enable fast and easy route finding.

So – the new map is intended to be comprehensive (it includes all forms of fixed transport in and around Paris). It's meant to be more easily comprehensible (no more trying to work out whether this brown line is the same as that brown line). And it's meant to be, well, prettier.

Here's the result:

Click to expand. Image: Teeter-Totter-Tam.

The design team's key decision was to depict lines 2 and 6 as a sort of Parisian inner circle. The tram routes T3a and T3b form just over half a middle circle, while the proposed metro line 15 will form a third, outer circle.

Usage of circular line pattern is the main principle of the map's design. They simplify the perception of the map by putting the visual accents and dividing the map into round segments.

The designers also tried to simply the interchanges, and straighten lines wherever possible. They’ve abandoned the standard 45 degree grid employed by metro maps in favour of a 30 degree one:

Oh, and they chucked in some landmarks, to help tourists. Nice of them:

The colour problem remains. The designers, understandably, chose not to start abandoning the official colour scheme, so metro lines 1, 9 and 10, and RER line C are still a slightly all a bit close for comfort:

You see the problem?

And some of the big interchange stations are still a little confusing. Look at Chatalet-Les Halles:

The redesigned map.

To be fair, though, it is the largest underground station in the world, and it is at least clear which lines are served by Chatelet, which by Les Halles, and which by Chatalet Les Halles. (Line 4 is on both. See? They don’t help themselves, do they?).

And it is less confusing than the official version:

The official one.

The decision to straighten some of the lines makes them more comprehensible, too. Here’s the Left Bank stretch of line 4 on the official map:

In the redesign, it's still a little twisty – a function of the geography, and how it relates to other lines – but it's much less jerky:

It's difficult to see this as the kind of game-changer that Harry Beck's original tube map was in London. But it's definitely clearer and more legible. The circles aren't just visually pleasing, but create a reference point to make it easier to find your way around; and the inclusion of geographical features like tourism land marks and the Canal St-Martin, are a nice touch. RATP should take note.


(A footnote. Normally people want to sort out London's tube map. It's frankly a relief to see someone tackle another city instead. Just saying.)

You can find bigger versions of the map on this site here.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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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.