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Aaron M. Renn

I'm curious to know your take on the Muni metro system.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Post expanded a bit in response to Aaron's comment.


Does the map creator in fact envision a downtown subway? All I can find on his site is reference to light rail with an exclusive right-of-way.


Jarrett, is there some system


Jarrett, is there some standard for how to name and number transit lines? Should "A" be the most used line, or the one with the most westerly northern terminus, or the longest one? I think they should go in some kind of alphabetical order, west-to-east, but what do you think?

Michael Tyznik

I created the map. I'd just like to say that I am an amateur with an interest in transit and transit design, but these maps are mostly an excuse for me to do information design and to maybe spur conversation about transit. I'm sure there are major problems with my design.

For clarification about the "subway", they're actually existing surface-level tracks, but the street grid around the Union Station stop is actually raised above ground level, which means that main trunk line does function like a subway. This photo shows where those tracks run under the current Convention Center, on the site of the former Union Station: http://www.flickr.com/photos/williac/2152361/

Let me know if you have any more questions, although I am probably not qualified to answer them. :)

Michael Tyznik

Oh, and as for the numbering/lettering of the system, letters are used for the light rail lines, and numbers for streetcars, arbitrarily. They are lettered/numbered in the order I'd propose building them, starting with the A line because it runs along the planned 3C tracks, and the B line because it is on the Ohio Hub tracks.

Alon Levy

Michael, are those Ohio Hub trains supposed to function like German-style tram-trains, which function as mainline commuter trains outside urban areas and as streetcars within city centers?


I can't speak to Columbus or the usefulness of the proposed network, but I like the design of the map. Clean and crisp, and very Vignelli. I especially like the depiction of the neighborhoods--good job! My only criticism is I never liked Vignelli's depiction of transfer stations--the white bubble that is commonly used in such situations makes a better symbol I think.

Alon Levy

For fantasy maps, the Vignelli design makes it harder to figure out whether the proposed transit is any good. Vignelli-style maps can make a snaking line look straight and vice versa, and can distort scale, making a suburban system look local.


Alon, I'm a big fan of when agencies provide both a schematic and a geographic diagram. As a transit geek, I want to see both. I have strong opinions on which one is more useful to the general public, but I do see a need for both types of diagrams, each in their proper place.


The point of the subway sections on subway-surface lines is as much capacity as speed. Muni Metro or the Green Line wouldn't be able operate as many trains as they do if the lines ran on the surface. Also, the subway portions tend to be under downtown areas, with narrow, congested streets which mean low traffic speeds and little room for dedicated surface ROW. Once you get further out, you can usually get a boulevard median to run the line in, and speed limits around 35. The bang for buck of a subway there is rather lower.


Your points about the disadvantages of subway/streetcar systems is absolutely spot on!

Our legacy rail lines (JKLMN) are surface/subway for the reasons you and anonymous describe - they were built a long time ago and when time came to upgrade the city only mustered the money and will to upgrade the downtown segment under Market Street.

But maybe because all we have is surface/subway we seem hell-bent on only building that kind of line in the future.

The new T-Third will become the Central Subway - a surface/subway line that doesn't benefit from the collector phenomenon you describe.

And the only subway option studied for rail on Geary was also a surface/subway line.

James Dowden

The other thing that concerns me is that the central "subway" has too many branches feeding into it. Assuming 2-minute minimum headways on the core section (which may cause problems with reliability), the average branch cannot get more than 6 trains per hour. At 2½ minutes, that becomes an ugly 4.8tph.

I would also question the wisdom of running an express service at such frequencies. Assuming 30 seconds saved per stop (which approximates New York's express runs well), the western express run saves 2 minutes, which is less than the 5 minutes average waiting time for the express (assuming 6tph per branch). The eastern one looks more reasonable, but it sure would annoy the local riders.

Michael Tyznik

Good points, James. I do think at a certain point tunneling another trunk line directly under downtown would be necessary.

Alon Levy

Rhywun: I'm not even getting to that debate... all I'm saying is that for fantasy maps, geographic accuracy makes the map clearer. Real maps produced by transit agencies are another issue.

Ted King

More on San Francisco -
For those who are curious the links below have details on S.F.'s Central Subway and one of the water problems they'll be dealing with. Personally, I think the project is a ruptured duck due to cost (~ $1B), deep tunneling, and short routing (why not try for Fort Mason, just west of Van Ness Ave.?). Plus the ETA is 2018 (MMXVIII in Roman).

I think my beloved city is already a poster child for the dangers of trying to do transit on the cheap. The Central Subway and the CAHSR projects bid fair to make it a flaming mural.

Central Subway Project page etc. :
[PDF] http://www.epa.gov/region09/nepa/letters/Central-Subway-San-Francisco-DSEIS.pdf

Hallidie Plaza redesign w/ cistern :


The problem with the Columbus proposal turns out to be that those train tracks have a lot of freight trains running on them; there's no bypass line for the freight; and the construction of the Convention Center eliminated the space for extra tracks which used to be there back when it was Union Station.


Columbus really screwed up with that Convention Center.

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