Washington DC metro area information architect and occasional blogger, with interests including personalization, the paradox of the active user, social apps/media, mapping and wayfinding, and rich Internet applications.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Ode to my StationMasters map

So this weekend I was in DC's Golden Triangle district, aka the Golden Carrie is Disoriented district, and needed to walk from a store near the red line stop where I'd gotten off to a non-connected orange line stop. Why these two stops, which are in one place only a block apart, aren't connected by a below-ground pedestrian walkway is a Metro mystery.

At any rate, I had to do a quick map check. One of the helpful Golden Triangle tourism people asked me if I needed help.

"Nope," I said. "I've got it."

And I really did, despite my very fuzzy sense of direction. When I first moved here, this might not have been the case. I was persistently coming out of Metro stations and heading in the wrong direction. But since then, I've discovered the StationMasters map.

If you've come to visit me since then, I probably gave you one. If I didn't, remind me next time. They are the best maps I've encountered for getting around a city because they actually orient you around the way you've been traveling -- by the subway.

Stations aren't marked as some median point on the map (I'm looking at you, Google Maps); instead, every exit is displayed, including the direction you'll be heading in when you make the exit. No more walking a block to discover you'd been heading towards 11th St instead of 9th and instantly marking yourself as lost bait. And each mini-map is oriented around an individual Metro station, which makes the map you need easy to find -- just flip to the Metro stop you used.

As an IA, I think this is a perfect use of information to help explain a physical space. But as a traveler, I mostly just wish StationMasters would take their excellent maps to other cities. They could start with Boston -- I'm heading there in May and sure I'll be walking the wrong way out of the subway without fail.

You can check out the Station Masters map here. They also sell them at the Metro Center Barnes & Noble (and probably other Barnes & Nobles in the area).

posted by Carrie G  # 7:45 PM