Maps from Down Under; we could learn a thing or two…..or could we?


PTV Network jpeg

In my search for good intercity public transit maps I’ve come across a few that I’d like to share. All of these have some of the qualities we were looking for in a map, along with problems and things to be improved, like everything made by humans. So far, all have been superior to what we have in Ontario because…….they simply exist. So far, I haven’t been able to see any connection between the simple existence of an intercity map and the actual quality of service offered, although if anyone reading this is looking for an interesting PhD thesis…..this could be it. Good luck getting funding though!

The map I’ve included here is the official network map of VLine, the regional transit operator in the Australian state of Victoria. Australia is a great place to compare with Canada in many ways; ex-British Dominion, transformed into a multicultural immigration destination with a lot of similarities in how their cities towns are built. For example, the inner city of Melbourne is often compared to Toronto. Does the street below seem kind of familiar?


It’s kind of reminiscent of the strip retail streets we have in Toronto, or for that matter, throughout Ontario. It’s actually Brunswick Street in Melbourne. Not sure where I was going with this, mostly I just wanted to look at pictures of Melbourne (a place that fascinates me) but you can get my point, comparing the transit maps and service offered in Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, is a useful exercise.

Looking at the map, what was interesting to me at first is how it’s set up to resemble a local transit map. Again, I have no idea about the actual QUALITY of service eg. how many coaches or trains run on particular routes per hour. However, setting the map up as one for local transit would look seems to offer long distance coaches and trains a certain…..legitimacy. So if you need to travel to any number of destinations in the state, glancing at the map not only tells you if it’s possible, it also tells you that the “powers that be” bothered to want to give you this information in the first place.

This was one of our motivations behind creating our own map; we think someone wanting to travel from Owen Sound to Barrie has the same need for a map that an Aussie going from, Ballarat to Melbourne.

What was also interesting to me is the presentation of rail and coach services. On the map are differentiated by type of line (solid for train services others for coach or limited train) but are still presented as “equal” in the sense that both vehicles are used in concert to get you where you want to go. Of course, as VLine is a public operator (some coaches are run by private contractors but still operate according to routes and schedules set down by VLine) there is no sense in having the highway coaches and trains compete with one another. Instead, coach services are used to extend the reach of public transit beyond the rail terminals and this is shown on the map. This is very different from the situation here in Ontario, with the private bus operators competing heavily with VIA Rail for services between major cities.

All in all, I’m fairly impressed with this map. However, for someone not intimately familiar with Victoria, the non-geographic presentation of the lines makes it hard for me to understand where certain destinations are. Not surprisingly, I’m partial to what Shaun and I have done with using our province’s geography to plot the map; meaning that a visitor would be able to get a sense of where they are. Stylistically the VLine map looks crisp and clean but I’m in favour of functionality over flair any time.

I’d like to hear what the rest of you think of this map. What can we learn from it? What did the Aussies do wrong? The comment section is yours to use!


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