Expensive regressions for Sydney Trains


The latest cosmetic changes to Sydney’s train system have been expensive regressions in utility and appearance. Plain blue signs have replaced colour codes that could be recognised from a distance at stations like Town Hall. Pictograms have been replaced with letters that could mean anything from Taxi, to Tram, to Train, to Turbolift.

It seems these changes are also negatively affecting maps. Jacob Saulwick, The Sydney Morning Herald’s transport reporter points out:

Rolf Bergmaier, a transport consultant who has designed public transport maps for cities through Europe and Asia, said maps needed to show passengers how to make a direct connection between two points, or, if that is not possible, where to interchange to travel between those two points.

Dr Bergmaier said the new Sydney Trains map did neither.

The biggest problem has been logically assigning disparate lines the same colour. By doing so, it appears you can get from Newtown to Turella on the same train, when you can’t.

(As an aside, I know we should never read the comments, but some are highly–larious. Two suggest the new maps don’t matter, because everyone has a smartphone with TripView. No, really).

It may surprise some to know Sydney has two key advantages over metros in Singapore, Tokyo and New York. First, you can usually get a seat! And second, the system is run by a single operator. Theoretically, this should make it that much easier to simplify and merge disparate lines together into a map that’s clear, accurate and attractive.

Perhaps they’ve just taken that simplicity too far.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person in bios. Hi!

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