I apologise for writing about tube maps again. Well, DLR maps in this case. Because there's a new one out. And it has daggers on it. And you know how much I hate daggers. Even when there are only three of them.
Here's one of the daggers on the map. It's been added at Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich, which is not so much a station name as a tongue-twisting tourist commercial. This station's proved impractical to extend ready for three-carriage trains, because it's underground near the Thames and there are tunnels at both ends. Longer trains are therefore forced to employ selective door opening, and passengers at the front or rear of the train may not be able to get out. A good enough reason to stick a special symbol on the map, you'd think. So the DLR map designer has used two daggers, one here and one at Elverson Road.
The third dagger is at West India Quay. A 'flyunder' opened here last year to speed up the service around Poplar, but with the side-effect of bypassing West India Quay station altogether. Some southbound services use it, and some don't, at certain prescribed times of the day. That's a good enough reason to stick a special symbol on the map, you'd think. So the DLR map designer has used a dagger.
Which means there are three daggers on the map, meaning two completely different things. Two of the daggers mean "short platform", and one means "some trains don't stop here". The travelling public clearly need to understand which is which. So the designer has added some explanatory text under the map in an attempt to explain the difference. Oh dear. Talk about hard to understand, especially if your English isn't very good.
† The first two sets and last two sets of doors on a three-carriage train will not open at Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich or Elverson Road. Please use the centre of the train. At certain times trains from Bank towards Lewisham will not stop at West India Quay station. ✽ No lift access to/from Bank station until end 2010.
Sorry, did I not mention the asterisk? The designer seems to be happy to use a separate symbol for lift problems, but insists on using a dagger for everything else. What's clearly needed, if we insist on littering the map with symbols, is another symbol. Something like a star. Like this.
† The first two sets and last two sets of doors on a three-carriage train will not open at Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich or Elverson Road stations. Please use the centre of the train. ✩ At certain times trains from Bank towards Lewisham will not stop at West India Quay station. ✽ No lift access to/from Bank station until end 2010.
That's better. Next, let's try to make the wording a lot clearer. The word 'stations' is redundant throughout. The map now has three dedicated symbols, so the names of the stations are also redundant. The duration of the lift problems at Bank is irrelevant. Either the map should state the times at which trains don't stop at West India Quay or it should say nothing. There's too much superfluous information throughout. Chop all that out, and I think the following is a big improvement.
† Short platform. On a three-carriage train, please use the centre of the train. ✩ Some trains from Bank do not stop here. ✽ No step-free access.
Simplified presentation will be even more important in the future because there are scheduled to be several more DLR stations with short platforms. Should the map ever end up saying "The first two sets and last two sets of doors on a three-carriage train will not open at Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich, Elverson Road, Pudding Mill Lane, Royal Albert and Gallions Reach. Please use the centre of the train." then we might as well sack the designer now.
Another DLR map will be needed later in the summer when the Stratford International extension opens. If that new map has to have daggers too, I hope that somebody thinks a bit more carefully about how to deploy them. Good information design's not difficult, nor even expensive, but the benefits can be enormous.