If it’s hard to picture the U.S. with a high-speed rail network like China’s–with trains going 186 miles an hour, and rail trips more than 70% faster than they are today–a subway-like map makes it feel more realistic.
“The transit map metaphor, with its straight lines and evenly spaced stations seems to make this easier to imagine,” says designer Cameron Booth, who created the map.
With the redesigned map, it’s possible to imagine the train as a viable option for travel in the rest of the country–even if the stops it shows now are just along existing Amtrak routes.
Booth made his first version of the map in 2010 as a personal project to offer an easier-to-use variation on the standard Amtrak map, and recently updated it. The design first solves the problem that Amtrak’s map doesn’t currently show each station.
“I thought that by applying the principles of a transit map–expanding dense areas to see the detail, while condensing rural areas to save space and keep the map relatively compact–could allow every station to be shown,” he says.
The official map also doesn’t show where different routes begin or end. “Looking at the official map, you might think it’s possible to make a one-seat journey from Boston to Denver, or New York to Seattle, because there’s no indication otherwise,” says Booth. He broke down the network into each constituent route.
After spending hours studying the network, Booth–a transit nerd who also runs a blog and a website that reviews transit maps from around the world–thinks that Amtrak might not necessarily need new routes, but better routes.
“I think Amtrak’s focus should really be on finding the regional corridors with high ridership (or high ridership potential) and improving the service–frequency of trains, reliability, and punctuality of service–along those corridors to truly offer an alternative to other travel modes,” he says.