This minor change to BART maps really upset riders 10 years ago
"It seems only appropriate someone named Bart would design the BART map," Chris Filippi, BART spokesman and host of "Hidden Tracks: Stories from BART" joked in the agency's latest podcast episode.
Bart Wright gets that a lot. He's a professional designer and mapping expert who has served as the brain behind the so-called iconic map for over 20 years. In that time, only one of his designs has sparked outrage.
"I do take pride in it, more I fear that people are going to hate the lack of the curve around Glen Park," he revealed.
The podcast episode, which aired July 12, digs deep into the map's 47 years of history, evolution and modification. The two discuss just how critical of a role public transit maps can play in where a person lives – evoking childhood memories of going to A's games, taking trips with family, and ultimately making a difference for the thousands of commuters encountering it each day.
Although just two revisions have been made to the original map since BART started running in 1972, they've inevitably sparked a lot of heated debate among locals. When the 2010 iteration of the map removed the geographically-accurate curve from the Mission down to Glen Park and Balboa Park, he said people took to social media to express their outrage.
"It definitely is an image. People hold onto it, and they get mad when there's a change," Wright said.
Similar criticism resurfaced as BART shared the recent podcast episode.
"This map is not one of the most iconic transit maps in the world. It's confusing to many people and needs a complete redesign," one Twitter user responded.
"Some have slashes while others don't, some have cross streets & others have City names. Why is it 16th St Mission but 12th St/Oakland? North Berkeley but no South Berkeley? @SFBART, do better," another wrote.
Wright acknowledged that there will always be criticism, but his biggest priority is trying to implement a design that works best for the average user. It's a balancing act between utility and identity.
"Be it a daily commuter or a tourist that doesn't speak English, they (should) somehow use that map somewhat effectively, whether it's on a phone or they're standing at the big printed one in the station," Wright said.
Making changes to BART's map today is an extensive process. Four or five design ideas might be considered, and they can take three to four years to be approved by board members and the public. If they're rejected, it's time to go back to the drawing board.
There are some aspects of the map that are so deeply embedded in its appearance that they likely won't be adjusted – namely, the X-shape and colored lines. While Wright has a bit of nostalgic affection for the original map design, he's pleased with the current one for its traditional approach.
"What I'm most interested in is the BART maps to come," he said.
Maybe some change is coming, after all.
Amanda Bartlett is an SFGate editorial assistant. Email: [email protected]