mark ovenden: on the map.

At the risk of seeming totally odd, I love transit maps. It’s all those (normally bright primary coloured) lines intersecting over and over again. The fact that they actually represent something is purely secondary.


This endlessly fascinating (for me) e-card was used to promote Mark Ovenden’s 2007 “Transit Maps of the World”. It’s also the cover of this 133-page coffee-table transit tome. It illustrates, in classic Harry Beck transit map style, all the cities in the world that have their own public transit as if they were one global system unto themselves. In my mind it’s called the Terra Train.

The thing I love about the Terra Train layout is that, just like real transit maps, it’s actually pretty messed up. It totally distorts all accurate sense of distance and in some instances completely fails to connect two locations that are really quite close to each other:

  • Notice how apparently Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal have become equidistant.
  • It’s a long ass ride from Eshafan to Sydney. Bring a book.
  • Oslo and Helsinki are only 787 km apart. On the Terra Train all you’d need to do is hop south on the Oslo-Pyongyang Line until you get to Berlin. Then transfer and head east on the Lyon-Shanghai line until you get off at Ufa Station. This sucks because Ufa is always rammed, especially at rush hour. Brave the transfer there onto the Mumbai-Helsinki line (watch out, ’cause crazy drunk Poles always stumble on at Gdansk Station) until you finally cruise into good ol’ Helsinki a mere 15 stops and 3111 kilometres later. Easy as that.

Yes, I actually figured the distances out. Don’t judge me…

Via Strange Maps



  1. Yeah, there’s no way that the Toronto transit even comes close to anything European, but to be fair… I think they had a head start. Listen, last time I was in NY there was a booth on the street selling t-shirts that were transit lines for different countries or continents, similar to this idea. There was even a UN one that had all the countries of the world. (tear)
    Had I known your affinity for them, I would have picked one up….

  2. Jer, I totally dig transit maps. Have you ever seen the transit map for Paris or London? Only way to describe them is … beautiful. I love using the metro systems (especially subways) in every new European city we visit. Like a child, once I’m in the train, I stare at the transit map and count down the stops til we reach our destination, or I imagine the route I’d take if I were going to other destinations. It’s totally fun.

    The saddest thing is that every single metro system we’ve seen in Europe is better than Toronto’s. We totally bite.

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