October 2008


Poor Design

As I noted yesterday (for the umpteenth time), Weimar is in love with Goethe and Schiller.

It also fancies itself as the European Capital of Culture—which is was nearly a decade ago in 1999. The trappings of refinement are everywhere you go in Weimar—Goethe and Schiller are fêted as heroes, art museums are celebrated, and the theatre is the centre of everything.

So it is with much reluctance that I am going to point out another one of Weimar’s flaws.

Yes, it’s sad, but true, Weimar is not perfect. It’s most egregious sin is something I’ve whined about several times before.

This sin, in comparison minor, is to mislead tourists, visitors, and locals consulting the “Netzplan Weimar“—or in English, Weimar’s bus map. While the map has lots of little flaws (if you aren’t a local, good luck identifying which streets the bus travels down without a separate city map), there is one big design flaw that causes several problems.

Bus Lines and Train Tracks relative to the main train station in Weimar

Bus Lines and Train Tracks relative to the main train station in Weimar.

It’s the blob at the center of the image on the right: the Hauptbahnhof, or main train station. Anybody unfamiliar with the city, after looking at the map, would make a perfectly reasonable assumption about how the city is laid out: the exit of the main train station is to the north of the tracks—an entirely incorrect assumption. When you exit from the main train station, the tracks are actually north of where you end up standing, and north of all the bus lines that cross in front of the station.

Now I realize that this is rather pedantic of me—after all there are bigger problems in the world, but to an uninformed tourist or visitor, this is tremendously misleading and confusing. I know that when I am in unfamiliar cities and I am consulting transit maps, I expect things to be relatively correct. London’s famous Tube Map or New York City’s Subway Map are both excellent examples of design where things are located relatively correctly in relation to each other, even if the scale is off.

That said, the mislaying of the tracks on Weimar’s bus map leads to two other problems on the map.

More Buslines in the vicnity of Weimar's Hauptbahnhof

Bus lines near the Hauptbahnhof

First, despite every indication on the map, the stop named “Schoppenhauerstr.” is not north of the tracks: it is south of the tracks and about a three minute walk east of the main train station’s entrance! Unfortunately, anybody unfamiliar with Weimar will not know this.

Secondly, and this is a direct consequence of the design flaw, is what happens to route number 5. Route 5 is special because it approaches the train station from the west, and departs the train station to the west, meaning that it loops around the plaza in front of the train station. Now any sane person looking at the map will think that the bus will stop at “Etterburger Str./Rießnerstr.” on its way from the Hauptbahnhof to the stop labeled Stadtring. Alas, “Etterburger Str./Rießnerstr.” is actually located north of the railroad tracks, and bus 5 goes directly from the Hauptbahnhof to Stadtring without stopping there. Route 5 never actually crosses over or under any train tracks between the Hauptbahnhof and Stadtring, despite the map’s suggestion that it does.

These kinds of fundamental mistakes in designing a bus map are surprising for a city like Weimar that takes design and culture so seriously.

I hope it’s fixed the next time the update the map.

7 comments to Poor Design

  • These kinds of fundamental mistakes in designing a bus map are surprising for a city like Weimar that takes design and culture so seriously.

    Not really suprising to me, but I bet a flaw in the iambic pentameter rendition of the Netzplan would be corrected immediately.

  • That map makes about as much sense as the map inside the movie theater from that old Tom Hanks film Bachelor Party.

  • jen

    CQ, i was thinking the same thing about the bus map! get outta my brain!

  • @Cliff: you know this city too well

    @CQ & Jen: I’m not familiar with the movie. is it worth seeing?

  • I would take a pass on the movie since it is a horrible representation of 1980’s American films. It was made shortly after Tom Hanks had his starring role in Bosom Buddies on TV.

    The scene which I’m referencing is towards the end of the movie where a small group of people, including Hanks’ character, rush into a movie theater to do something. I don’t remember what, but they needed to find a specific auditorium. When they get inside they are confronted with a map of the 40 screen cinema that looks something like a maze.

  • The map is really misleading especially if they dont print or edit it properly. Usually I use people as maps and ask around for directions.

  • I think this photo essay from the BBC is rather timely for this entry: