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Posted at 03:33 PM ET, 05/18/2011

People believe subway maps over reality

Maps matter. Metro’s and London’s transit maps present distorted geographies in order to make the system’s organization clearer. They have become iconic, but the way they present distances shapes people’s understanding of space and distance in their region.

An NYU study found that distances on such maps affect people’s travel choices much more than actual distances. Riders on the London Tube who had choices between multiple transfers were twice as likely to take the route that was shorter on the map but longer in real life. Even people who ride every weekday did this.

This reinforces an important idea we’ve discussed before: The map forms people’s views of a city. To many people, the Metro map is the mental image of DC and the surrounding area. Geographic distortions may be appropriate to help a map be simpler, but designers should consider carefully the effect of each such change.

[Continue reading David Alpert’s post at Greater Greater Washington.]

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By  |  03:33 PM ET, 05/18/2011

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