07 June 2010

There are better cartographers out there

This map can currently be found at bus stops all over Washington, DC. It's an advertisement for the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, a government organization that "supports efforts to assist States and communities to promote and support Responsible Fatherhood." The sentiment is more than admirable, it's crucial: if you're a dad, spend time with your children. The poster/ad shows places where one can go out and have fun at any number of neat, free parks all over the city.

Of course, as a cartographer and a curmudgeon, I have a few gripes. The design leaves more than a little to be desired. Why are there drop shadows on the orange circles used as labels for the parks, but no shadow on the part that points to the locations? The linework used for the roads is clunky, and there are some terrible transitions from one level of road hierarchy to another (like where Virginia Avenue NW ends at the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway). The interior glow on the bodies of water and the parks seems like an unnecessary embellishment. But the biggest problem is the labeling of roads.

First, why are the quadrant labels a mix of upper- and lower-case letters (i.e. Ne instead of NE)? Second, there are many, many errors, such as North Capital Street instead of the correct North Capitol Street, and South Capitol Street is labeled North Capitol Street Ne—a double error. Here's a not necessarily exhaustive list:
  • 17th Street NW label next to White House is the wrong color.
  • H Street NW is labeled H St Ne.
  • Cleveland Avenue NW labeled Ceveland Ave Nw.
  • Massachusetts Avenue NW labeled Massachusetts Ave Ne twice.
  • Rock Creek Church Road NW labeled Allison Street Nw.
  • 7th St NW label too far north (falls on Georgia Avenue NW).
  • New York Avenue NW labeled New York Ave Ne.
  • 29th Street NW labeled 29th St N.
  • 19th Street NW in Foggy Bottom labeled 18th St Nw.
  • Maine Ave label obscured by Thomas Jefferson Memorial label.
  • 2nd St Ne label technically straddles NE and SE.
  • 13th Street NE is labeled 13th St Nw.
  • Rhode Island Avenue NW is labeled Rhode Island Ave Ne.
  • Why is T Street NW even labeled for the short section of it that's highlighted?
  • Michigan Avenue NE is labeled Michigan Ave Nw.
  • It falls off the right edge of the map, but the label on 21st Street NE appears to say 21st Sh St Ne.
  • Other labels, which fell within the extent of the PDF of the poster (see link below) were cut off in the version hung in the bus shelters.
Do you see any more errors? Point them—and any thoughts on the map's design—out in the comments.

(A PDF of the map can be found here.)


  1. How about the complete lack of Metro stops? Do you have to drive a car to be a good father?

    The interstates and major routes are diligently (well maybe not so diligently) marked yet there's no sign that you can reach most of these locations without ever getting in a car.

  2. I'm sad to see the National Arboretum left off.

  3. Clearly you have not carefully Vince Gray's late-night budget amendments. They changed the designation of every avenue north of the Anacostia that runs into Prince George's County as an Ne street, regardless of its actual location. Michigan Ave is always Nw as it is the exception that proves the rule. Capital E's and W's have been replaced with lower case to reduce interference with historic vistas.

    Metro stations were not include because when the map was being drawn, Martin O'Malley was threatening to withhold Metro funding. This would have made Metro rail useless on weekends when most dads have time to go to parks with their kids.

    The section of T St NW was labeled because the street itself is rendered in white. Duh.

    Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway is actually labeled, but it is labeled in white. A simple color error like on 17th St NW.

    Seriously, though, I am impressed that these people actually attempted their own map of DC instead of using an existing map. Too bad they did such a poor job of it. The errors are so obvious I'm guessing it wasn't done by anyone in the DC area (or anyone with an actual map of the DC area). Omitting Metro stations seems particularly egregious.

  4. As someone who lives on Rock Creek Church Road ... I'm outraged!!! Something with this many errors should have never seen the light of day.

  5. The typical usage of the idiom is "a hop, skip, and a jump away". Garfield Park is much larger than portrayed on this map. It is bounded by New Jersey Ave, E St and 3rd St (all SE), but appears in this map to be bounded by New Jersey Ave, 2nd St, and half the distance from the Southeast Freeway to E St. How about pointing out to the Fathers what is at each of these places to let them know their kids might have fun there. To stick with Garfield park, there is playground equipment for both younger and older children, and a skate park under the freeway - as opposed to thinking Garfield park is just a patch of grass next to the freeway.


You can be curmudgeonly too, but let's try to be civil and constructive here, ok?