Mass Transit T-Shirts

A couple of weeks ago, I had a Twitter conversation with a fellow Mass Transit geek about maps on t-shirts. It all started with this tweet:

Don’t those shirts look awesome?

Sara kindly shared with me a few links to other transit-themed shirts that she’d found online:

There are also lots of places where you can find unofficial shirts. Sadly, Mexico City and Montreal do not have official merchandise, but it’s easy enough to find cheap t-shirts in Mexico City.

I think I need to augment my metro map collection with t-shirts, just like Sara. Do you have any links to official merchandise stores? If so, share them in the comments!


Sara also has metro map mugs!


I’ve always loved maps. As a kid, I waited excitedly for the National Geographic magazines, hoping that this would be one of the lucky months with a beautiful double-sided highly-detailed map. I’d pore over every feature of the map, looking for any oddities in the route a road took, for example, or what I considered to be strange naming conventions (West Virginia and Virginia? Baja California and Baja California Sur?). I’d try to imagine myself living in that location, and how the geography of it would affect my daily life. How would I get to school? Where would I play with my friends?

That fascination and imagination continues to this day when I look at maps. I am fascinated by enclaves, exclaves, and any other -claves you can think of. The quirks of human history and geography, laid down on a map with different splashes of colour. I try to imagine what it’s like to live in the various exclaves in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Are they cut off from their families and friends?

My love of maps evolved, however. As is well known, I am an admirer of public transit maps, especially metro maps. Why? At its core, the fascination is for the same reason. How do people go to school, to work, to play, to shop, every day in their city? Which stops are the busiest, and which are the quietest, and why? Beyond that, it’s also because the maps bestow a certain order on the organized chaos that is any modern city. No need to navigate traffic, or get lost by taking a wrong turn. You look at the map, you find your starting point, and you take the shortest route to your destination. Of course, in the larger cities (Mexico, New York, Moscow, Japan) the systems are quite complex and the shortest route may not be so obvious; but still, taking the metro is much, much easier than driving in an unknown city.

Last year, I read a book by Ken Jennings, who holds the record of the longest win streak on Jeopardy!, called Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonksand I was pleasantly surprised that I’m not the only person with this “affliction”; I nodded my head in vigorous agreement many times while reading it, saying “That’s me! That’s me!” while the cats stared curiously.

And then there are metro maps. In many cities, the metro/subway/tube is almost a symbol of the city itself. When I think of the world’s great public transit systems, I think of Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Moscow, Mexico City, Madrid, Barcelona, and of course, my home city’s system, Montréal. And oddly enough, I am not the only one who thinks like this. There are many other people out there who are as fascinated by metro maps as I am. Take a look at this site, for example, as a recent one I found. And of course, the classic UrbanRail.Net. And then there’s the well-known book, Transit Maps of the World.

To finish off this exploration of maps, here are a few interesting videos:

Weird choice of music on this next one:


Mission: Cabane à Sucre

Going to the Cabane à Sucre is a Québec tradition. The maple syrup flows; the ham and eggs drown in it, the baked beans are sweetened by it, the pea soup is drizzled with it. I love going to the cabane and eating the taffy on the snow. I’m certain that every Québecer goes at least once (if not more!) as a child, with school or family. It’s a great tradition, but it’s become tainted by the “industrialization” of it.

This weekend, I went to Mont St-Grégoire, hoping to take my boys to eat some maple sweets. It was a beautiful day, probably the first warm day of the year, sunny, and perfect for a family outing in the countryside. Of course, as you can expect, half of Montreal thought the same thing. The first hint of a problem came while we were on the highway; we were stuck there in traffic for about 20 minutes, lined up with everyone else who wanted to get off at the exit. Then, we went to one of the cabanes that I had heard good things about, smaller than others. I pull in to their parking and the first thing I’m told is, if I don’t have a reservation, I’m out of luck. We then tried to go to the two larger ones nearby, and the line snaking out of the place must have had several hundred people waiting to get in. We decided that there was no way we would wait there, because in the past we’d gone there and we were treated like cattle, the way we were herded through turnstiles to the table: “Ok, here’s your food”, “Are you finished yet? Others are waiting”, This way to the exit, go on the tractor and then your time here is done”. We did not want to do that again, so we did not get in line.

As a last attempt, we went to another one a bit further away, not at the foot of the mountain. It didn’t seem too busy when we pulled in, so we walked in an inquired about the cost. We were told that we wouldn’t be able to eat until 5pm (it was 2pm by now; we had hoped to have lunch!). That was it, we gave up and turned around back towards the city.

So, why do I say that the cabane à sucre experience has been tainted? I understand that on a beautiful day, lots of people will want to go out and enjoy the first real day of spring weather, so I can’t blame the crowds. The problem is the how the bigger ones shovel people through, as many as possible as quickly as possible, without giving folks a chance to enjoy their meals and the experience. I don’t know what the solution to that is; they are obviously trying to maximise their income in the very short season for the activity, but… it still cheapens it, in my opinion.

Photo Credit: by JaimeW