Mapping the Interurban

In 1941, the last ferry and the last train ran on the NWP Interurban commuter line, and Marin was handed over to the battle of its life against the car-centric development unleashed by the Golden Gate Bridge. Marinites, unlike most of the country, won that battle, and we maintained the transit-oriented development passed down from the age of rail.

Most of us, though, don’t even know what it looked like, and the best thing we’ve got are grainy maps and schedules from the 1930s. That’s all well and good, but hides the structure and sinews of the system. The purpose of contemporary transit mapping is to combine not just where a system goes, but how and, to a lesser extent, when.

I’ve created two maps that do just that for the Interurban. The first is in an “old” style. Old printing techniques could only print two or three colors. Given that the Interurban shut down in 1941, I thought a map inspired by that era made sense.

One color does make it hard to tell apart individual lines. Click to enlarge.

The second map is the same thing, but in a “new” style. With contemporary printing techniques, we can do as many colors as we like. The advantage is that individual lines can be individually colored, snapping into focus what lines go where.

The colorful lines really make service stand out. Click to enlarge.

As you can see, it was quite a comprehensive system, at least for Central and Southern Marin. Northern Marin was served by intercity rail, more akin to Amtrak than BART, and was not part of the electric rail system highlighted here.

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About David Edmondson
A native Marinite working in Washington, DC, I am fascinated by how one might apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of my home.

6 Responses to Mapping the Interurban

  1. dw shelf says:

    Consider that even in the best of times, this level of transportation was able to sustain a middle class standard of living which would compare to today’s $15/hour.

    Typical for most families was a two bedroom, one bath house, about 1000 sqf. No money for store bought pet food, let alone a veterinarian. Health care was effective in setting broken bones, but disease was always on one’s mind because people you knew had died young.

    Yes, some aspects were better, but wealth was not among them. Neither was health and safety as we know it today.

  2. Valerie Taylor says:

    The rail proceeded through White’s Hill in Fairfax out through Woodacre (on Railroad Ave), through what is now SP Taylor Park. After that, I’m not sure where it went. It would be great to see maps of that extended service as well.

  3. Valerie Taylor says:

    Hmmm. Are you sure about the line labeled B St. coming out of San Rafael? Wouldn’t that be 2nd St?

  4. Pingback: Notes from Choosing the Future We Want | The Greater Marin

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