SORTA route 24 A massive pile of 30000 transit maps my DOT coffee mug

What's going on here?

The whole body of work that is this website originally grew out of my frustration with the complete absence of a legible map of Cincinnati's transit system. I first began tinkering in late 2010. I wanted to get clear in my own mind just what services were useful, what neighborhoods had better transit service, and how they were all connected. SORTA hadn't published a system map in over four years. That map was not only literally wrong in places, but so hard to read that most new riders were scared off of trying transit altogether.

After a couple days of entering data from paper schedules into GIS I was able to see the basic structure of transit system for the first time. How thrilling! I was intrigued by what I found, so I started drawing some simple sketches, at first just the most useful, frequent lines. After some positive feedback I ran with it. I started including more lines and more details. I reduced the wild curves of Cincinnati's hilly streets to 45 degree angles and smooth corners. I included meaningful information about the location of neighborhood boundaries and business districts.

A couple of recommendations led me to Kickstarter. After just five days I had raised my goal of $1,200. Less than a month later, I had the support of more than a hundred donors from Cincinnati and around the world. I printed 30,000 pocket-sized maps and even gave a speach and got included in a book.

After a year, I'd distibuted them all, landed a cool job at the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics in DC and, with renewed interest, raised money again and printed 20,000 more.

All that got me thinking more and more about transit, and why it just wasn't being as successful or popular here as it is in similar cities. Cincinnati was literally built on and for transit! What's going on here?? In 2012, I started the Cincinnati Transit Blog to explore the way transit should work, the way it really works, and all the misconceptions and confusions that get in the way. So far, the blog's been a fun outlet, and even an encouragement to make a few other maps. I'm getting more and more into cartography and geospatial data analysis at the same time that my thoughts about transit are taking a fairly platonic turn.

Nate Wessel

About the Author

My name is Nate Wessel and I like bikes and buses and cities generally. When I'm not trying to get people out of their cages cars, I spend a lot of time writing, sewing, playing with maps, and trying to get paid for something. I just finished getting a degree in urban planning and I'm always looking for new projects and people to help me bring new intrigue, humanity and value to city life.

I'm also a consulting urban planner, data analyst, cartographer, designer, web designer/programmer, fashion designer and jack of all trades who particularly likes working with unusual requests. If you like any of my work here on this website, I encourage you to check out my portfolio too and send me an email if you think you may have an idea or job I'd be interested in.