Mapping the GIS Adventure – Lab 2: The Texas Transportation Corridor Probably Had a Bad Cartographer

Lab 2

My professor enjoyed providing our assignments through these faux-memos he created, as if we worked for a GIS company and he was our boss. We also had the opportunity to be promoted, never, it seemed, to an actual paycheck. At this point, my memo promised me that I was “highly valued, but poorly paid.” Given my professor’s tendency for straight talk, I have a feeling this may be exactly my future.

But it did provide the incentive. Apparently, all I needed to do was make good maps to progress. So, I put my nose to the grind for this map, and promptly found it ground off. Our professor informed us that Governor Perry had proposed a Texas Transportation Corridor, which never made it to fruition. Sad, but worse was that my “boss” required a better map displaying the proposed corridors than what was available. Alas, I worry my map isn’t much of an improvement, but before I offer you an alternative, here’s what’s up with mine.

First, the givens. This was my first time using ArcGIS, and our professor was also working on our cartography skills. We were required to have a legend, scale bar, a north arrow, a scale, graticule, title, and data source. All of which I provided, though looking back, I would have kept my legend where it is, though I certainly would have played with it more so that way its titles were correct. I would have moved the data source information further into the bottom right-hand corner to neaten everything up. I also would have utilized all theĀ spaceĀ I had. My north arrow could have stayed in the white space, but moved to the top left-hand corner, while I feel my scale would have been better off in the white space in the top right-hand corner. I don’t even want to discuss my scale bar, because these were the days of me completely misunderstanding how to make a scale bar pretty and actually helpful. Alas, this was a problem until probably Lab 10. But that’s another story.

I feel fairly comfortable with my representation of the proposed corridors, noted by the bold, turquoise lines that criss-cross over the map. These are meant to be the most prominent feature of the map, so that’s okay. Everything else I have issue with. I also included any major roads in Texas, which are noted by thin, blue lines, and interstates, which are noted by a golden line, barely visible due to the fact that my data for major roads includes interstates. This oversight is something I think I would have avoided now by extracting the interstates from the major roads data, or I could have just dumped the major roads data altogether. The interstates certainly could have done with some labeling for the sake of clarity.

Unfortunately, the cities are also a mess. I remember thinking that only the big cities of Texas would have been good to have on the map. Unfortunately, I lacked any understanding on how to eliminate all cities but those main cities from my data and thus ended up various other cities included on the map. I also attempted to categorize the sizes of the cities by their dots. So, this would obviously mean that San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston would have fairly large dots. Definitely, San Antonio would have a bigger dot than Austin. For some reason, my population density circles were messed up, probably due to the attempts to delete cities off of my map.

We were required to included some kind of topographical layer, so I have the elevation in the background at a middling level of opacity, so that way you don’t lose the gradient detail, but it doesn’t overwhelm the other map elements. Lastly, there was a gray color for the county lines, just so that way they could be identified if necessary. If I had taken off the major roads and figured out my city elimination, I probably could have included the county names.

I do remember loving playing with the colors on my map. I’ve always paid attention to what can hurt the eyes and such when it comes to color and design, and what colors work well together. Though the blue is a little bright now, it definitely was fun to get everything to be clear enough to be understood.

Now that you’ve seen my version of this map, what do you think of the Department of Transportation’s version:


Did I improve upon it? Or is it no better?

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