Maps for The 606


Chicago is ready to welcome a new trail system built from the remnants of an industrial rail line and I am pleased to have collaborated with The Trust for Public Land to make three print maps intended for on-the-ground use. I want to plug some great Opening Festivities right up front, then I’ll tell you a little about the project and the maps.

Saturday, 6/06–get it–is Opening Day and The 606 planners have invited community groups to create what is bound to be a joyful spectacle. There’ll be activities from 8 a.m. til midnight. Check out the schedule and map. There is truly something for everyone, from poetry to kite flying to two fully booked music stages.

Pro tip: don’t miss the Comparsa/Procession with Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center “that will feature giant head figures, acrobatics and the infectious rhythms of Afro-Puerto Rican Plena played by a big band of 15 traveling musicians.” Wow.

The Bloomingdale Trail, along with four existing parks and two future parks, form a network of green spaces called The 606. (For an overview and some history, read this pre-opening review from Blair Kamin, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for The Chicago Tribune.) The 606 spans 2.7 miles and four neighborhoods but even Chicagoans may be unfamiliar with its reach. The rail line was built in 1873, elevated over the street grid in 1910, and saw its last freight car in 2001. The 606 has paved the rail line for cyclists, joggers, and walkers, added access ramps every quarter mile, reinforced, relocated, and beautified bridges, and added features and plantings intended to delight.


I made three maps, each a different scale, for print pieces intended to orient both neighbors and visitors to The 606. Tight turnaround and a color palette dictated by existing print pieces made the work challenging but exciting, as I quickly turned shapefiles into map layers and manually added features like dog parks and playgrounds. (Special shout out to Avenza Systems, whose MAPublisher software is a dream.) The maps point out nearby transit stops–the trail can be accessed via CTA Blue Line, Metra, and several bus routes. We included trail access ramps along with bike routes and Divvy stations. Schools and parks near the trail also appear, and are eager to incorporate The 606 in their programming. A tabloid version of the map will be used throughout summer; a letter sized version can be printed at home; and a pocket guide map will be distributed on site to help people make Opening Festivities plans.

Many maps of The 606 are being made by various entities–outdoor wayfinding maps, online interactive maps, maps to accompany news articles. Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail is working on a vertically oriented map for easy use on smart phones, which is so thoughtful. I’m happy to have played my part and thrilled to have worked with the Trust for Public Land for the first time. Let me know what Opening Day is like. I’ll be up to ride along the trail later in June.