Create route maps with the ArcGIS schematics extension

By Aileen Buckley, Mapping Center Lead

Example of a transit map

The illustration at left shows a map of the Paris Metro system (RATP). The routes are depicted in a schematic view and this kind of map is challenging to create because multiple routes may share the same path, for example multiple bus routes along a single road. When this happens, the coincident routes are offset in a fashion that makes it possible to understand the path each route is taking. When using ArcMap and line features for the routes, the coincident features draw on top of one another, making it difficult to visualize.

The RATP image is a reduced-size version of a map that was created with the ArcGIS Schematics extension. The ArcGIS Schematics extension provides a sophisticated data model and a comprehensive set of tools for creating, managing, analyzing, and displaying complex networks. Perhaps less well known is the fact that it contains tools to create custom schematic layouts. You can use ArcGIS Schematics to create maps for any linear network that you store as a geometric network or as a network dataset with the ArcGIS Network Analyst extension. I created the following workflow for a simple bus route map, but you could use it as a starting point for your own route mapping project.

1. Create the geometric network using your routes The geometric network data model has been available with the geodatabase since it was first released, and the tools to create and manage them are available with the core ArcGIS desktop software.

  • If you are modeling a transportation network, include stops, stations, and terminals as junctions.
  • Use ArcMap to symbolize the features as you want them to appear in the schematic diagram you are going to create.
  • Save the map document, making sure that the geometric network junctions are loaded as well.  This document will be used as the source for the schematic diagram.

Route Maps Schematics - Figure 1

2. Create the Schematic Dataset You will need to invest some time with ArcGIS Schematics tutorials and documentation to familiarize yourself with the product and the various toolbars, interfaces, and dialogs which it contains.  Even though I am quite familiar with ArcGIS, it still took me a few days to get fully acquainted with ArcGIS Schematics. The rest of this entry is mainly intended to show you where to look and what things are called, hopefully making your learning curve with Schematics shorter than mine. ArcGIS Schematics has the ability to create schematic diagrams based upon three different data models: the Standard Builder, which uses a geometric network, the Network Dataset Builder, and a Custom Query Based Builder, which uses non-spatial data.  I used the Standard Builder for this map because I’d already created a geometric network from the bus routes. Create a new Schematic Dataset in the root of your geodatabase.  Then right-click on that database and choose Edit Project.  The ArcGIS Schematics Designer will open where you can define the parameters of the schematic diagram(s) you will want to create.  However, the first time you open the project, the Diagram Type Assistant interface will launch.  There are two Schematic Builder Properties which you must set if you want the schematic layout to follow the street network and copy the symbology you have set in the map document.  On the Name/Builder tab, near the bottom right corner, click on the Schematic Builder Properties button.  Check on both of these settings:

  • Initialize links vertices
  • Automatic element type creation

Route Maps Schematics - Figure 2

3. Create the schematic diagram The functionality for steps 3 and 4 is included as part of ArcGIS 9.2 Service Pack 4, and is not in any earlier releases. In ArcMap, open the original map document which contains the route symbology you want to use.  At this point all of the routes are still drawn as coincident features directly on top of the roads.

  • Select all of the routes and bus stops.
  • On the Schematic Toolbar, click ‘Generate New Schematic Diagram’

ArcGIS Schematics maintains a dynamic geodatabase-level link between your data view and the schematic diagram.  This allows you to propagate changes between the two visualizations.  In the example shown here, I selected the entire bus route network in order to create a map showing the all of the routes within Redlands. You can use the same workflow to select only single routes, and generate a new diagram for each one if you want to create individual route maps. Initially, the schematic diagram will look exactly the same as the original map, i.e., all of the routes will be drawn on top of one another.

 Route Maps Schematics - Figure 3

  • Use the Schematic Editor Toolbar to modify the diagram properties as required. For this example, I used the schematic Layout Task: Geo – Partial Overlapping Links, then clicking the Layout Properties button (far right) I set an offset value of 50 meters to get the routes to appear as shown below.

Route Maps Schematics - Figure 4

You may also choose to use this toolbar to begin some of the cartographic finishing which might be required.  This is optional: keep in mind that the diagram is an independent graphic document, you can also use standard ArcMap layer properties or cartographic representations to edit the feature symbology once you export the diagram to the geodatabase.

Route Maps Schematics - Figure 5

4.Export the diagram At this point you’ve created an independent diagram of the route network, but not any new data.  The schematics diagram is only available for viewing with the ArcGIS Schematics viewer or within a map document.  If you want to use the layout as independent data within ArcMap, you need to export the data using ArcCatalog. In Step 2, when you set the Automatic Element Type Creation, this enabled the schematic diagram function to create a set of tables it uses to generate and display the diagram.  If you want ArcGIS Schematics to automatically add all the original feature attribute fields to the element types, you will need to switch an application registry key.  Instructions on how to do this are contained in the Esri support site article #34089. In the ArcCatalog Tree, right-click on the Schematic Diagram you want to use, and export it to a geodatabase.

5. Perform additional cartographic finishing Now you can convert the existing symbols into cartographic representations.  This will allow you to further enhance the symbology, as well as store the symbol data within the geodatabase. For example, you may wish to apply a geometric effect to smooth the lines without editing the underlying vertices, which might be important if you wish to maintain the features with their original network connectivity.  Another example would be transit stations data that contain complex point marker symbols.

Route Maps Schematics - Figure 6

Again, the steps outlined above are intentionally brief, and are intended only to provide you with a basic workflow that you can use to create a route map.  I should make clear that you will need to invest some hours to familiarize yourself with ArcGIS Schematics. However, once you have surmounted this one-time learning curve, you will have the ability to automate the creation of route maps without having to manually edit multiple linear features.

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  1. montrad says:

    I re-created this scenario on my dataset. It’s ok until I set the schematic Layout Task: Geo – Partial Overlapping Links, and then clicking the Layout Properties button to set 50 meters. the result is a collapsed network, also with different “Buffer” and “Offset” setting. This Layout is not traced on Help.
    Have you any idea to help me…?

  2. abuckley says:

    Dear montag:

    We would need a bit more information about your problem to help you with a solution. Maybe you could contact us on our Ask a Cartographer page with your specific details:

  3. aaverburg10 says:

    I am a transportation planner and my company recently attained the 60-day trial of the schematics extension to see if it’s right for a full license puchase. I am working really hard to learn how to make transit maps so to show the value of the extension. There are just a few weeks remaining for me to make my case, and I am struggling with the implementation of this tutorial. I have built a network from a shapefile of the transit system. I convert the network to a schematic as described above. All seems to be fine until I click the “apply layout” button: nothing happens. Any troubleshooting advice? I’m most-appreciative of your thoughts.

    • j7hanson says:

      aaverburg10 – I’m also a tranportation planner and I was wondering if you had any luck with the extension. I saw your post was from August but I was wondering if your company purchased the extension or found a different method for overlapping bus lines. I’m in the process of creating a map showing transit lines and have many instances where transit lines overlap. I’d like to be able to show the varying transit lines but not at the expense of purchasing an extension for something so minor.

    • abuckley says:

      Our Technical Support team will be able to help you with this question since it is specific to your case study and because of its timely nature — here is a link to contact them so that they can begin to help you with the solution:

  4. sj2909 says:

    I am a Strategic Planner for a Metropolitan Transit and need to represent bus routes as you have done here, but I am not getting the same result following the steps. I just received the schematics extention and have never used it before. I have gone through tutorials and have worked with tech support to finally make it work, but the outcome is not anything like what you have. Would you be able to help guide me a littlle more on how you created this? I would hate for our extention price to go to waste!

    • abuckley says:

      Wow — I am flattered that you are looking at this blog entry since it is from 2007! But I am glad you found the resource. I cannot actually recall the step by step work that went into this so it would be better to contact Tech Support again about this –w e do have some folks here who work on the Schematics functionality that should be able to inform Tech Support if they cannot give you the answer you need. I hope this helps!

  5. vamshikrishna says:

    Could you please let me know how to draw a missed route or attach a road to existing shapefile?


  6. joshmyou says:

    Hi, I have been trying to create a bus route diagram with offset overlapping lines. I am having issues setting up my network and have not been able to successfully create a schematic. Is there any information avaible for the best method in setting up a network which can display bus routes like this?