Simply put, a mental map is one’s image of the geography around you. It is a personalized map that you have created that tells you how to get to all the places that you normally go to.
Here is the mental map I drew of Millbrae.
You can see that each area or district is within its particular bubble and the major streets separate those districts. I broke up Millbrea into several areas: single-family housing, shopping (along Broadway) and the station area which is totally cut off from town and therefore relatively unknown by residents. El Camino is such a huge and unfriendly street for bikes and pedestrians that it creates an edge in residents’ mind such that they don’t even think about what is on the other side. I would love to see other residents’ mental maps of town.
A person creates these maps simply by walking around and creating paths to a given destination. What I would like to see is the creation of a path all the way from downtown (Broadway street) to the station so that residents will use transit more.
Here is the second mental map that I drew that would integrate the station into town.
This map shows that if there were easy ways to walk across El Camino (good crosswalks and a more narrow street) people would create a mental map that would include the station. The connections or paths are the key.
Here is another map that I saw this morning on 7×7.
If you want to read more here’s the Wikipedia post. The folks that run the Tube in London have been working on these amazing walkable maps b/c they want to encourage more people to walk to destinations that are within a few minutes walk instead of taking the Tube. Wouldn’t these be great to at Millbrea station or downtown San Francisco?