MTA Transit Map Makeover

Manhattan will become taller, bulkier and 30 percent wider, to better display its spaghetti of subway lines. Staten Island, meanwhile, will shrink by half.

I guess that is what happens when the city is forced to prioritize. Since the beginning of time Staten always had to take a back seat to our favorite urban island as well as Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and even New Jersey.

Beginning this June, the MTA will be distributing the new and improved version of their transit bible (aka “The Map) to assist tourists, natives, and bridge-tunnel crowd city people with expanded cartographies of Manhattan that is less clutter and more “user-friendly.”

While it isn’t the most dramatic change, the new map will be the first re-design of the complex underground caverns of the city since 1979, when topographical features such as ferries, parks, neighborhood names, and major streets were first introduced on the map. It has been re-drawn in response to demands for more clarity, thus making sacrifices (like Staten Island) in the name of the greater good.

Since the abstract underground map was introduced for the London Underground designed by Harry Beck in 1931, transit maps have redefined how people envision and move through space in cities throughout the world, making maps and cities more “open and accessible.”

Here is the current NYC transit map (without transit info bubbles):


Other versions of the city have been more abstract like Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 map:

Other designers in the iPhone-App-age have attempted to ameliorate usability and accuracy with the “Kick Map” of NYC transit that is a hybrid of diagrammatic and topographic mapping. This concept enables a simultaneously understand of what is going on below the ground in relation to what is happening above–a concept that map designers believe will enable riders to better orient themselves inside and outside of the subways:

Better communicating the “wiggles” of the subway system is just one of many goals that map designers attempt to cope with. All these maps address the psychological difficulties riders have navigating the expansive 305 square miles of bagels, immigrants, and Yankee fans.

Let’s hope this new map won’t let us down.

3 map comparison:


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~ by Em on May 28, 2010.

One Response to “MTA Transit Map Makeover”

  1. […] just one person, of course (although here’s another guy who seems to agree with me), but when I’m in London I find myself constantly frustrated when I […]

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