Weird: The Maryland Transit Administration’s Version of the DC Metro Map

Not only is the map out of date (no Rush+, no indication of the Silver Line at all), but the MTA has simply encased the official DC map in their own branding shell and then covered it in hideous and distracting callout boxes denoting their own commuter bus services. Yes, it performs a service, but — dear God! — is it ever ugly.

There should be a law against this kind of thing.

(Source: Maryland Transit Administration’s transit maps web page)

Fantasy Map: New York Subway Map in the Style of Washington DC’s Metro Map by Chris Whong

Yes, it only shows Manhattan and The Bronx with small parts of Brooklyn and Queens, but this is still a pretty awesome mash-up. Aesthetically, it’s a dead ringer for the Washington, DC Metro map — big, fat route lines, the “double ring” interchange stations, green areas for parkland, etc. Nice work from Chris to mimic this style so closely!

While the map looks great, it really also shows how unsuited the bold, simplistic approach taken by the DC diagram is to a complex transit system like New York’s. Vital information that New Yorkers depend upon for daily travel is simply nowhere to be found: the distinction between local and express stations, for example, or any indication of those hugely important free transfers between certain stations. 

A few little errors that I see on a quick scan: the “A” and “L” lines are missing their terminus letter designation markers, and 42nd St/Port Authority has no station marker at all.

In the end, Chris probably made this because it seemed like a fun thing to do, and it’s certainly that and more. But it’s also very interesting to see that what works for one city doesn’t always work for another!

(Source: Chris Whong’s website)

Official Map: New York/New Jersey Regional Transit Diagram for 2014

Hot off the presses via New Jersey Transit’s Twitter account, here’s a first look at a new regional transit map that (finally!) combines New Jersey Transit rail, PATH rail and the New York Subway onto one map to “facilitate ease of travel between all three systems”.

It appears to be heavily based off the Massimo Vignelli “Weekender” diagram, although I don’t know if Vignelli himself (or his studio) was actually involved in the design of this diagram. I’ll try and track down a PDF of the actual map to do a full review.

Submission – Unofficial/Future Map: Long Island Rail Road by Anthony Denaro

Submitted by Anthony, who says:

Here’s my map of Off-Peak (weekdays, and nights) and Weekends Long Island Rail Road Service.  

This map shows service diagrammatically, de-emphasizing geography for clarity of branch services and transfers, introduces a grouping color coding system for branches, and improves legibility of the system. The LIRR current map lacks both routing and geographic info – there’s no sense of connecting roads and services and no sense of which branch’s trains stop at which station – failing at each of the things that most transit maps try to resolve at least one of. 

This map shows the future expansion to Grand Central Terminal which potentially will allow all branches to have direct access to both Penn and GCT – greatly changing the service patterns of the entire system. This could be a tool to better visualize how LIRR service will be affected when that happens. There’s yet been no indication of just what the service patterns will be so I choose just to split Penn Station and GCT-bound lines for now.

Some notes:

  • Peak service isn’t shown – it’s just not what this map set out to do. While LIRR peak rush hour services are a sight to behold I’d argue they’re practically impossible to map out diagrammatically. 
  • Connecting subway routes are shown textually instead of as an icon, breaking with how bus and ferry connections are displayed – this was purposely done to eliminate a clutter of black dots, and the burden of having to show subway lines, which isn’t the purpose of the map. (All but 2 of 22 subway routes directly connect, which would have required almost the entire subway system to be drawn).
  • Planned future stations like GCT, Sunnyside and Republic as well as nerdy station fantasy reopenings like Elmhurst and Woodhaven are shown. Future MetroNorth service to Penn Stations via Sunnyside is shown as well. 

Love to hear your take on it.

——

Transit Maps says:

While I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information shown (not being at all familiar with the operations of the LIRR), I can say that this map looks absolutely gorgeous. Certainly better than the official map, which just uses the standard MTA subway map style to lesser effect.

I really like the stylish usage of 30/60-degree angles: it looks great, suits the shape of Long Island itself, and allows all the labels to be set horizontally, even along the long stretches of the Babylon and Montauk branches. Labelling like this would be trickier on a conventional 45-degree diagram, as these branches would run horizontally across the map. Skillfully and elegantly done.

The colour palette is also very nice: a step back from the bright primaries often used on transit maps, giving the map a nicely understated, refined feeling. The zone information is also deftly handled: subsidiary to the main route information, but easily found when needed.

I’m not so thrilled with the treatment of the coastline: it seems overly detailed in some parts, resulting in a distracting “stepped” appearance in some parts, especially along the Atlantic coastline at the bottom of the map. It’s not bad, per se, it just seems to clash a little with the elegant simplicity of the route lines.

The station labels from Carle Place to Bethpage in the middle of the map seem to be a little close to the route lines – perhaps Anthony has moved them inadvertently, as most other labels seem to be fine. As readers of this blog know, I’m a big stickler for accurate and consistent placement of labels!

Finally, I’m not really sure that a guide to service frequency is of much use when the two categories are "one or more trains an hour" and "fewer than one train an hour". How many trains an hour could that be for the former? Two, three… more? And are you waiting an hour and a half between trains in the latter category, or even longer? It seems to me that you’d still have to consult a timetable to ensure that you caught your train in any case. I guess it works to give a general idea that some branches have less frequent service… any LIRR riders want to weigh in on this?

Our rating: Love the layout and design of the route lines, not so keen on the underlying geographical treatment. Still pretty darn good. Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

For more detailed information on this map, please visit Anthony’s Tumblr.

Future Map: FutureNYCSubway by vanshnookenraggen

An updated look at my futureNYCSubway proposal using an expanded Vignelli map.

More excellent work from Andrew Lynch (aka vanshnookenraggen) — this time, an astoundingly well-considered analysis of future plans for the New York Subway. The resultant map is quite beautiful as well, based as it is off Massimo Vignelli’s 2008/Weekender revision of his classic 1970s map.
I strongly encourage you to click through to Andrew’s website and read the full rationale behind this map: this isn’t just “fantasy”, it’s a well-balanced view of the potential future of the subway in New York. You can also download a PDF of the map for personal use (sweet!).
Source: hyperrealcartography Future Map: FutureNYCSubway by vanshnookenraggen

An updated look at my futureNYCSubway proposal using an expanded Vignelli map.

More excellent work from Andrew Lynch (aka vanshnookenraggen) — this time, an astoundingly well-considered analysis of future plans for the New York Subway. The resultant map is quite beautiful as well, based as it is off Massimo Vignelli’s 2008/Weekender revision of his classic 1970s map.
I strongly encourage you to click through to Andrew’s website and read the full rationale behind this map: this isn’t just “fantasy”, it’s a well-balanced view of the potential future of the subway in New York. You can also download a PDF of the map for personal use (sweet!).
Source: hyperrealcartography Future Map: FutureNYCSubway by vanshnookenraggen

An updated look at my futureNYCSubway proposal using an expanded Vignelli map.

More excellent work from Andrew Lynch (aka vanshnookenraggen) — this time, an astoundingly well-considered analysis of future plans for the New York Subway. The resultant map is quite beautiful as well, based as it is off Massimo Vignelli’s 2008/Weekender revision of his classic 1970s map.
I strongly encourage you to click through to Andrew’s website and read the full rationale behind this map: this isn’t just “fantasy”, it’s a well-balanced view of the potential future of the subway in New York. You can also download a PDF of the map for personal use (sweet!).
Source: hyperrealcartography Future Map: FutureNYCSubway by vanshnookenraggen

An updated look at my futureNYCSubway proposal using an expanded Vignelli map.

More excellent work from Andrew Lynch (aka vanshnookenraggen) — this time, an astoundingly well-considered analysis of future plans for the New York Subway. The resultant map is quite beautiful as well, based as it is off Massimo Vignelli’s 2008/Weekender revision of his classic 1970s map.
I strongly encourage you to click through to Andrew’s website and read the full rationale behind this map: this isn’t just “fantasy”, it’s a well-balanced view of the potential future of the subway in New York. You can also download a PDF of the map for personal use (sweet!).
Source: hyperrealcartography Future Map: FutureNYCSubway by vanshnookenraggen

An updated look at my futureNYCSubway proposal using an expanded Vignelli map.

More excellent work from Andrew Lynch (aka vanshnookenraggen) — this time, an astoundingly well-considered analysis of future plans for the New York Subway. The resultant map is quite beautiful as well, based as it is off Massimo Vignelli’s 2008/Weekender revision of his classic 1970s map.
I strongly encourage you to click through to Andrew’s website and read the full rationale behind this map: this isn’t just “fantasy”, it’s a well-balanced view of the potential future of the subway in New York. You can also download a PDF of the map for personal use (sweet!).
Source: hyperrealcartography Future Map: FutureNYCSubway by vanshnookenraggen

An updated look at my futureNYCSubway proposal using an expanded Vignelli map.

More excellent work from Andrew Lynch (aka vanshnookenraggen) — this time, an astoundingly well-considered analysis of future plans for the New York Subway. The resultant map is quite beautiful as well, based as it is off Massimo Vignelli’s 2008/Weekender revision of his classic 1970s map.
I strongly encourage you to click through to Andrew’s website and read the full rationale behind this map: this isn’t just “fantasy”, it’s a well-balanced view of the potential future of the subway in New York. You can also download a PDF of the map for personal use (sweet!).
Source: hyperrealcartography Future Map: FutureNYCSubway by vanshnookenraggen

An updated look at my futureNYCSubway proposal using an expanded Vignelli map.

More excellent work from Andrew Lynch (aka vanshnookenraggen) — this time, an astoundingly well-considered analysis of future plans for the New York Subway. The resultant map is quite beautiful as well, based as it is off Massimo Vignelli’s 2008/Weekender revision of his classic 1970s map.
I strongly encourage you to click through to Andrew’s website and read the full rationale behind this map: this isn’t just “fantasy”, it’s a well-balanced view of the potential future of the subway in New York. You can also download a PDF of the map for personal use (sweet!).
Source: hyperrealcartography

Future Map: FutureNYCSubway by vanshnookenraggen

An updated look at my futureNYCSubway proposal using an expanded Vignelli map.

More excellent work from Andrew Lynch (aka vanshnookenraggen) — this time, an astoundingly well-considered analysis of future plans for the New York Subway. The resultant map is quite beautiful as well, based as it is off Massimo Vignelli’s 2008/Weekender revision of his classic 1970s map.

I strongly encourage you to click through to Andrew’s website and read the full rationale behind this map: this isn’t just “fantasy”, it’s a well-balanced view of the potential future of the subway in New York. You can also download a PDF of the map for personal use (sweet!).

Source: hyperrealcartography

Historical Map: New York Metropolitan Transit Authority 1968 Plan for Rail Improvement and Transit Expansion
Courtesy of the new and already indispensable hyperrealcartography Tumblr, here’s a simply stunning set of New York transit planning maps from the late 60s.
In this modern age of computer-aided map design, a lot of time can be spent trying to digitally replicate this watercolour look, but it’s hard to beat the real thing (although Stamen’s lovely map tiles do a pretty good job!).
The north pointer — successfully and cleverly integrating the then-brand-new MTA logo — is also worthy of note.
(Source: hyperrealcartography) Historical Map: New York Metropolitan Transit Authority 1968 Plan for Rail Improvement and Transit Expansion
Courtesy of the new and already indispensable hyperrealcartography Tumblr, here’s a simply stunning set of New York transit planning maps from the late 60s.
In this modern age of computer-aided map design, a lot of time can be spent trying to digitally replicate this watercolour look, but it’s hard to beat the real thing (although Stamen’s lovely map tiles do a pretty good job!).
The north pointer — successfully and cleverly integrating the then-brand-new MTA logo — is also worthy of note.
(Source: hyperrealcartography) Historical Map: New York Metropolitan Transit Authority 1968 Plan for Rail Improvement and Transit Expansion
Courtesy of the new and already indispensable hyperrealcartography Tumblr, here’s a simply stunning set of New York transit planning maps from the late 60s.
In this modern age of computer-aided map design, a lot of time can be spent trying to digitally replicate this watercolour look, but it’s hard to beat the real thing (although Stamen’s lovely map tiles do a pretty good job!).
The north pointer — successfully and cleverly integrating the then-brand-new MTA logo — is also worthy of note.
(Source: hyperrealcartography)

Historical Map: New York Metropolitan Transit Authority 1968 Plan for Rail Improvement and Transit Expansion

Courtesy of the new and already indispensable hyperrealcartography Tumblr, here’s a simply stunning set of New York transit planning maps from the late 60s.

In this modern age of computer-aided map design, a lot of time can be spent trying to digitally replicate this watercolour look, but it’s hard to beat the real thing (although Stamen’s lovely map tiles do a pretty good job!).

The north pointer — successfully and cleverly integrating the then-brand-new MTA logo — is also worthy of note.

(Source: hyperrealcartography)

Waka Waka Waka

Simply awesome.

(Source: MissKateGB/Instagram)

Book Review: “Vignelli Transit Maps”, Peter B. Lloyd with Mark Ovenden

As a graphic designer with a keen interest in transit maps and a fairly thorough knowledge of their history and usage, I thought I had a decent understanding of Massimo Vignelli’s diagrammatic version of the New York Subway map, which was used from 1972 to 1979.

This outstanding book has proved me almost completely and utterly wrong.

So much of what we think we know about the Vignelli map is simply hearsay and legend, repeated Chinese whisper-style across the internet, until we’re left with something that almost, but not quite, resembles the truth. Fueled by excellent research and interviews, and presented with beautiful (if occasionally a little small) maps, photos and illustrations, this book is essential for any lover of transit maps and good graphic design.

More than anything else I’ve read, this book places the Vignelli map in a proper historical context — what preceded it and why that left the door open for a modernist design firm (rather than cartographers) to produce something new, but also what led to its abrupt and premature death in 1979. There’s definitely more to the story than the usual “New Yorkers didn’t like a diagram/square Central Park/beige water” reasons that you often hear.

As well as a thorough analysis of the map itself — reproductions and accompanying text are presented for every version of the map — the book also delves deeply into the labour-intensive and time-consuming production methods required to create a map as complex as this in the days before computer-aided design. Asked to come up with an initial conceptual “trial map” in 1970, junior designer Joan Charysyn (who also independently created this New York Commuter Rail diagram in 1974) had to hand-cut pieces of PANTONE colour film into 1/8” strips and then assemble the route lines onto a one-foot-square board, adding station label type as well. Of the work, Charysyn simply states, “the execution of the comp was tedious and done in as few pieces as possible.”

The book also deals with Vignelli’s work for the Washington, DC Metro: he designed the wayfinding and station signage that is still largely in use today, but the contract for the system map was given separately to Lance Wyman. The book shows some of Vignelli’s very early (and very minimalist!) conceptual sketches for the map, and explains exactly why Lance Wyman’s proposed station icons (similar to the ones he had designed for Mexico City’s Metro) never got off the ground.

The book also discusses the reintroduction of the Vignelli map in 2008, comparing and contrasting it against the other modern player in the New York Subway map market — Eddie Jabbour’s Kick Map (Jabbour writes a preface for the book, and his admiration for Vignelli’s design philosophy and body of work is obvious).

This book is absolutely essential for any lover or student of transit maps or graphic design. It’s well written, thoroughly researched and beautiful to look at: what more do you need? Five stars!

5 Stars!

Published by RIT Press, December 2012. 128pp.
Order page is here — Book is $US34.99 plus shipping.

(Note: Transit Maps purchased their own copy of this book, and did not receive any compensation for this review, financial or otherwise)

NY Subway Map and Tokens, 1990

Great little slice of history here. The photographer on Flickr seems to recall the cost of a token as being 60 cents at the time; Wikipedia prices it at $1.15.

As a graphic designer, all I can see is the terrible registration in the (cheap) printing — look at the huge yellow halo bleeding out to the right of the green and red printed areas. (In four-colour printing, green is made from combining cyan and yellow inks, red is made from magenta and yellow. When the plates are poorly aligned with each other, the presses run too fast, or cheap paper stretches or moves during the printing process, you get misalignment of the inks, leading to poor registration like this.)

EDIT: As has been pointed out to me, the tokens and the map shown in the photo aren’t contemporaneous. The “solid brass” token shown here was used from 1980 to 1985; during that time, the cost of a subway ride rose from 60 cents to 90 cents. (Source: nycsubway.org’s comprehensive page on subway tokens)

(Source: jonwa60/Flickr)

Historical Map: 1974 New York MTA Commuter Rail Map

Submitted by dpecs, who says:

Vignelli-inspired map (designer unknown) of the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Roads. On display until March 15th at the New York Transit Museum’s exhibit Grand By Design, on the centennial of Grand Central Terminal.

——

Transit Maps says:

Designer unknown? The amazing book “Helvetica and the New York City Subway” attributes this map to one Joan Charysyn, saying she designed it freelance in between stints at Vignelli Associates and Unimark. It’s my understanding that the map was designed to be part of a three-map system (commuter rail, subway, and locality map) that was meant to be displayed at every station. However, the scheme (much to Massimo Vignelli’s constant disgust) never really eventuated.

To my mind, this map isn’t quite as successful as Vignelli’s subway map, mainly because the Long Island RR is one uniform blue throughout, meaning the map provides very little in the way of routing information. This is probably fine for regular commuters, who know which train they need to catch, but isn’t so great for non-regular users of the system. It’s still a fine example of early 1970s transit map design, and is obviously the inspiration for this modern map (Jan 2013, 4.5 stars) of the Metro-North lines that I’ve featured previously.

  1. Camera: iPod touch
  2. Aperture: f/2.4
  3. Exposure: 1/40th
  4. Focal Length: 3mm