Historical Map: New York City’s Pneumatic Tube Mail System
Not a transit map in the usual sense of carrying passengers, this map instead depicts a network that conveyed mail at speeds of up to 35mph under the streets of New York from 1897 to 1953 (barring a small gap during World War I when it was shut down to conserve funds for the war effort).
This map probably shows the system at its height pre-WWI, with over 27 miles of tube. Even then, the costs of running such a system were becoming prohibitive, and the new-fangled automobile was becoming a viable and cost-effective alternative to transporting mail across the city.
New York wasn’t alone in having such a system, although it carried more mail than most: a single canister could hold up to 600 letters. Paris’ pneumatic tube mail remained in service until 1983, when it was finally ousted by fax and telex machines (remember those?)
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.
Historical Map: New York City Transit System Morning Peak Flow, 1954
A beautiful old map showing scheduled morning peak service (both actual service and absolute maximum capacity) into Manhattan below 60th Street. The thicker the lines, the greater the service — much like modern service frequency maps! Being 1954, the subway is still divided into its three separately run divisions: BMT (Yellow), IRT (Blue) and IND (Red).
(Source: Ward Maps’ Facebook Page — lots of amazing old maps here!)
The Incredible Shape-Changing Island
The distortion of Manhattan on NYC subway maps over the years, expressed as a height-to-width ratio. Fascinating stuff from a NY Times article in 2010 enumerating the changes in the latest version of the map.
New MTA Wayfinding Signage
Nice supplementary wayfinding signage at New York’s Union Square Station. YOU ARE HERE.
(Source: Nick Sherman/Flickr)