Official Map: New York/New Jersey Regional Transit Diagram — Full Review
After our first glimpse yesterday, now it’s time for a more in-depth look at this map. Thanks to everyone who sent me a link to the PDF (and there were more than a few of you)!
First things first: this MTA press release confirms that the map was designed by Yoshiki Waterhouse of Vignelli Associates. It’s definitely nice to see that the original creators of the diagram continue to shape its future, rather than being handed off to another design team.
That said, the original source that this map is based off — the 2008 revision of Vignelli’s classic 1970s diagram, as used on the MTA’s “Weekender” service update website — actually creates some problems for this version of the map.
Because the bright primary colours used for the Subway’s many route lines are so much a part of the map’s look (and indeed, the very fabric of the Subway itself, appearing on signage and trains across the entire system) it forces the NJ Transit, PATH and Amtrak routes shown to be rendered in muted pastel tones in order to differentiate them from the Subway. This results in a visual imbalance between the New York and New Jersey sides of the map: cool and muted on the left, bright and bold to the right. I also feel that the PATH lines up to 33rd Street become a little “lost” compared to the adjacent subway lines.
The other result of using pastel route lines is a loss of contrast between all those lines: they all register at a similar visual intensity, making them a little harder to differentiate. Because of the sheer number of lines that have to be shown, some of the NJ Transit routes have lost their “traditional” colour as used on their own official map (Nov. 2011, 1.5 stars). The Bergen County Line is no longer light blue, but the same yellow as the Main Line, while the Gladstone Line now uses the same green as the Morristown Line. Their original colours get redistributed to New Jersey’s light rail lines and Amtrak.
Some people have noticed that the map shows weekday off-peak services and commented that this is useless for the Super Bowl, which is held on a Sunday. However, the map has to be useful for the entire week of Super Bowl festivities, not just game day, so I feel it’s doing the best it can under the circumstances. If it really bothers you, @TheLIRRToday on Twitter has made a quick and dirty version of the map that shows weekend service patterns. As as has been pointed out to me, service on Super Bowl Weekend will be close to that of the weekday peak, so the difference is negligible anyway.
What bothers me is the fact that the football icon has an extra row of laces. NFL balls have eight rows of laces — the icon shows nine.
Our rating: Based on the classic Vignelli diagram. While it remains true to its minimalist roots, it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessors. The need to integrate so many different routes and services while retaining familiar route colours for the Subway mean that the left half of the map isn’t as visually strong as the right. Still far better than many North American transit maps. It would also make a neat souvenir of a trip to the Super Bowl! Three stars.
(Source: NJ Transit “First Mass Transit Super Bowl" web page — also available on the MTA 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 - Aerial Photo of New York City with Rail Lines Superimposed
Fantastic work from Transit Maps reader Arnorian showing the New York Subway, PATH and NJ Transit Lines on top of an aerial photograph of central New York City. When you view a transit system like New York’s through the limitations of a small printed or on-line map (be it the official map, the Vignelli diagram or even the hybrid Kick Map), it’s easy to forget just how big and complex it is. A representation like this shows that complexity and scale to full effect, and also looks quite breathtakingly gorgeous.
Bigger image in this Skyscrapercity forum thread.
Update: I’ve replaced the image with a newer version that has been amended to take into account some comments that readers have made. I’d also like to properly attribute the photographer who took the photo that the map is overlaid on: Dennis Dimick — go and check out his Flickr stream!
Unofficial Map: Metro-North Railroad, New York by Robert O’Connell
Transit maps on Wikipedia can be a bit of a mixed bag. Anyone can contribute, so the quality can range from mediocre to awesome. However, Robert McConnell —also known as “the Port of Authority” — consistently produces some fantastic work. We’ve previously featured his Boston MBTA Commuter Rail map (October 2011, 5 stars), and here’s another fantastic piece.
We’ve also featured unofficial maps that show all commuter and regional rail out of New York before (Carter Green, Oct. 2012, 4.5 stars and Jake Berman, Oct. 2012, 4 stars), so it’s nice to see a map that concentrates solely on one “brand” of commuter rail, and does such a good job of it.
The map definitely wears its influences on its sleeve — the beige background, tightly-spaced Helvetica, and the severe angular diagrammatic form of the map itself are all highly reminiscent of Massimo Vignelli’s 1970s New York Subway map — but it’s still excellently executed. The addition of curves instead of sharp angles where the tracks change direction help to soften the angularity and provide a nice flow to the routes.
Some nice lateral thought has gone into this as well: almost uniquely, Robert has angled Manhattan Island at 45 degrees to the right of vertical, which works very nicely in simplifying the routes to the north and east.
He also neatly shows Harlem and New Haven line game day services to Yankee Stadium, and the (NJ Transit) Meadowlands shuttle, but curiously omits the New Haven Line “Train to the Game” Meadowlands game day service which runs from New Haven to Seacaucus Junction via Penn Station.
Overall, quite beautifully done. 4.5 stars.
Unofficial Map: New York Regional Rail by Jake Berman, 2010
Directly related to the last post, here’s another map of greater New York’s regional rail. Designed by Jake Berman in 2010, this map takes a completely different approach to Carter’s work.
It uses colour-coding to differentiate between agencies, rather than routes, and shows services as main lines and branches, rather than showing each and every route along their entire length. This makes for a simpler-looking, more compact map, although it means that the map doesn’t even attempt to show any service patterns.
What we like: The treatment of the major hub stations on this map is lovely - the grey background simply and effectively sets them apart. Inclusion of the AirTrain lines at JFK and Newark is nicely handled, while the use of striking magenta type to call out transfers to other services is fantastic.
What we don’t like: One minor nitpick is that the western NJ Transit lines look a little cramped in comparison to other parts of the map. Also, the names of branch lines are quite small and hard to read because they’re contained within the route lines themselves.
Our rating: A completely different way of tackling the same problem as the previous map, but equally valid and attractive. I do slightly prefer being able to trace a route from one end to the other on a map, but this is still a comprehensive guide to regional rail in and around New York. Four stars.
(Source: subwaymaps/Jake Berman)
Unofficial Map: New York Regional Rail by Carter Green
To say I’m excited to share this map with you would be an understatement.
In August, I was contacted by Carter Green, a high school student who had been inspired by my maps (especially my map of French TGV routes) and had created his own of regional rail services in and around New York City. He asked whether I would mind taking a look at it, which I did. Immediately, I was impressed with the amazing quality of the cartography, but had a few suggestions which I thought Carter could implement. He took my ideas on board, and has now got back to me with the final version - and it’s beautiful.
Have we been there? My only experience with regional rail in the New York area is a NJ Transit train from Newark Airport to Penn Station.
What we like: A nicely unified design - the whole map gives off an elegant Art Deco feel (very appropriate for New York!), courtesy of the distinctive Neutraface type family and some nice little flourishes in arrowheads and the map’s north pointer.
The use of increasingly large circles for hub stations is something that could have looked terrible, but I think Carter has actually pulled it off very well - your eye is definitely drawn to them, and it quickly gives an idea of a station’s importance.
I absolutely adore the circular treatment of routes around Philadelphia, which is new to this version of the map.
Neat integration of New York Subway interchanges.
I wish I’d thought of Carter’s solution for stations where not every train stops - white dots linked by connecting lines, as seen on the red Metro-North routes into Connecticut.
What we don’t like: Some minor, minor things. The symbols for connecting services that aren’t the Subway aren’t as effective (just three-letter abbreviations and teeny tiny airport symbols for the AirTrain services).
The curves where a route line has to “step down” to remain next to other routes on the same corridor (on the Metro-North Waterbury branch, for example) could be smoother to fit better with the graceful curves seen throughout the rest of the map.
A couple of errors that can easily be fixed: the LIRR Belmont seasonal service is shown in the legend, but not its parent Greenport branch. “AirTrain” is misspelled as “AirTran” in the legend.
Our rating: Incredibly impressive work that shows a very complex network of services from many different agencies and makes it visually compelling and informative. Did I mention Carter is still in high school? Four-and-a-half stars.
(Source: Email correspondence with Carter Green)
Welcome to the second installment of the top ten most-viewed posts (as determined by Google Analytics) on the Transit Maps blog. I try and do these every four months (three times a year) to highlight some great content that may now be hiding in the deep, dark depths of the blog. Enjoy!
First off, here’s the top ten posts for the four-month period of May 1 to August 31, 2012.
10. Miami-Dade Metrorail System (link)
9. Man-Made Philadelphia, 1972 (link)
8. Rail and Tram Network, Budapest, Hungary (link)
7. Copenhagen S-Tog Map (link)
6. Freshwater Railway, Detroit and Southeast Michigan (link)
5. Chicago El Overlaid On New York City (link)
4. Berlin S- and U-Bahn Maps, 1910-1936 (link)
3. National Parks Transit Authority Map (link)
2. Transportation of Walt Disney World Resort, Florida (link)
1. How the WMATA Rush+ Maps Are Printed (link)
Now the top 10 of all time list, from the start of the site back in October 2011. The previous position from the last all-time top ten is noted in [square brackets].
10. Copenhagen S-Tog Map (link) [NEW]
9. London Underground Tube Map Bathroom Tiles (link) 
8. New Jersey Transit Rail System (link) 
7. How the WMATA Rush+ Maps Are Printed (link) [NEW]
6. Vignelli-Style New York Subway Ampersand (link) 
5. Berlin S- and U-Bahn Maps, 1910-1936 (link) 
4. Washington D.C. Metro “Rush+” System Map (link) 
3. Chicago El Overlaid On New York City (link) 
2. Official Boston MBTA Rapid Transit/Key Bus Routes Map (link) 
1. Man-Made Philadelphia, 1972 (link) 
Historical Map: PATH Map, New York and New Jersey, 1979
After all the diagrammatic maps we’ve featured so far, it’s nice to showcase something completely different - check out this awesome painted birds-eye view of PATH services between New Jersey and Manhattan from 1979. It also shows other rail services in New Jersey snaking off into the far distance, and even Lady Liberty standing guard over New York and the cutest little Staten Island ferry you ever did see.
Have we been there? Yes, but I haven’t caught a PATH train.
What we like: Just about everything! Attractive, historical, useful… this one’s got it all in spades.
What we don’t like: Not a lot!
Our rating: Fantastic! Its strangely distorted perspective reminds me of the famous 1976 New Yorker cover of the view of America from downtown Manhattan. Five stars!
Historical Diagram: Hudson River Tubes Cutaway, 1909
While not strictly speaking a transit map, this awesome cutaway diagram of the Hudson River Tubes featured in our last post is just too cool not to share with you. Contemporaneous with that map, this cutaway shows the junction to the northern (or Uptown) cross-Hudson tubes which leave the image to the right. Of particular interest is how the lines stack and twist around each other, almost certainly done to minimise the width of any excavation work.
Historical Map: Hudson River Tubes, 1909
Basically an advertisement for the newly-opened Hudson River Tubes - still in use by PATH trains today, over 100 years later - with the H&M lines proudly and boldly displayed in red. Planning for the future is also on display, making the service look somewhat bigger than it really was. From my limited research, it seems that the extensions shown in Manhattan were never actually built.
The Hudson Terminal Buildings (shown in the photo inset at top left) were replaced by the World Trade Center complex as part of the deal struck to allow the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to take over the operations of the H&M RR.
(Source: Penn State Maps Library/Flickr)