May 28, 2010

Mapping the NYC Subway System

After more than 10 years, a new version of the NYC Subway Map is coming out next month.  There is a write-up in today's TIMES talking about the changes to the new map; Manhattan is 30 percent wider, no more weekend schedule info (which was often wrong), less detail on bus connections.  But overall, the map sticks with the approach the MTA took starting in the late 1970s, after years of complaints about the iconic and somewhat modernist map by Massimo Vegnelli (pictured here).

Of course, this being the age of the Internet, the MTA does not have the last word on it's own maps anymore.  There is a competing map, downloadable to your iPhone, which has more than 250,000 fans of it's somewhat retro approach.  Using the Vegnelli design as a starting point, the Kick Map goes back to the future while also adding some of the more familiar surface references too, like streets and landmarks.  In fact, it's an admitted compromise between the two warring map factions.

In some ways, it is curious that NYC is the only major US city that takes the topographical approach.  The argument is that there needs to be a more direct connection to the street because there are so many tourists and new arrivals from all over the world.  However, tourist-stricken Washington DC has stuck with it's own modernist map since the system debuted in 1976.  Despite the MTA's improvements, I think the Kick Map has got the right idea for clarity and ease of use.  Now all I need is an iPhone....