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A little while ago, someone asked me on my Transit Maps blog whether I had ever seen a map of the New York subway system in the style of the London Underground diagram. Rather surprisingly, I hadn’t actually come across one, so I decided to draw one up myself. Having just completed my own reworking of the Tube Map, I was already acquainted with its design rules and requirements, so this project didn’t actually take that long.
All of the subway trunk lines have been adapted to use their closest matching colour from the Tube Map: the BMT Broadway uses the Circle line’s yellow, the IND 6th Avenue uses the Overground’s orange, and so on. The IRT Flushing line’s purple gets substantially darker to use the Metropolitan line’s maroon, as does the IND 8th Avenue’s blue with the Piccadilly’s dark navy. I used the Waterloo & City line’s sea green for New York’s three shuttle lines, as the W&C is the only shuttle-like line on the Underground, and it looked much nicer than using the Northern line’s heavy black. One notable thing is how terrible the IRT 7th Avenue (red) and IRT Lexington Avenue (green) lines are for colour-blind users when they run adjacent to each other.
The other thing to note is that – in true Tube Map style – service patterns generally aren’t shown. This, of course, makes this map next to useless for actually navigating the subway – there’s literally no distinction made on the map between the J and the Z, for example – but that’s the way things roll in London! I did make one tiny concession to New York’s complexity by adding route designation bullets at the terminus stations of each service, but you’re completely on your own after that. Express services, turnbacks, skipping stations at certain times: these are all trifling details that London does not even attempt to convey – so neither does this map.
The other departure from the true Tube Map style was the requirement to adhere to Manhattan’s street grid as closely as possible, rather than evenly spacing the stations out along a line. As can be seen above, this mostly works pretty well, although occasionally the density of labelling required a street to be pushed slightly out of alignment.
Once the map reaches the outer boroughs, a more diagrammatic and evenly-spaced approach could be used successfully. The section of the map into Coney Island works particularly well, I think.
The complex routing of lines near Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center actually turned out pretty well. The Tube Map “dumbbell” interchange symbol is particularly ill-suited to the needs of the 4 Av–9 St station complex. Here, even an offset symbol fails to clearly show that the (orange) D service does not stop along the southbound Fourth Avenue line. The single red tick across the green route line at the Brooklyn Museum stop is also less than satisfactory, but space limitations demanded that approach.
In real life, the R and M run underneath Broadway, so it was nice to be able to line the routes up with the N and Q Broadway station tick. Little touches like this are immensely satisfying when putting a complex map like this together.
Overall, this was definitely a fun little project. Applying the design language of one transit map rigorously to another system is always interesting, even though the results here are decidedly mixed. The map certainly looks attractive, but the Tube Map’s style is ill-suited to the intricate working complexities of the New York subway system.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!