Finding your way on the MTA (NYC subway)

Linda Cunningham's picture

http://www.gothamist.com/2007/04/23/kick_map_finds.php

You can vote for the current version, the new one, or be really retro....

TBiddy's picture

Truth is, there needs to be a link that shows the map in detail to really vote on it (preferrably as a PDF). In order for an NYC subway map to be functional, its gotta also be topographical.

And preparing for the counterpoints to that argument— yes the Vignelli map is cool, and yes it works in London...But London is an easier city to navigate (as a pedestrian) than New York, and its smaller (including all 5 boroughs). Manhattan's difficult to get around if you live in New York— and we're not even going to talk about Queens and Brooklyn.

Linda Cunningham's picture

The lack of detail is certainly one quibble I have with it, Terry, but it's an interesting example, eh? ;-) I meant to poke about to see if there's a PDF, but today's been rather busy.

I love the Vignelli map for the Tube, and it isn't dissimilar to what we use here for our LRT (light rail transit), but I think being able to figure out what works best in which particular situation is a transient concept that depends on the location and the size of the area described.

hrant's picture

No true typophile should miss any opportunity to strike down Vignelli.

hhp

Alessandro Segalini's picture

Ah ah !
Once I found Mr Vignelli in my classroom when I was studying at Politecnico of Milan (there was obviously a great information system for students), and it was one of those days when you go to warm up the chair and talking shıt with your classmate, so there was Davide my buddy, and listening to Vignelli's presentation he said he was "mamello maman," whatever that means, it was such a great laugh, I still laugh now.

flowersandchocolate's picture

Following the links through from the article it amazes me why people pine for an underground/subway map to be geographically correct. As a rule (and one with a lot of exceptions I realise) people who are going to use the underground start with a geographically correct map to find their destination, then find the geographically nearest station. Once you are in the underground/subway system all ordinairy sense of geography is lost, in fact in many London station all orientation dissapears by the time you've taken the many stairs and corridors to the platform.

From limited personal experience I have to say I found the numbers on the existing NY subway map a little confusing. I think they put doubt in the mind of visitors - too much choice can be a bad thing. The London map is simpler; but then again so is the system!

flowersandchocolate's picture

I knew there was something else...

New underground map for Madrid – discuss

http://www.elpais.com/elpaismedia/ultimahora/media/200704/16/espana/2007...

For my part, I was jealous of someone for getting to do this job till I saw the result! I've never been to Madrid, and I have no doubt this is very functional (the most important thing of course) but that doesn't mean there couldn't have been some style involved!

William Berkson's picture

>Vignelli map for the Tube

IIRC the London Tube map was conceived by an engineer inspired by electrical circuit diagrams, and has been further developed since. Vignelli didn't and doesn't have anything to do with it so far as I know. The influence I believe goes the other way round.

pattyfab's picture

There's really nothing wrong with the original map as far as functionality goes (disclaimer: I grew up in NYC and have used this map my whole life. Furthermore I have no problem at all with tourists getting lost and ending up in the south Bronx. In fact I wish all the tourists ended up in the south Bronx or just went back home).

But what has never been clear even to a native is the truly draconian scheduling - why some trains run only at rush hour or mysteriously terminate sometimes at certain stations or go local when they're supposed to be express (or vice versa). I'd give a prize to a map that could clearly let you know whether your train was in fact running when and where you think it is.

dezcom's picture

Patty,
I think the current map sends all of your errant NYC tourists here to the Washington Metro. They get off in the middle of town, bewildered, looking for Time Square :-)

ChrisL

pattyfab's picture

You can keep them.

If you want confusing, try going back to the days or yore (the 70s) when the express was the A and the local was the AA. I lived on a local stop and would tell my friends MAKE SURE YOU TRANSFER TO THE AA AT 59th ST and they'd get confused and end up on 125th street. This was long before Bill Clinton had an office up there.

Of course there were fewer tourists back then what with the recession and Son of Sam and all. Ah the good old days.

William Berkson's picture

>In fact I wish all the tourists ended up in the south Bronx or just went back home

Ah, New York. The first time I drove into Manhattan, to move my son into his apartment, I ignorantly turned right at a red light. A New Yorker saw my Virginia plates and shouted "No turn on red! Welcome to New York--a**h***!"

If we didn't have the natives telling all of us to go to hell (or the South Bronx--pretty much the same thing!) we wouldn't know what city we are in.

I love New York City. I lived there for a while, and would gladly again.

However, when it comes to maps and signage, I think that telling the over 40 million tourists per year to take their 22+ billion dollars and both figuratively and literally get lost is a little shortsighted.

hrant's picture

> it amazes me why people pine for an underground/subway
> map to be geographically correct.

There's nothing amazing about that: we are physical creatures. And we
[can] process a staggering richness of information, without even realizing.

A previous discussion involving the London underground map:
http://typophile.com/node/17631 _
My wrench gets thrown in starting: 25 March, 2006 - 3:45pm

hhp

timd's picture

An alternative to the Tube map showing times here

http://www.oskarlin.com/2005/11/29/time-travel/

And a history of Tube maps

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/clivebillson/tube/tube.html

I did post these were in an older thread*.
If there were no tourists nothing would drive Patty to come here and be ripped off.

Tim

{*edit: the thread that Hrant links to}

pattyfab's picture

Tim, the last straw is they are tearing down Coney Island to make it more of a "Vegas-style" themed resort with condos etc. Why? Because tourists don't really go there. Which is, of course, why the natives love it so.

As an artist and designer it is frustrating to watch my edgy interesting city give way to a sanitized, mallicized, Disneyized place that only bankers can live in and tourists can love. While the artists are fleeing in droves because they can't afford to live here, or don't want (in their 30s and 40s) to once again pioneer a decrepid, borderline dangerous neighborhood with no services so that they can get priced out 10 years later when the bankers decide it's cool (c.f. Dumbo, W-burg, East Village).

So yeah, I'd like to stick it to the tourists. Sorry to be off-topic, but in truth we New Yorkers are used to our map and why introduce something that would only confuse us in order to help out-of-towners get around?

hrant's picture

Patricia is right on.

hhp

TBiddy's picture

The London Underground map was created by Harry Beck. Don't know how Vignelli got credited. As much as I don't want to sound like a crochety old New Yorker— I agree with Patty in ways. I get annoyed with tourists when I come back to NY to visit.

But...I gotta say, when the locals have to ask you questions about the Subway— something needs to change. I can't tell you how many thick Brooklyn and Bronx accents I hear ask me for directions at Union Square...and that's even when I'm in town visiting.

dezcom's picture

So Terry, how many tourists here ask you, "Where is the Mall?" :-)

ChrisL

TBiddy's picture

LOL! You know...for out of town suburbanites, that's an entire conversation! ;)

flowersandchocolate's picture

But as a resident, how often do you consult the map in order to get round, and how many different routes do you use? It occurs to me that these maps are as much intended for visitors as for locals and I'm just interested to know how this theory fits in with reality.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Interesting, it only took me a few weeks to figure out the NY subway, but considerably longer to figure out the DC Metro, and I suspect that if I came back to visit, I'd still get turned around at Metro Centre but not in Times Square. ;-)

Never lived in London or Paris, but didn't have a problem figuring out either the tube or Métro as a tourist, although I'm the first to agree that tourist needs are quite different from those of residents.

pattyfab's picture

I use the subway map pretty regularly. But I'm not a Manhattan-centered local, I have a studio in Queens and lots of friends and family in Brooklyn, so I find myself using a pretty broad variety of subway lines, and often having to compare them to see which one will get me there faster and with fewer stops or fewer connections. It is probably simpler for a lot of people who mostly use it to get to work and back.

Now, most tourists stick to Manhattan and how confusing can that be? The streets are mostly numbered as are a lot of the avenues. I can see getting lost downtown or in Brooklyn but you have to be pretty clueless to get lost in midtown, whether or not the subway map is geographically accurate.

I will also add that most NYers are pretty helpful to lost tourists. We like being know-it-alls. I've even seen bidding wars - My route is better than your route! Don't listen to him, take this train! No, not that train, you have to change! But my train makes fewer stops!

Nothing but nothing beats the Berlin system where you can type in your address and your destination on a web site as well as the time you want to leave/get there and it gives you precise directions even to the minute. And then it's accurate!

Paris Metro is a snap.

dezcom's picture

"Nothing but nothing beats the Berlin system where you can type in your address and your destination on a web site as well as the time you want to leave/get there and it gives you precise directions even to the minute. And then it’s accurate!"

You can do that on the DC Metro too Patty.

ChrisL

Linda Cunningham's picture

And for both Calgary and Edmonton transit systems, although I find Calgary's doesn't do a very good job. :-( Heaven help tourons who think it really works....

William Berkson's picture

>why introduce something that would only confuse us in order to help out-of-towners get around?

Tourists in fact would be less annoying if they had better maps and signage, and got lost less often.

I'm not advocating the map noted here. I am advocating that signage and maps be useful to both locals and visitors.

>I'd like to stick it to the tourists.

Patty, would a cadre of NYC natives armed with bamboo poles to beat the tourists about the head as they come out of the bridges and tunnels do? :)

hrant's picture

> Tourists in fact would be less annoying if they had better maps and signage

Tourists are not annoying because they ask for directions - in fact that's one of the few endearing things about them. Tourists are annoying because they see a destination through the eyes of a consumer, in effect becoming cultural pillagers. Because they're bred to consume. Just like all good livestock.

What's "shortsighted" William is blind capitalism.

hhp

DTY's picture

As someone who grew up in America but has immigrated to NYC, I never had any problems getting used to the existing subway map. I've found it very helpful that I can match it up approximately to real geography, because I'm generally trying to figure out how to get to some particular place, rather than trying to grasp the overall topology of the system. That's why I think the existing focus on nodes (with less clarity for lines) is better than the focus on lines (with less clarity for nodes) in this new map. Plus, as Patty says, only half the lines actually function at any given time anyway, so why put the emphasis on the lines? :)

I’m not advocating the map noted here. I am advocating that signage and maps be useful to both locals and visitor
The signage has gotten a lot better actually. Fifteen years ago the same line might have signs in different places calling it the IRT local, the Broadway line, the 7th Avenue line, or the South Ferry train. At least now they consistently use the numbers/letters instead. The signs, that is. People, when giving directions to tourists, don't necessarily :)

pattyfab's picture

Tourists in fact would be less annoying if they had better maps and signage, and got lost less often.

Tourists would be less annoying if they obeyed the rules of the road (keep moving, walk fast, no eye-contact, no stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, etc.). It is funny to see them patiently waiting for the light to change, tho.

I'll shut up. I just hate that NY has become some sort of themed mall of itself.

And one more thing - what would really help both tourists and locals would be better and easier-to-find neighborhood maps near the subway exits. Without the WTC to orient ourselves it can get very confusing when you EXIT the train in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

TBiddy's picture

But as a resident, how often do you consult the map in order to get round, and how many different routes do you use?

When I lived there, pretty frequently actually. Regardless of whether I know where I'm going (to work, to the grocery store, etc.) there are always places that I will need to know how to get to. The far east and west sides of Manhattan aren't easy to navigate, particularly because there aren't subway lines in some parts! So when getting off the subway you have to know what train to take and where to walk to get there! It was often my above ground map as well...I have heard many other people argue the same point.

Now, most tourists stick to Manhattan and how confusing can that be? The streets are mostly numbered as are a lot of the avenues.
How about Broadway? ;) And let's not forget that East and West 59th (for example) are very different. Omit those and see how easy it is to find your spot on "59th street." I've learned the most about Manhattan by being lost there! :)

Linda Cunningham's picture

ROFL! I remember the first week I was there, and got off the subway two stops early (east-side IRT, and I was heading to City Hall) -- found myself walking along Bowery. Pretty scary stuff in the early 80s.... ;-)

pattyfab's picture

You should see it now - gleaming glass & steel condo hi-rises, CBGB closed & moving to Vegas and a bar called Bowery Mission right next to the real Bowery mission. Flop houses mostly gone altho the restaurant supply stores still hang on in Chinatown.

Linda Cunningham's picture

sigh Yeah, why am I not surprised? I saw a piece on CNN about closing down CBGB's and remembered the couple of times I went there -- I don't think my hearing's ever recovered.

The last time I was in town -- um, Thanksgiving 1996, I guess -- we took a drive through my old 'hood (164/Union Turnpike, Queens), and it was amazing how much it hadn't changed, even down to the wonderful little Chinese takeout, the store where I used to get my Sunday Times, and even the Dunkin Donuts, although you could tell it was on the fast-tracked cusp to "trendy."

Bet it is now....

TBiddy's picture

CBGB closed & moving to Vegas

Good. CBGB's was not what it used to be. When you have to pay $10 for a beer IN A BOTTLE (from a brewery less than 2 miles away mind you) in a dump that's never cleaned...its time to call it quits.

CBGB's tried to survive on its name alone. With the prices they charge for covers and drinks...it might as well be in Vegas. It ain't worth it. CBGBs became a tourist only spot.

I understand there's a personal connection for a lot of people, but after seeing enough shows there, I've got no love for the place. I'm sure my opinion would be different if I had seen the Ramones there though.

Linda Cunningham's picture

:-) Or Debbie Harry.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Or Talking Heads :^)

Linda Cunningham's picture

oooohhhh. Same as it ever was, Tiff. ;-)

William Berkson's picture

>CBGB

When I heard this band play there, I thought the place really rocked.

vinceconnare's picture

CBGBs was not a place most people would choose in the early 1980s I only went there to see friends bands usually ones that were not known. The popular bands of that day were mostly English.

The Bowery was run down, and the East Village much more interesting than it is now. I always use to say I liked living in NYC because it was like a shopping mall. Well now it's even more like that.

I have a 1979 version of the NYC subway system which was printed in 1976 .

CBGBs what a name Country, Bluegrass and Blues... I don't think much of that there.

Danceteria was the place to be in the early 1980s. My friend Audrey had a cat fight on the stairs with Madonna and Audrey kicked her behind, Madge tried to use a red stilleto in the fight but didn't have a chance.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/danceteria/pool/

http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/danceterianyc/

timd's picture

>Tourists would be less annoying if they obeyed the rules of the road (keep moving, walk fast, no eye-contact, no stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, etc.)

London too, but the problem is more ours – people rushing to work, time is money etc – never taking the time to revel in the area or even look upward; what annoys me about tourists are the sort who, when visiting, say, Stonehenge, stay in the coach, take pictures and leave thinking they have done another item on the list (Hrant’s cultural pillagers, I suppose).

The Tube does have a journey planner if you are visiting, probably wildly optimistic in timing.
http://tfl.gov.uk/

I was hoping Vince’s link would lead to pictures of the fight, but a nice reminder of Cindy Sherman :)

Tim

vinceconnare's picture

Well my friend Charlene has some old photos of Madonna and Boy George taken at DT and other places in NYC, but you have to be a member to see them. There are pictures of Audrey on the Yahoo group site. She had the hair and look of Annabella Lwin from BowWowWow.


Audrey vs Madonna (Audrey wins!)

Linda Cunningham's picture

Danceteria was the place to be in the early 1980s.

Geez, I remember that place. ;-) Studio 54 was going downhill pretty fast by the time I actually made it in the front door.

what annoys me about tourists are the sort who, when visiting, say, Stonehenge, stay in the coach, take pictures and leave thinking they have done another item on the list

We get a lot of that here, particularly up in the mountains -- Lake Louise is probably the worst. Tourons get off bus, stream along pathway to lake, take pictures, flow back to bus, bus leaves: 30 minutes, tops. brrrrrrr

Scary stuff....

hrant's picture

And Vegas is the next level: to save the money and avoid the hassles, instead of going all the way to France (where they don't even speak English!), NYC, Egypt or Italy, you just hit one o' thems fancy caseeeenos! I mean, the least they could do is run an extraordinary rendition program at the Luxor for the worst offenders...

hhp

pattyfab's picture

Danceteria rocked but Area was the place to be.

But seeing Andy Warhol chatting up Grace Jones at Studio 54 was kinda fun too.

I haven't been to CBs in years. But I'm sad it closed. Therein lies the paradox, you move on and hope the places you supported in earlier, different times will hang on and still make the city feel like it's yours. I realize it's the nature of the beast and that's not all bad, but I just don't like the direction things are moving in. Coney Island being destroyed for condos.

I'd be happy if the tourists went to New York New York in Vegas and left my city alone. They wouldn't know the difference anyway...

vinceconnare's picture

well Area was good but it was a bit too posh and fashion drugs, they had not men or woman toilets, one was more women though and one was more men. but you could go in either.

Scavullo did a photo shoot at Area I do remember.


Janet Jones Gretsky

http://www.flickr.com/photos/93279914@N00/19403072/in/set-457867/

how's that for typography ironic?

I've got a Studio 54 , 45 of BowWowWow and it's on DT flickr group.
I saw Malaria and Heaven 17 there during the reopening.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Never was a BowWowWow fan -- Siouxsie and the Banshees were much more my style.

Siouxsie and the Banshees
1976-1996
R.I.P.

ebensorkin's picture

Heaven 17 you mean - right? Whose name was taken famously from the film 'a clockwork orange'.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Well, you're the first one to mention them....

FWIW, I was much more interested in New Romantic groups like Spandau Ballet.

vinceconnare's picture

yes.. Heaven 17 it was and I remember finding glitter for years somewhere either on the floor or in boxes or something from the show, it just got everywhere and got carried home.

hmm Linda, did you see the Cure at the Ritz with Ministry and the Banshees at the Beacon Theatre with Robert Smith on Guitar? And Siouxie sang Kish Kash on the Basement Jaxx CD a few years ago.

"her name is "Rio" she was dancing on my ceiling..."

http://www.vincentconnare.com

pattyfab's picture

Area had the rotating art installations. The Tunnel had the truly scary bathrooms. Nice thing about growing up in NYC was high school pals working doors and bars at VIP rooms in clubs thus getting access normally denied young peons.

Seeing David Byrne doing karaoke (my first time ever seeing karaoke) at the tunnel in the 80s was da bomb. He sang 16 Tons and Whole Lotta Love.

Always liked hearing music at the Cat Club and the old Ritz, the old Knit. I was never lucky enuf to see the real good bands at CBs (mostly saw friends bands) but did catch up with some of them at the Dr. Pepper concert series in the park when I was in high school. Too cheap/broke to buy tix, we'd sit outside and listen and smoke pot.

For female singers of a certain era nobody beats Patti Smith and she's still bringing down the house.

Linda Cunningham's picture

Nah, I missed that show (haven't seen the Cure live, actually), used to catch Siouxie at CBGB's, though....

Linda Cunningham's picture

Subway systems of the world relative scale

http://www.fakeisthenewreal.org/subway/index.html

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