Oren’s Reading List: Totally Accurate, Totally Useless Subway Maps

Yesterday, I saw an article on CityLab about yet another way to map out New York’s subway lines.  Most of the world’s subway maps, including the iconic maps from New York, London, and Washington (among others), are not drawn to scale, as the density of stations in the city center would make the map illegible.  Sometimes, one can find scaled maps, as they are useful in showing how far out a city’s network might extend, however they are not great for trip planning.

Andrew Lynch recently created a self described “totally accurate, totally useless” set of maps showing each New York City subway line to scale.  His own description fits perfectly.  The maps are to scale, and therefore accurately drawn.  However, they are also totally useless because you can’t use the individual posters to navigate the system if you need to use more than one line to get to your destination.  But I’d point out that while they might not be so helpful in figuring out how to get from the Bronx Zoo to Coney Island, they do show how distorted the subway map that we are so familiar with is. For example, take a look at the 8th Avenue IND poster on Lynch’s website.  You can see that although the A train is the longest subway route in New York at 32 miles, it’s stations are far from being evenly distributed in terms of the distance between them.  Furthermore, it is 3.5 miles between the Howard Beach and Broad Channel stations, the longest distance between any two single stops on the entire subway and one not fully appreciated on the not-to-scale maps put out by the MTA.

See more of Andrew Lynch’s work on his website, http://vanshnookenraggen.com.

Oren’s Reading List is an occasional feature on The Travelogue in which I share articles that I’ve read that might also be of interest to the readers of this website.