Overhaul of New York subway map

Posted to Maps  |  Nathan Yau

The ever-popular New York subway map is getting some work done, and will reveal itself with its first major redesign in over a decade:

The new subway map makes Manhattan even bigger, reduces Staten Island and continues to buck the trend of the angular maps once used here and still preferred in many other major cities. Detailed information on bus connections that was added in 1998 has been considerably shortened.

The two shots above probably look about the same to non-locals, besides the newer version (left) being brighter, but I do like the changing shape of Manhattan over the years. It’s represented about twice as fat as actual.

So it’s true. The map really does add ten pounds.


  • To me the most interesting fact about the NYC subway map is that its orientation is shifted about 315 degrees. That is, it shows Manhattan pointing up the page, which is conventionally north. However the island really points northeast. I was very surprised when I moved to the Northeast and learned that fact.

  • I’m not sure if the “ever popular New York subway map” comment is sarcastic, but I hope it is. When visiting New York, I hated that thing. DC and London have very intuitive subway maps. NYC could learn a thing or two from those cities.

  • Jonathan Nye May 30, 2010 at 10:38 am

    The Vignelli angular maps are so dang beautiful and easy to use. Hopefully by the next revision, we’ll all be using digital maps and all that extra information can be invisible but accessible underneath a Vignelli.

  • Some NY folks had a counter argument and liked the old “confusing” maps better. Check the comment to this article:


  • For all of their efforts, the subway map provided by the MTA is basically useless unless you already know both the city and the subway system very, very well. For visitors to the city I always suggest the Streetwise Manhattan map, which can be found in most bookstores. It is the only map of the city I’ve ever found that shows both the subway stops and the actual streets of the city. I don’t know how it’s some kind of revelation that people would need both these pieces of information, but it seems that this is the only publisher that’s figured it out.

    As to the commenter above who mentioned the rotation – that’s just what we do here. We pretend the streets run north/south; it’s way easier that way. Also, consider it from a mapmaker’s perspective – think of all the wasted space if the island was to lay on the map at the proper angle rather than vertically. Wouldn’t work out at all.

    Nathan – many thanks for the info!


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