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Subway Map by Committee


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New York City has mapped its subways in its own way, not following Beck’s London Underground map that has become the unofficial style standard for subway maps the world over. Instead of a simplified schematics with subway lines running at specified angles, the Metro Transit Authority subway map shows lines in their approximate geographic location. John Tauranac headed a committee in 1979 that designed the current New York City subway map (now, seemingly, a work of art).

The New York Times has an article
on Tauranac and his map which evolved out of the negative response that New Yorkers had to a 1972 schematic map in the traditon of Beck’s map: “Almost as soon as Mr. Vignelli’s (schematic) map arrived at stations, people started complaining about its failure to describe the city’s geography. Tourists were getting off the subway at the bottom of Central Park and trying to stroll to the top, for example, expecting a 30-minute walk. Mr. Tauranac, who at the time was writing guide books for the M.T.A., criticized the Vignelli map for throwing out what he called the ‘cartographic verities.’” The map that Tauranc’s committee produced in 1979, “seven years after the publication of Mr. Vignelli’s design, showed more geographical information than any previous New York subway map. It was the first since the 1930’s to reproduce the street grid.”

Included with the newspaper article is a reproduction of a 1930s subway map.


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