Aug 11, 2010  •  In Art/Design, NYC

Redesigning the NYC Subway Map

There has been a lot of talk lately about redesigning the map of the world’s largest subway system in an effort to make it easier to read and increase ridership.

Designer Eddie Jabbour took up the challenge in a heavy redesign called NYC Subway KickMap:

The Kick Map is designed to get more people to ride New York City’s subway system. Created with clarity and ease of use, it allows riders to navigate this vast system easily and without uncertainty. The subway map is the key to understanding this most complex subway in the world, which has 26 separate lines and 468 stations. A well-designed map not only welcomes and empowers novices to use the subway but also encourages additional use for regular “home-to-work-only” commuters to use the subway for recreational destinations where they might otherwise take a car. For this reason the design of the subway map can directly influence ridership numbers and can indirectly have an effect on New York’s traffic congestion and pollution. In short, a better-designed subway map will make our subway system more open and accessible.

Unfortunately for Jabbour, the MTA rejected the new design. So he took it upon himself to upload the map to the Apple Store so that people can download it to their iPhones…and immediately garnered over a quarter of a million downloads.

Take a look at the map yourself, along with some side-by-side comparisons with the current NYC subway map:

Call me a snobby New Yorker, but I never found the current NYC subway map (and I’m talking about the version whose overall design has been in existence since the late 1970s) to be difficult to comprehend at all. Even my very first time taking the subway alone as a clueless teenager was not marred by confusion over the map.

While I have to admit that Jabbour’s design is definitely cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing, I much prefer the different lines of each color group to be merged as one when they run on the same tracks, as opposed to right next to each other as he has displayed on the KickMap. But that’s just me.

Did you ever have trouble interpreting the NYC subway map? What do you think of the KickMap?

Via Laughing Squid.

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6 Responses to “Redesigning the NYC Subway Map”

  1. Terri (Swan) says:

    No, I have not, but I have a feeling that I am a snobby NYer. 🙂 I barely drive, but people come here from other parts of the country who take multiple interstate highways constantly and then say the the subway map is hard. It’s not. I think it has more to do with most of the rest of the country’s lack of experience with public transportation. Add a big city subway system to the mix, and bam! It becomes scary. I do like this other design and I think it would be nice if I only had an Iphone 🙁

    • TheEsquireof212 says:

      Also a sliding scale between the lack of knowledge of using public along with relative unawareness of where things are located and how to get there, let alone reading the map.

  2. kelsey says:

    It’s definitely more difficult to comprehend than other cities’ subway maps. I wouldn’t say it’s really hard, but it’s very busy. I really like the new version a lot. Too bad it wasn’t accepted.

  3. mina says:

    of course i have an attachment to the nyc subway map the way it is, but the jabbour one is much cleaner. if that makes it easier for tourists/visitors to comprehend, that may be more important because i think nyc-ers are fine with the current one partly because we’re so used to it.

  4. Austyn says:

    I am not a New Yorker. I've never had any trouble with the subway map. As a midwesterner, I'm just happy to have access to such a means of low cost transport. I found it to be comparable to the subway systems in London (which is cleaner) and Paris (less clean).

    I have found that when visiting with people who are unfamiliar to the subway system, that they seem to have more trouble with it than I did.

    The only thing I ever really have trouble with sometimes is locating the station entrance from above ground. Sometimes the entry is small, the signage is lacking, and I'm not sure with quadrant of the intersection to look in.

  5. Noora says:

    For an European, whose transportation maps look mainly like this the "old version" really looks weird. I'm pretty sure I could navigate it, as I've could in every other city I've visited, but still, it's a bit confusing. If you need to have the actual "street map" underneath, at least make it a bit more streamlined, as the KickMap has.

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