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Transit Maps We Love

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What Transit Maps Reveal About 7 Major American Cities

Certainly you could opt for a postcard of your favorite city’s key landmarks, but that doesn’t tell you all that much about the city’s culture does it? For a graphical element that speaks to the individuality of each city, all while depicting the landmarks that define it, mail those postcards and instead study a transit map. Some iconic, others unheralded, a transit map offers visitors a fingertip guide to the chaos of a city and arranges it in a way that holds true to the roots of the city.

Whether using a geographical framework (i.e. New York) or a schematic design (known as a diagram and used by most American cities), cities often swirl those ideas together, bending train lines and inserting key landmarks to help tell the story of both transit stations and cultural interest.

New York Always a place to visit and always a new landmark to see, New York’s subway map celebrates tourism like no other. It didn’t always. Massimo Vignelli gave New York a famed—yet short-lived—schematic design in the ‘70s, saying, “All you are conveying is how to go from station A to station B.” That didn’t last long after John Tauranac and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority shifted the map to geographic in 1979. “There are certain landmarks that literally mark the land,” Tauranac says. “The Empire State Building is visible from so many different neighborhoods. I think places like that are important.” The newest version, released in 2010, still holds what many consider minor landmarks, but is also bulked up Manhattan even more—at the expense of outlying boroughs—to make room for tourist-heavy information. The subway map is about far more than stations; it is about landmarks, serving as a guide to the hustle and bustle of NYC.

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