Sep
02

The 7 line extension: Adding a Midtown mess to the Map

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With the 7 line extension’s Hudson Yards spur set to open next weekend, not only is the subway system heading west but the subway map is too. Based on a variety of design choices, on the current map, 8th Ave. and 7th Ave. look farther apart than 8th Ave. and 11th Ave. do, and the new station, one would hope, could force the MTA overhaul what has become a very crowded map. With Transit getting ready for the big day, the new subway maps have started popping up in 7 trains, and, well, see for yourself:

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To say that this addition ain’t pretty is an understatement, and it may also violate some central tenets of the current map. First, what is going on here? The purple line showing the 7 line extension cuts through the word “Terminal,” which itself is part of the name of the stop at 42nd St. and 8th Ave. Plus, it’s now not immediately clear what’s happening at Times Square as the white dot only sort of touches all four of the lines that stop there. It’s not too clear that there’s a direct transfer from the 7 to the A/C/E, and it now looks as though the 7 doesn’t provide easy access to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. While you and I may know how Times Square works, a subway map isn’t supposed to be designed for people who know the system; it’s supposed to be designed for those who don’t. This purple line isn’t helping.

Terminal Meanwhile, if you look at the normal markings for a terminal, the colored block with the line’s route designation usually appears right near the white circle designating the terminal. You can see it above for the L train at 14th St. and at right for the 7’s eastern end in Flushing. Here, the purple square is underneath the word “Yards” and next to the handicap symbol and another 7 that’s just sort of floating there. It should be under the black circle denoting the station (and that black circle should be white since both local and express 7 trains will service Hudson Yards). Yet, placing the purple block would cause conflicts with the designation for the 8th Avenue’s Penn Station stop since the avenue spacing here has been distorted for design purposes. Instead of adjusting a geographical inaccuracy, the map designers just shoved this thing wherever it could fit.

The debate over designing a better map can fill volumes, but one way to present the information, at least for a mobile-optimized experience, comes to us via KickMap.

Kickmap7

Eddie Jabbour and I had a back-and-forth about the design on the Second Ave. Sagas Facebook page, and he presented the idea of showing the 7 connecting to 42nd St. via a “T.” The avenue distances are still distorted but are closer to reality than the MTA’s design. His map also incorporates the Javits Center, a key destination for the 7 train, rather than a ferry terminal floating somewhere between 34th St. and 42nd St., as the MTA’s map shows. It’s a better presentation with more relevant data than the MTA’s map has.

The MTA will have a second chance over the next year and a half to redesign the map when three new stops open underneath Second Ave. I hope they take the opportunity to do so; this thing is in bad need of a rethink and a better design.



62 Responses to “The 7 line extension: Adding a Midtown mess to the Map”

  1. anon_coward says:

    good to know most people aren’t as easily confused as you are

    • VLM says:

      Are you being unintentionally dense or intentionally an ass? You’ve missed the key part: While you and I may know how Times Square works, a subway map isn’t supposed to be designed for people who know the system; it’s supposed to be designed for those who don’t.

      Anyone with a modicum of graphic design knowledge would agree with Ben here. This addition makes a total mess to a map that wasn’t easy to use in the first place.

  2. JJJ says:

    Id replace the wifi logo with the wheelchair one in the concept design but aside from that it looks really good. Showing the High Line is also great. Tourists care about destinations, not a random track to Albany or a highway tunnel

    • Alex says:

      Along the same vein, when the A/C/E trains stop at Canal Street they announce, “Canal Street, Holland Tunnel”. Because subway riders are going to get off the train and walk through the Holland Tunnel?

      • roxie says:

        i think that’s for clarity’s sake more than anything, since there’s several lines stopping at various points on canal street. saying “holland tunnel” clarifies that this particular canal street station is the western one, as opposed to the more eastern in the complex that stretches between centre street and broadway.
        it’s like chicago having 3 L stations that stop on chicago avenue; theyre announced as “chicago/state”, “chicago/milwaukee”, and “chicago/franklin”.
        which brings up the fact that it might be a smart idea for the MTA to clarify stops on lines that are marked with the same street, the way they do major destinations like 42nd and 34th street.

    • Hank says:

      Also missing from KickMap, NJT & Amtrak at Penn Station.

    • FYI: The *blue stars* are symbols for ADA stations on the KickMap.

  3. APH says:

    Just curious – Does the MTA design it’s own map “in-house” or do they contract the

  4. APH says:

    Just curious – Does the MTA design it’s own map “in-house” or do they contract the design out?

    The KickMap design is 10x clearer and I love the neighborhood shading.

  5. R2 says:

    The map could have been re-designed but clearly this is a last-minute effort

  6. For those curious, here’s what the current map looks like in that spot:

    • Note that even in the current MTA version the NJT and Amtrak tracks are incorrectly placed traveling along 34th street.

    • EN says:

      So not only is the Javits Center not there, it was actively removed. That actually makes it worse.

      • lawhawk says:

        Fulfilling Cuomo’s wish to move the convention center from the West Side to Queens. /tongue in cheek

        Seriously though, one of the reasons for the new station/extension was to provide access to the Javits Center, and if the map is being designed for those who aren’t familiar with landmarks or neighborhoods, then taking it off the map makes no sense. It should be there in some fashion.

        At same time, they could include a faded green ribbon for the High Line, since that’s a major destination on the West Side in its own right.

        Ben’s suggestion above, using the connector (black) with a T to show the 7 stop at TS/42nd Street makes tremendous sense, and could cut down on some of the confusion. I also think that if the map is elongated slightly in Midtown that we could get more detail and separation between the station stops so that there’d be less confusion.

        • EN says:

          I just remembered they had enlarged all the fonts and took some things off for the maps on the trains. I wonder if the other maps (not on the actual trains) will look any better.

    • Eric Brasure says:

      Well, what do you expect? They only had 8 years to do it.

    • Andrew says:

      Apples and oranges. You’re comparing the subway car edition of the new map with the online edition of the old map.

      Several years ago, the map version on subway cars got an enlarged typeface, which generated most of the clutter that you’re (quite rightly) complaining about here.

      Both the online version and the paper version distributed at booths use a smaller typeface, which renders the entire map far more readable.

      Like it or dislike it, the Kick Map relies on smaller type than the subway car map (and probably even the online/print map). It’s not comparable. (And, personally, I happen to dislike it – I find the overuse of color to be unnecessarily distracting, the inconsistency in font sizes jarring, and the omission of the “Street” identifier at some but not all stations confusing and ugly.)

  7. 22rr says:

    Being familiar with European and Asian metro systems before coming to New York, it was quite an ordeal getting used to NYC’s pseudo-geographic subway map. It took weeks before I got my head around the idea of multiple lines being the same color and that you need to look at the tiny letters/numbers (i.e. “C E”) next to the station name to know which train really stops there. Now, I understand why we in NYC do it this way and why our city/system is not conducive to a purely graphic map like is the global standard, but I think our map could definitely being vastly improved in its design and legibility while still retaining its pseudo-geographicness.

  8. Brooklynite says:

    It’s possible to make a map that’s completely legible on a standard sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper. Why are we still using this monstrosity?

  9. Elvis Delgado says:

    This is not even a close call – Eddie Jabbour (KickMap) nailed it, while the MTA created a real dog’s breakfast. Forget what you know, forget what you “like”, and just imagine you’re trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

    It is not even necessary to adopt KickMap’s “one line per service” concept. The iconic London Underground map uses just one color (or in their case colour, I suppose) per line no matter how many different route variations traverse it. So the MTA’s preferred “one line per trunk” is fine, but they have everything to learn about spacing and iconography from KickMap.

    P.S. I am not in any way associated with KickMap; this is my unbiased opinion.

    • adirondacker12800 says:

      If you are trying to get from point A to point B …. take the local train which is what almost all subway systems do, all local all the time. The local is almost always the one against the wall.

      • JJJJ says:

        Except when the 2 is local and the 1 is express and the 1 is running on the 2 uptown track when it is going downtown.

        • 22rr says:

          or when the A runs on the F line… NYC is definitely the only system in the world where everything gets completely boggled up and randomly unreliable on Sundays.

        • adirondacker12800 says:

          When the express is running local or the local is running express the train making local stops is still on the track against the wall. Otherwise it can’t run local.

          If the downtown trains are on the uptown tracks chances are reallly good that you will be waiting a realllly long time until you read the notices posted at the station.

  10. Brandon says:

    Why wouldn’t they use a glasses-shaped white bubble connecting between Times Square and Port Authority like on most other metro maps?

    The black line is a terrible indicator.

    • Brandon says:

      My 3 minutes of photoshop: http://i.imgur.com/ZmcDu9n.png

      • Michael says:

        There was a recent article about the signage on the entrances and exits at the 42nd Street-7th and 8th Avenue complex. Basically the problem was that on 8th Avenue about 42nd Street – the signage listed all of the trains that stopped at the complex (a true statement), but the signage IMPLIED that all of those train lines were equally accessible from those entrances.

        The trains that stopped at the complex (#1,#2,#3,#7,N,Q,R,S) are simply NOT EASILY accessible from the 42nd Street-Eighth Avenue station! That is something that most users of the station know very well – it is often much easier to use the street to walk from 8th Avenue to 7th Avenue and use the Seventh Avenue and Broadway entrances of the complex than it is use traverse the several passageways, ramps and stairs that connect the individual platforms, as well as one very steep walkway!

        The same is also true for those needing the A, C and E trains – it is simply better to walk along 42nd Street to the Eighth Avenue entrances than it is to use the several passageways, ramps and stairs that connect the individual platforms. I believe there was an effort to have the entrance signs point out that those lines can be reached by a passageway. There is a very steep walkway that connects those stations!

        The thin black line that connected these two stations is more reflective of the “on-the-ground” reality, then the alteration of the map that you produced.

        Basically this issue is similar the transfer provided between the #1,#2,#3 trains at 14th Street with the F and L trains at 14th Street-Sixth Avenue. The connection between those stations is a block long underground passageway! The reality of that is reflected on the map as it should be.

        Mike

        • Rob says:

          I prefer the passageway to the crowds on 42nd street.

          • Cation says:

            The contrast between the crowds of 42nd Street and the relative ghost towns of 40th and 41st was never more stark than during the Super Bowl.

            • SEAN says:

              I’m with Rob on this one. If you know how to navigate the passageways in the Times Square station, you can get around a lot faster than walking on the street.

              • Tower18 says:

                Only if you’re going the right way. Trying to go from 8th to 7th via the passageway in the evening rush is ridiculous. It’s a single-file line all the way, since the rest of the passageway is people rushing to PABT.

                • SEAN says:

                  Yeah, but it’s a lot better than fighting the tourests as they shlep to get into the Lion King or some other Times Square venue.

      • The phallic Times Square connector.

        • Brandon says:

          Kidding aside, this is how most cities with extensive rapid transit systems visualize station complexes on their metro maps (eg Paris, London).

          Do you think there’s no long tunnels at Chatelet-Les Halles? They have tunnels at least as long as the 7 to G transfer at Court Square, but they visualize them as one station complex because it is clearer.

    • Joe Steindam says:

      The MTA has gotten sloppy with this and have become increasingly inconsistent with the ways they label transfer points. There’s a mix of the black lines denoting transfers (which I would guess is done more to keep the line work in place than depicting the difficulty of the transfer, see the relatively easy transfers at Lexington Ave/59th Street or Chambers St/Park Place/World Trade Center), the enlarged black bullets for local stop transfers (Yankee Stadium or Delancey/Essex), the white enlarged/elongated bullets (Times Square, Union Square, Atlantic Avenue) or a single white bullet where lines intersect (Jay Street, 168th Street). It’s hard to discern a clear pattern (except the denoting of local and express stops, and at Jay Street that gets lost for the R train), and I’m not sure what is the culprit. It doesn’t help that some transfer stations don’t have a unified name, Chambers St/Park Pl/WTC is probably the worst one left now that Fulton Center was rebranded.

      • AMH says:

        I have noticed that too. It’s even worse on the Weekender map, where the out-of-system transfer between Lex/59 and Lex/63 is drawn with the same black line as an in-system transfer, and the cross-platform transfer between the R and Q and DeKalb needs a black line because of the way the N express goes between them.

  11. johndmuller says:

    It would be nice if the MTA were to make the east-west scale in Manhattan a little more consistent. The width of Central Park on the subway map looks like more than half of the width of Manhattan, while in actuality it is about a quarter or less. Most of the distortion is in the compression on the east and west sides, but the east-west blocks are inconsistent even in the central area. Basically, the numbered avenues (or their stand-ins/renamed selves) are quite equally spaced; you can see for yourself how unequally spaced they are on the MTA map.

    I appreciate that there are possibly some good reasons for shading the scaling here and there, but this distortion creates some false impressions where a dose of reality might be in everyone’s interest. The MTA map would have us believe that the distance from 8th Avenue to the river is only a little more than the distace from Times Sq (7th) to 8th, while it is more like 5 times that; similarly, the areas where there is sparce service on the east side are compressed so that it looks like an easy walk to the closest stations when it is instead more like walking across Central Park.

    When they add in SAS phase 1 they will have another opportunity to stretch out the east-west scale; hopefully they will take advantage of that opportunity better than they seem to be on this one. If people could see how much empty space there is on the lower east side, it might help sell SAS phases 3 & 4.

  12. Max Roberts says:

    So, suppose I am travelling into Manhattan on the A train.

    To get to 34 St Hudson Yards, do I bother changing to the 7 train at 42 St, or do I just walk? I know what the official map is telling me to do. It makes this extension look like a silly little vanity stub.

    • Berk32 says:

      Depends on how much you like walking.

      It’s roughly a 12 minute walk from 34/8 to the Javits Center.

      It’s about 1 additional minute from 34 to 42 on the A – ~2 minutes to transfer to the 7 – wait for a 7 – i guess it’ll take 2 minutes to go from times square to hudson yards by subway.

      Factor in time getting out of both stations (A at Penn requires you to go down and then back up – Hudson Yards is deep) – it’s probably a small difference overall, depending on the average wait time for a 7 train.

    • vic says:

      Don’t change to the 7. That’s silly. You’re going up 8 blocks and then (walking) east one avenue to take a train that will reverse those moves. Exit at 34th. First see if there’s a M34 coming (probably not), If not, start walking west.

      It’d make sense to take the 7 if you were on the other north-south lines.

      • Jon Y says:

        vic, you’re assuming he’s coming from Brooklyn. If he’s coming from the Bronx, he would probably be better off taking the 7. Those avenues aren’t the shortest.

        • Berk32 says:

          Safe assumption to make, since the A doesn’t go to the Bronx.

        • vic says:

          Well as Jon Y said, the A train doesn’t come from the Bronx.

          Anyway, if you were coming from the north, you could walk one avenue east to 7th. Or you could ride until 34th and walk two and half avenue blocks west to get to 34th St Hudson Yards. (The subway entrances are in the middle between 10th and 11th). Depends on the weather I guess.

  13. BoerumHillScott says:

    I am normally a fan of the MTA map, but this change is an inconsistent mess.

    It’s hard to really compare the MTA map and KickMap, since they are primarily meant for entirely different form factors and customer bases.

  14. Other Rob says:

    I’m sure this was mentioned, but I can’t find it so apologies for the repeat. If I’m a non-regular user looking at the MTA map, I would think the new station offered connection between the 7 and Amtrak. The station is so solidly on the Amtrak line.

    • EJ says:

      Yeah, went down into the comments to see if anyone else had posted that. That’s what really jumped out at me, it looks like the line possibly connects to Amtrak/NJT/LIRR. Though the Herald Square station already has that problem; I remember the first time I was in New York many years ago it took me a minute to puzzle out whether or not that station directly connected to the LIRR.

      Of course, if you strictly follow the graphic conventions of the map, it clearly doesn’t, but to a casual user it could be confusing. Since the map isn’t perfectly geographically accurate anyway, I don’t see why they can’t just jog the Amtrak line a few pixels North so it misses the dots for the stations it doesn’t connect to.

      • Elizabeth Linden Rahway says:

        The implied but nonexistent 7-Amtrak/NJT transfer also sent me digging through the comments to see if anyone else noticed. But instead of jogging the 7 train’s 34th Street station north, why not jog the Amtrak/NJT tracks south to reflect the reality that they’re mostly in the block between 32nd and 33rd Streets?

    • EJ says:

      Other than that I don’t really have much of a problem with the map, other than that they obviously need to fix the layout so the lettering doesn’t overlap the route lines and the purple terminal block needs to be placed properly.

      The black line between Times square and the 42 st/Bus Terminal station isn’t pretty, but if I’m coming into Manhattan and need to transfer to the A, C, or E, it conveys to me that the station I need to get off at is called “Times Square,” which is the key piece of information.

      • adirondacker12800 says:

        Do you get that impression at 33rd and Park Ave. South? Or at Seventh Ave South and Christopher and PATH?

        • 33rd and Park Avenue South seems clear to me; PATH near Christopher Street less so. Representing PATH like regional rail and Amtrak is also confusing. To people who don’t know the systems as well as frequent riders, it would appear that larger, less-frequent, commuter-rail style service is somehow running up sixth avenue and terminating a block east of Penn Station, when in reality, PATH is as much a subway service as any New York City Subway line.

  15. Kevin says:

    Imagine the mess if 10th Avenue was there too!

  16. John-2 says:

    Looks like despite having years of delays to get an updated map ready, the MTA assigned the changes to their summer intern on a Friday, and told them to have it done by Monday morning.

  17. Elvis Delgado says:

    Well, I am glad to see, the ‘real’ maps (regular, night map, and weekender) were posted on the 11th, and each of them does a much better job than this one did. I guess they used the extra week to good advantage.

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