Home Service Cuts The maps remain the same

The maps remain the same

by Benjamin Kabak

While the new routes are in effect, many stations still feature old maps.

New York City Transit has a map problem. It’s not that the new subway map is bad. In fact, the redesign with fewer bus boxes and less unnecessary information makes the map more useful as a system navigation tool. The devil, however, is in the stations as five days after the service changes went into effect, the maps present throughout the system are still in the process of being updated.

To illustrate, a story: Every morning, I ride the train from Grand Army Plaza to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. I exit the stop in Manhattan at the northern end and pass through the unstaffed entrance that leads into Foley Square. The subway maps at both stations have been updated, but every other piece of supporting navigational materials has not. The “Neighorhood” maps at both Grand Army Plaza and City Hall still show the brown M train and its route into Brooklyn via the Montague St. tunnel. The Manhattan bus map at City Hall displays the routes as of last week and not this past Monday.

These aren’t isolated incidents. I’ve ridden more than a few trains that still display the old maps, and today, my Brooklyn-bound 2 train announced that customers could transfer to the J and M trains at Fulton St. The M hasn’t stopped there since last Friday. The Fulton St. complex is the tenth busiest station in the system, and if Transit’s pre-recorded announcements are telling people wrong information, that’s a problem.

Meanwhile, at other stations, the situation remains the same. Last night, I made the trip from Chambers St. to Christopher St. The latter is a reasonably popular destination stop. In 2009, an average of 10,000 people passed through it every weekday, and it serves as the gateway to Greenwich Village for many tourists visiting the city. The former serves around 20,000 per day. In both of those stations, featured prominently at the Customer Information Center, were subway maps that hadn’t yet been updated to reflect the new routing. Now, I’m not talking about far-off stations in the Rockaways that see a few hundred people a day; I’m talking about the 65th and 128th busiest stations in the system.

Eventually, Transit workers will get around to fixing these problems. The new maps will go up; life will go on. Yet, this situation reminds me of the post I wrote earlier this week about the MTA’s customer service woes. For weeks, Transit has been planning for the new service cuts and rerouted subway lines. The authority made a big show of putting up new subway bullets and fixed an obscene meme in two days when the Internet uproar began. Yet, five days after the cuts, they still haven’t replaced the maps hanging in at least a few stations, and the Neighborhood and Bus maps might remain outdated for some time.

This delay in updating the maps — arguably as important as hanging up some subway bullets at oft-deserted ends of platforms — isn’t a grave oversight by the MTA. It just shows how the authority doesn’t consider its customers. If anything, the maps should be the first things in a station changed because they are what allows people unfamiliar with the system to get around. A tourist unfamiliar with the subway system and bound for, say, MoMA would be left waiting for a V train that won’t arrive and would find at Christopher St. no station agent able to provide them with directions. The customer, it seems, is an afterthought.

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rhywun July 2, 2010 - 12:55 am

I’ve often wondered if they even ever update the neighborhood maps. I haven’t thought to check in years. I sure wish they’d put them (back) online, though.

Anyway, I’ve seen the new, even simpler map in every car I’ve ridden this week, and I have to say I like this version best of all. The bus boxes are gone, leaving just the subway info. This is the version that should be the “official” one. And the flashy “3D” effect that looks kind of poor online actually makes good sense while on the train.

Daniel Howard July 2, 2010 - 1:11 pm

I “discovered” the 9 line later last year by checking a nighborhood map at Penn Station. I think people know that lines change over time and maps go out of date.


Scott E July 2, 2010 - 7:46 am

Is there a special “group” within NYCT whose sole job is to change maps and other signs? With so many stations, many with complex, winding entrances, there’s no way that one guy in an office can know them all. The task should be pushed down to the individual station supervisors and token booth clerks, who know the stations the best, and who will bear the wrath of confused passengers.

Having 300-some agents around the system hang a sign at the same time is much quicker than having a team of two or three guys riding the train to each station to hang them one-by-one. The clerks also are motivated in that it will reduce passenger confusion (many of them already have improvised handwritten signs in their booths to answer the most common questions).

BrooklynBus July 2, 2010 - 9:48 am

The problem with making all the necessary changes was that there was hell of lot of work to do, and it had to be prioritized as to importance. Your suggestion is a good one, but either no one thought of it, or there may be a union regulation which would consider replacing maps out of title work, or maybe a special tool is required to open the map case which are in short supply.

Just trying to come up with some logical reasons. The real problem is that what we had were ten years worth of changes being compressed into a single day. Three months was just not enough time to prepare. I still believe the the bus schedules were written years ago before the public hearings were even held. which would have resulted in much wasted effort if too many alterations to the plan were made which is why they were rushed through in three months. Had they allowed a year for comments, there would have been more time to prepare and change maps and signage.

Scott E July 2, 2010 - 12:03 pm

If we still had the Line Managers, then the responsibility would have been spread geographically, rather than functionally. Then, at least each line could be responsible for doing the work in the area they know best. (Of course, I’d bet at places like Nevins Street, the #4 group would hang a map, then the #2 group would rip it down and hang an identical one).

Andrew July 2, 2010 - 6:17 pm

There still are Line General Managers. But why should something like this be done on a line-based approach? Surely it’s far more efficient for a centralized group of people to post the maps. And that group should be given priorities by people who understand the impacts of the changes on the entire system.

(And in Roberts’ LGM system – I don’t know if Prendergast changed this – each station was arbitrarily assigned to a single line.)

Nick July 2, 2010 - 7:56 am

I noticed yesterday that on the mta site you can still access the old W line route map when clicking on the interactive map on a Manhattan local stop. It comes up with the “Choose you line” page with the choices being N, R, W.

I also think there are some inconsistencies with the M line but I am not as familiar with the old route to be sure.

Brian July 2, 2010 - 8:23 am

I ride the F and the 4/5/6, and more often than not, the maps in the cars have not been changed. Also, the automated announcements and electronic signage have been turned off on the F all week–not reprogrammed in advance of the service changes?

Al D July 2, 2010 - 9:30 am

Amazing how the MTA bought technologically advanced trains with ‘advanced’ communications capabilities, and instead of leveraging them to the fullest, they turn ’em off and go back to conductor announcements instead! So what was the point in the first place then?

BrooklynBus July 2, 2010 - 9:42 am


My big problem with these so-called technological advances is that they couldn’t order multi-color LEDs for the end signs of the IRT. Even if they thought it wouldn’t be cost-effective, why couldn’t they have bought green ones for the Lex instead of red? At least they would have kept the coded line coloring consistent for the IRT at least. Having red colored end number signs is very confusing when when people are looking for a color-coded sign. They should have just left the color-coded bullet roll signs. I see no advantage to the LEDs here.

The customer is just not important but the executives are. You should see the fuss the boss made when my co-worker almost bought Ermine White instead of Navajo White to paint the office of a new vice-president, a number of years back. “Don’t you know he prefers Navajo White?” We didn’t hear the end of that for days.

SEAN July 2, 2010 - 10:23 pm

What was the point? To comply with ADA regulations. Once the AV systems are reprogrammed everything will be OK. Anouncements by conductors alone are not enough fore the ADA. There must be visual elements for the deaf & hard of hearing as well. Station signage maybe obscured from within the train.

Lance July 2, 2010 - 1:33 pm

From what I heard, the R160s from Coney Island (N,Q) and East New York (J,L,M,Z) yards have updated their announcements while those from Jamaica Yard (E,F,R) have not, hence the lack of automated announcements and working FINDs on those lines. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know. Same thing with the R142s.

Andrew July 2, 2010 - 6:19 pm

I’ve heard that there was some sort of glitch discovered at the last minute in the new announcement programs, so they were turned off on the Jamaica cars until the problem is fixed.

SEAN July 2, 2010 - 10:44 am

Garmin has several GPS moddles that allow the user to download “City Navagator” a transit based program that overlays the car useage functionality. City Navagator is part of “padestrian mode,” wich is one of three ways the GPS can function. I wonder if the maps & transit directions were updated.

Nuvi 1200, 1300, 1400 & the soon to be released 3700 moddle lines are compatible with CN. There are 30 north American cities avaleable including 26 in the US plus Mexico City, Vancouver, Toronto & Montreal. All maps are downloades & must be purchased independently.

All purchases are $9.95 except New York $14.95.

Adam G July 2, 2010 - 10:50 am

Last I checked, the Brooklyn bus map, at least, on the MTA website hadn’t been updated either. There certainly aren’t new strip maps on the bus stop poles where the B75 used to go (and now, in theory, the B57 goes) along Court St.

I’ve been wondering about what’s going on with FIND and the automated announcements on the F, too. The F’s route didn’t change – only its schedule. Is it really that complicated to take the “V” recording out of the sequence for its Manhattan stations and take the V off the FIND information, or is there something more complicated going on here that I’m missing? I’d really like to know – not trying to bash the MTA, just genuinely curious.

AlexB July 2, 2010 - 1:08 pm

I don’t like the drop shadow on every line and I think the color of land is a sickly yellow. I liked it paler before. Otherwise, it’s an improvement, especially the simplified bubbles.

I also don’t understand why they got rid of the service chart. There is now no way to know what service is like on the weekends.

Daniel Howard July 2, 2010 - 1:10 pm

Given that you have to follow the bullet signs to find your platform, I don’t see how a tourist will end up waiting for a train that is on a map when they can not discover which platform it is on.

I actually ran in to this sort of problem trying to ride the M from Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn, because its bullets had already been removed in anticipation of the service change.

Nabe News: July 2 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle July 2, 2010 - 1:11 pm

[…] subway stations around town still feature the now outdated navigation maps [Second Avenue […]

mdh July 2, 2010 - 2:23 pm

I noticed yesterday on a Downtown 6 Train that the new map was in place inside the subway car. Interestingly, though, it was not identical to the map posted on MTA’s website — this one had no callout boxes at all, for bus transfers or for the major subway stations. My guess is that the complete lack of callouts is intended to make the map even EASIER to read while on a crowded train that doesn’t provide the smoothest ride.

Has anyone else seen these callout-less maps around?

rhywun July 2, 2010 - 6:02 pm

Yes, and I like them. The bus-boxes should go away for good. I still think the rest of the map-space is too busy with colors and roads and parks and stuff that distracts from what I feel should be the core purpose of the map, but it’s certainly a big improvement over the last version.

Benjamin Kabak July 2, 2010 - 6:31 pm

The ones in the cars have even less info so that they are easier to read. I like it a lot. I still think they need service guides though. Telling people in the subway to check the website is pretty useless.

Andrew July 2, 2010 - 6:45 pm

I agree on the service guide. But the bus boxes can go.

rhywun July 2, 2010 - 10:58 pm

Agreed; though if they’re gonna have separate ‘full’ and ‘lite’ versions of the map, they can leave the guide off the ‘lite’ version.

Mark Krotov July 2, 2010 - 11:26 pm

I’m really surprised that the lack of service guides on the new maps has not been more of an issue. I think it’s pretty outrageous that, given the decrease in station agents, the absence of wireless underground, and the already unequal access to wireless to begin with, most commuters/visitors have no good way to know that many elements of the map just don’t apply nights and weekends. Even if you can figure out a given train’s behavior from the signs in the station, you can’t plan a commute that involves transfers. It wasn’t until I saw one of these maps in a station that I really reckoned with just how difficult life will now be for many travelers–particularly tourists.

BrooklynBus July 4, 2010 - 11:52 am

They never should have had call out boxes on the maps in the cars. Besides being easier to read, you need to ask yourself the purpose of those boxes. It is to plan you trip before you begin. For that you either use a station map or one you carry in your pocket. Most people who use the maps in the cars already know where they are going. They just need to refer to the map to check a stop, make sure they are on the right train going in the right direction, or plan an alternate route in case of delay. This usually does not involve taking a different bus.

As far as the service guides, they are very necessary. However it was ridiculous to move them to the bottom of the map where they are hidden by people’s heads sitting in front of the map. Even on the stations, you must get down on you knees to read them and usually take out a flashlight since the station lighting is not adequate at the bottom of the map.

However, I can understand temporarily removing it because of all the weekend construction.

rhywun July 5, 2010 - 2:59 am

I agree that a Service Guide is necessary, but I never thought the old ones were any good at explaining things. It took me years to make any sense out of it; I can’t imagine what tourists go through during the weekends. My idea for a replacement would be a small inset on the main map, showing weekend service (and another one for overnight). Though I am not certain if even two insets would be enough to cover all the complexities (like, some route variations start at 9PM, others much later…).

Andrew July 2, 2010 - 6:53 pm

The bus maps at Chambers certainly should have been high priorities for early replacement. (I doubt the neighborhood maps have even been updated yet.)

But the subway maps at Christopher aren’t a high priority at all. None of the service changes affect the 1, and Christopher isn’t even a terribly busy station (it isn’t even in the top 100, and it’s below many others on the same line).

herenthere July 3, 2010 - 12:46 pm

The biggest problem are the Mamma Mia ads that feature a scaled down old MTA subway map – they’re still everywhere in stations!

John Paul N. July 6, 2010 - 11:34 am

Where there is an opportunity like this (the lack of service guides), I plan to take it, as a mobile app developer, that is.


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