Home Subway Maps Transit debuts limited edition night map

Transit debuts limited edition night map

by Benjamin Kabak

A glimpse at the night map shows the changes in service after 11 p.m. (Click to enlarge)

Once upon a time, back in the mid 1990s as Manhattan Bridge work caused numerous subway reroutings, New York City Transit released a two-sided map showing peak service on one side and off-peak on the other. The map survived for a few months before the ever-shifting patterns across the bridge caused the MTA to discard the redesign for something a little less malleable. Still, the need for a night map has persisted.

Even though the subways run for 24 hours a day, not every train runs at every hour, and not every route is the same at 4 a.m. as it is at 4 p.m. Some rains run express during the day but not at night. Some run stunted shuttle routes during late-night hours. Others, such as the poor B train, run only until some indeterminate time between 10-10:30 p.m. Yet, as apps such as the KickMap show the scheduling changes, our subway map depicts robust service at all hours of the day.

I had first gotten wind of this development earlier this fall, and today, the MTA unveiled its first night subway map. Designed with subtle shades of grey and dark blue to connote a later hour, the night map — available here as a pdf — shows how service should be after the peak hours are over. To make it an even more alluring document, the authority has released only 25,000 in its initial press run with a copy of MTA Arts for Transit’s “City of Glass” on the bank. Subsequent printings will feature different artwork as these maps slowly become collector’s items.

Beyond that aspect of the map, though, these are mostly useful diagrams of late-night service. Much like the refillable unlimited ride MetroCards, these night maps should have been available years ago as it helps late-night straphangers adjust to the vast difference in service offered once the evening rush is over, but because of constant overnight track work, even the night map won’t always be entirely accurate. It is customer-friendly, if you can find one.

“The standard subway map depicts morning to evening weekday service,” MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota said in a statement. “This companion night map will, for the first time, depict service for a particular portion of the day. This is the latest effort we’ve taken to improve the availability of information and detail we provide to our customers.”

For now, the map is available for free at the Transit Museum (host for my Wednesday event) and at the Transit Museum Annex in Grand Central. It was developed in house, and the MTA is also making 300 unfolded press sheets available for purchase a the Transit Museum Annex for $20 a piece. They were not yet available for sale when I stopped by the Museum Annex shortly before 2 p.m. They will be great, though, for framing.

After the jump, a bulleted list of the difference between the Night Map and the regular subway map.

  • Three subway lines (the B, C and Z) and the 42nd Street Shuttle do not operate overnight and are not shown on the map.
  • Five subway lines offer shorter service than usual:
    • The 3 terminates at Times Square.
    • The 5 runs as a shuttle in the Bronx between E. 180 St and Dyre Av
    • The M runs as a shuttle between Myrtle Av, Brooklyn, and Metropolitan Av, Queens.
    • The Q terminates at 57 St/7 Av in Midtown Manhattan.
    • The R runs as a shuttle in Brooklyn between 36 St and 95 St.
  • Six lines make additional stops they don’t make during the daytime.
    • The 2 makes all local stops in Manhattan.
    • The 4 makes all local stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn and is extended to New Lots Av, Brooklyn.
    • The A makes all local stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn; it runs to Far Rockaway but not Lefferts Blvd or Rockaway Park, which are served by shuttle trains.
    • The D runs local via Fourth Av in Brooklyn.
    • The E runs local via Queens Blvd.
    • The N runs local via the Financial District.
  • There is no skip/stop service on the J, which terminates at Chambers St on weekend overnight periods.
  • Six subway lines (the 1, 6, 7, F, G, and L) and Franklin Avenue Shuttle run their normal routes. (There is no 6 or 7 express service.)

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The Cobalt Devil January 30, 2012 - 4:17 pm

Well, it only took 107 years, but kudos to the MTA for trying.

Peter January 30, 2012 - 5:30 pm

Available as a PDF! How very USEFUL! And what’s the point of printing 25,000 copies that are only available in two locations?

It would make a lot more sense, I think, to print the night map on the reverse side from the standard map. Maybe the MTA could offer two versions of the standard map: one with the night service depiction and the other in the current form, with Metro-North and LIRR routes on the reverse side.

Anyone who doesn’t use the commuter railroads — which includes pretty much all visitors and a sizable chunk of the population of the 5 boroughs — would find the night subway map a heck of a lot more useful than the Metro-North/LIRR map.

Al D January 31, 2012 - 3:40 pm

I believe that they did it this way to:

1. Gauge demand
2. Create a collectible
3. Recoup the cost of doing this with the $20 charge for the sheets

Bolwerk February 1, 2012 - 10:47 am

$20? Printing 25,000 maps at that size probably runs under a dollar each.

Andrew February 2, 2012 - 10:42 pm

The folded ones are free. The 300 unfolded press sheets are being sold for $20.

Tsuyoshi January 30, 2012 - 5:31 pm

Your description is a bit off. The 1, 6, 7, G and L are local, but the F runs express in Queens.

The map is not very useful to me, since I can count on one hand all the times I’ve been on the subway after midnight, but it is interesting. With the relative lack of overlapping service, it reminds me of the less complicated systems in other cities.

John January 30, 2012 - 6:17 pm

His description is correct – read it again. “Six subway lines (the 1, 6, 7, F, G, and L) and Franklin Avenue Shuttle run their normal routes. (There is no 6 or 7 express service.)” meaning that they run the same route during the overnight hours as they do during the day. The F is express in Queens all times.

I think it’s about time the MTA did this. In stations where there is more than one large displayed map on the platform, one should have daytime service and the other should show late night service. I hope (and would certainly expect) that they begin rolling this out in stations soon.

Spiderpig January 30, 2012 - 7:47 pm

Actually, I think there was a “local” thrown in there the first time I read it. Before I refreshed, it said “normal local routes,” I believe. In the future, I’m guessing there will be electronic maps on platforms to reflect that current time’s service, including service changes, so they’re not going to be rushing to create large print versions of this map.

I’m surprised they’re not selling the maps if there will only be 25,000 copies, especially since it took so long and they made it seem like such a hassle.

Andrew January 30, 2012 - 8:27 pm

I don’t think posting them on platforms is a good idea – people will invariably walk up to them, not realize that they’re looking at a night map, and get on the wrong train.

But I agree with Peter that this should take the place of the commuter railroads on the maps distributed on paper.

Tsuyoshi January 30, 2012 - 9:33 pm

Well, the basic mistake you could make is to take an express train when you should have taken a local. But if you’re not paying attention, you can make this mistake on the day map too. In fact, I’m sure tourists already do this all the time. So I’m not sure that withholding the night map would really accomplish much.

The other possible mistake is to take a train which is running a shortened route, but that is easily rectified by switching to another train at the last station on the route.

Andrew January 30, 2012 - 10:16 pm

That’s a pretty serious mistake, and tourists get it right most of the time. Say you’re trying to get to your hotel at 72nd and Central Park West. The first train in is the B, but you don’t see that on the map, so you don’t get on. Then a C comes in, but that’s not on the map either. Then an A comes in, and you excitedly get on, because the map shows it as stopping at 72nd. And you end up at 125th, because you didn’t realize you were looking at a late night map.

There’s a limited market for the night map. Posting it prominently in stations is asking for trouble.

Jerrold January 30, 2012 - 7:58 pm

I remember specifically that some years ago (I CANNOT remember in what year) the Transit Authority had put out a separate “Late Night Guide”, which was a very good idea because of the many differences between daytime and late night service at that time.

Matthias January 31, 2012 - 9:28 am

The Subway Service Guide is still available here.

Spiderpig February 1, 2012 - 4:50 pm

Good to see they still have that available *somewhere*.

Spiderpig January 30, 2012 - 8:40 pm

I’ll just take a restoration of the old table at the bottom of the main side of the map that showed all of the intricacies of service at every time of day and weekends for every line. It had Daytime, Rush Hours, Evenings, Overnight, and Weekends with timing, express/local, and terminus information. That was very informative. Why did they ever take that away when they introduced “The Map”?

Andrew January 30, 2012 - 10:26 pm

It outlasted the map by over a decade – it was only removed in 2010. I never understood why.

ajedrez January 30, 2012 - 11:50 pm

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they didn’t have the tables. Instead they had a description of what the route did (essentially the same thing, but not in chart form)

Spiderpig February 1, 2012 - 4:50 pm

Yeah, I shouldn’t have said The Map. It was the big redesign in 2010 that took out the table, right?

Ed January 30, 2012 - 8:46 pm

I agree with the above commentators that this is a good, if overdue, idea.

But I have two criticisms. The first is about something that is probably difficult for the MTA to remedy. When I take the subway at night I will walk several blocks out of my way to get to a station that has the 6 train, simply because the IRT trains and particularly the 6 run much more frequently than the other trains. I will definitely not try to use the N if it can be avoided. Subway maps usually don’t show frequency of service, but given that only a handful of lines are stopped altogether and a handful of others shortened, a “Night Guide” which discussed frequency would probably have been useful than a “Night Map”.

The second criticism is that I’m not sure whether what the map does show (which lines don’t run at all, which lines are shortened, which express trains make local stops) couldn’t be shown on the normal map. You would have to show individual lines, like the KICK map, and then alter the look of the lines to indicate that they don’t run at night, though showing express lines that make local stops at night but not during the day would be tricky. But I think something like this is doable.

Kai B January 30, 2012 - 9:06 pm

Late night all operating services are at 20-minute intervals as far as I know. However with Lexington Avenue having two locals, you’re more likely to quickly get a train at a local station.

The Cobalt Devil January 30, 2012 - 9:48 pm

I remember when New Yorkers didn’t need a friggin’ map to tell them how to get around town at night. They actually figured it out for themselves and remembered which trains stopped running at night, and kinda knew that most lines run local after midnight. This damn generation wants everything spoon-fed to them!

-Sincerely, Cranky Old New Yorker

Andrew January 30, 2012 - 10:28 pm

Knowing that “most” lines run local after midnight isn’t enough if you’re going to a local stop – you need to know if the train that just pulled in is going to make your stop or not.

George January 30, 2012 - 9:52 pm

Why are they running no express lines on the east side of Manhattan but two lines on the westside?

why the R train make some stops in bay ridge only in one direction?

why dont they run J train to broad street?

Ron January 30, 2012 - 10:05 pm

The R not running in one direction at 2 stations is just because it runs on the express track so it doesn’t get in the way of the N train.

I never understood why the J doesn’t run to Broad on the weekend.

George January 30, 2012 - 10:17 pm

how is it getting in the way of anything? trains run every 20 minutes at night, so combined frequency of 10 minutes means they’re getting in each other’s way?

anyway, your explanation makes no sense. the R and the N use overlapping switches south of 59st.

Ron January 30, 2012 - 10:22 pm

If you’re going northbound, chances are you’re trying to get the N or D train. If the N train comes just before the R, you’re screwed and have to wait 20 minutes for an N train. The way the run it now, there’s a chance you’ll hit the transfer at the same time.

Alex C January 30, 2012 - 11:05 pm

Also, the R needs to use the switches north of 36 St. It’s for timing and convenience of switching.

Andrew January 30, 2012 - 10:30 pm

The train crew has to clear out the R at 36th before it pulls out. That takes a bit of time, especially if a homeless guy has decided to try to take shelter on the train. If the R is on the local track, it can block the next D or N. If it’s on the express, the only train it could potentially block is the next R, 20 minutes away.

Alex C January 30, 2012 - 11:06 pm

This is the best answer.
And one less switch for it to take.
This way the R doesn’t need to hold up the N/D going northbound.

Andrew January 30, 2012 - 10:31 pm

With the J running to Chambers, each crew makes three round trips. If the J were extended to Broad, each crew would only be able to make two round trips, so it would be a pretty expensive extension. With demand to Lower Manhattan relatively small on weekends, somebody decided it wasn’t worth the expense.

aestrivex January 31, 2012 - 3:21 pm

moreover, they also deem the expense redundant since the 4 runs the same route only a block away.

Benjamin S January 31, 2012 - 3:32 pm

Isn’t demand to lower Manhattan less relevant than demand to the West Side? You’re discounting the J transfer to the 2/A at Fulton street…the one time I’ve tried to do that transfer on the weekend, I got out and walked rather than waiting for the 4.

Andrew February 2, 2012 - 10:49 pm

I’m explaining it, not justifying it. Terminating one stop shy of a major transfer is crappy.

Al D January 31, 2012 - 3:46 pm

The 1 issue with this is that the much touted Fulton Street Transit Center is without a trunk line on the weekend. Some transit center…

Andrew January 30, 2012 - 10:36 pm

Late at night, frequency is more important than speed. Providing 10-minute service at every local stop is more beneficial than giving some people slightly faster trips. So in 1999, the two IRT trunks got two locals.

I don’t know why the D still runs express on Central Park West. Running it local would give better service.

The 3 only started running at night a few years ago. Since there are already two locals, the 3 runs express. (Also, there’s no way to terminate a local at Times Square.)

al January 30, 2012 - 11:34 pm

The west side already has 3 locals with the 1,2, and A. The east side has 2 with 4,6. Express runs on D saves some crew and equipment cost.

TP January 31, 2012 - 9:43 am

Late at night, frequency is more important than speed. Providing 10-minute service at every local stop is more beneficial than giving some people slightly faster trips.

Theoretically what you’re saying is true but in the real world, not so much. Late at night, people in Manhattan who make decent money take cabs. The train is full of working class people traveling out to the Outer Boroughs. So the irony is that a crowded uptown train at 1am is making local stops on the Upper West or Upper East Side, and practically nobody is getting on or off at those stations ’cause everybody’s going home to the Bronx. I think it’d actually make more sense to run more express trains late at night because of this, and I’d think you’d be able to find ridership numbers that show this pattern. White collar 9-5 workers live at 79th St and take the 1 downtown to their office, and the people who clean their office building after they leave live off Fordham Rd and appreciate a quick ride home.

I appreciate that the D runs express 24/7. It’s why it’s my favorite train. I’m a young able-bodied person so I can walk to the nearest express stop and wait for a quick train home.

Andrew February 2, 2012 - 11:01 pm

Classist much? The local stops on both the West Side and the East Side are quite busy at night. A fraction of the Manhattan residents do take cabs, but most still use the subway, and both neighborhoods are dense enough that they probably have more traffic at night than most Bronx stations.

And what about Bronx residents coming from Manhattan local stations?

The express stops on the line in question are over 3 miles apart. I’m glad that you’re able-bodied enough to consider that a reasonable walk, but most people trying to get home in the middle of the night don’t. And if they need to get to the Concourse or West End line, they have to make an extra transfer so that you can have your 24/7 express.

Benjamin S January 31, 2012 - 4:32 pm

I was once told that they ran the trains not every ten minutes, but each train every twenty minutes, one after the other, because when they’re doing night track work they need 17 minutes of headway to replace a section of track.

I assumed that the reason the 3 doesn’t run local is that they can’t get all three trains to run, still maintain twenty-minute headways, and allow for track work. And as for the D, it’s difficult to coordinate it with the A to allow for runs like that, mitigated somewhat by the fact that (at least downtown) the A and D tend to arrive at the same time to connect.

@TP, a lot of stops served by only local trains have plenty of office workers as well (1 at 50th, 6 at 51st & 33rd, CE at 50th, etc.), not to mention the nightlife stops in Hell’s Kitchen and the Village(s) that are local only. The logic doesn’t quite hold.

Andrew February 2, 2012 - 11:04 pm

Northbound, the A and D are scheduled to connect at 59th. But is the A held if it’s running early or if the D is running late?

Southbound, the A is scheduled to miss the connection with the D at 59th by one minute. Whoops.

And if you need to connect at 125th (to get to or from the Concourse line), you’ve missed your connection by 4 minutes in either direction.

Al D January 31, 2012 - 3:44 pm

The J runs to Broad weekovernights and Chambers weekendovernights

Ron January 30, 2012 - 9:57 pm

They forgot to label City Hall as a local stop on the 4 and 6 lines. They showed all the other stops on Lex as local. Same as the 1/2 at 14th Street.

Ed January 31, 2012 - 7:51 am

“Late at night, frequency is more important than speed. Providing 10-minute service at every local stop is more beneficial than giving some people slightly faster trips. So in 1999, the two IRT trunks got two locals.”

I agree, but I’ll add that local trains late at night run fairly quickly because you have fewer people getting off and on at each stop. The Lexington Avenue locals late at night run more quickly than the Lexington Avenue express trains at rush hour.

Really, they should take this approach to late night service in general. More frequent service, maybe on fewer lines in Manhattan (outer borough coverage is sparse enough that you can’t really drop a line and expect people to walk to the next one, but in Manhattan I already bypass the less frequent lines to use the relatively frequent IRT lines).

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