Home Subway Maps An old feature returns on a new subway map

An old feature returns on a new subway map

by Benjamin Kabak

When the MTA unveiled their latest iteration of the subway map a few years ago, they did so with a caveat. The confusing service status box, detailing various changes at different times of day, disappeared, and the map was intended to represent peak-hour and midday service during the week only. A short-lived Night Map was available, depicting overnight service, and weekend changes are handled via signage and The Weekender. Last week, though, the status box made a triumphant and streamlined, albeit still flawed, return.

As many have noted and as I photographed last week, in addition to the reopened Montague St. Tunnels, the September printing of the subway map also contains a new guide to weekend and overnight service. Using subway bullets and better descriptors, the guide presents information in an easy-to-digest format. It lacks information — such as when these so-called “late night” service patterns begin — that isn’t readily available in the system. For some reason, the MTA hasn’t been keen to announce last trains on routes that don’t run 24 hours or when exactly, say, the D train will start running local in Brooklyn. That’s just something regular riders pick up, and the new feature doesn’t cover the gap.

Still, this is a welcome return of an old feature that shouldn’t have gone away in the first place. It’s not perfect, but it’s information that people need to ride. Otherwise, they may find themselves simply too confused by the subway map to make heads or turns of our ostensibly complicated network. Don’t believe me? Just talk to Bim Adewunmi instead.

If this looks familiar to some, it’s because this is a story I covered via an Instagram posting a few days ago but didn’t have a chance to write up until now. Follow Second Ave. Sagas on Instagram for more sights and scenes from the city’s subways.

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Elvis Delgado September 24, 2014 - 8:46 am

Just as an FYI, the “Night Map” was not short-lived. It is still being updated regularly and can be viewed here (September, 2014 edition):


Bgriff September 24, 2014 - 10:45 am

This isn’t perfect but it’s pretty good. Certainly much more accessible than the old service guide box, which required a dedicated study to make sense of.

And the new box does mention that late night service starts at midnight, though that is of little help to people waiting for B or C trains at 11:30pm (who won’t find them).

AlexB September 24, 2014 - 1:31 pm

The big problem for late night users concerns the Queens Blvd local line. There really needs to be a sign in each station in Manhattan saying “Last (R or M) Leaves at _:__.” At different times depending on the route, the M and R stop running completely every night. Unlike every other line, the substitutes (E and F) do not take over these routes in a logical fashion. If you want any of the local stops on the M or R between Rockefeller Center or 57th St and Jackson Heights, the replacement E local is two transfers away (F to B/D to E or N to B/D to E). If you know the system, it’s not that big of a deal to make your way to the E to start with, but it’s extremely annoying when you watch 3 Fs or Ns pass you because no one mentioned the M or R stopped running.

I personally found the service box very helpful and not very confusing. It seemed weird to have nothing anywhere on the map indicating what services operate when.

Kai B September 24, 2014 - 2:57 pm

Maybe the B and the M should just get an extra hour of service. Any reduction in edge cases for the time periods would certainly reduce confusion.

I guess with the likely change of the J south of Chambers from 24/5 (awkward unique schedule) to 24/7, we’ll lose one more of these edge cases.

In the meantime, I suppose below the B and M this could be added: “(starts at 11pm)”

BruceNY September 24, 2014 - 6:50 pm

One little ole’ hour of extra service? Your suggestions makes so much sense, and would seem to cost so relatively little–of course the MTA would never consider it!

ajedrez September 26, 2014 - 8:37 pm

And if they really wanted to, they could run it at the overnight headways (20 minutes) to save money for the last hour.

James G. September 24, 2014 - 3:56 pm

I know MTA has made a map with the 2nd Ave project (seen on this site’s banner) but have they shown a map for when the 7-line extension opens? (More than just something like this: http://cdn.secondavenuesagas.c.....ineMap.jpg)

Will they change the map when the Fulton Center opens? (I’m guessing no?)

Michael September 24, 2014 - 6:31 pm

Considering that “stuff often happens” in the subways, I suppose it would be a bit difficult to provide precise published times of last trains that are always followed.

There have been times late at night, waiting at Bowling Green, I’ve found that some conductors will announce that the #5 train is no longer running, and to take the #4 train. Maybe something like that could be done during the “edge times” when it may be questionable about whether or not a particular route is still running.

For example, a message such as following delivered over the loudspeakers or the automated message systems:

“Attention passengers the next R-train to arrive at 34th Street will be the last R-train to travel to Queens Blvd this evening. Riders may also use the E-train for travel along Queens Blvd.”

And then later on periodically flash:

“During the midnight/early morning hours, the R-train no longer runs in Manhattan or Queens. To travel to Queens riders should use the E-train.”

Something like the above would provide information, without having to be “up to the minute precise”. Nor does it fill the subway map with details that might change each evening simply due to this being NYC.

Considering that some London subway lines shut down for the evening, with the last time as a long-time noted event that local residents understand, NYC subways are really not as bad as Bim Adewunmi suggested. Some knowledge of the visited city is indeed helpful, the subway map should never be looked in isolation from the city it represents. The transit is only a guide to the general transit available, there are always arguments about what to include, what not to include, how to depict the information, etc.

The subway is a work in progress. If it were absolutely perfect in ALL ways (above and beyond every, any and all complaints) we’d really have nothing to talk about. (Smile)

Just some thoughts, Mike.

tacony September 25, 2014 - 10:09 am

The automated announcements on the trains could also read data from the countdown clocks to provide accurate information. I’ve thought this since the countdown clocks were first installed.

Why not have the train announce: “This is 14th St, Union Square. Transfer is available to the 4 train, which arrives in 4 minutes, the N train, which arrives in 7 minutes, and the Q train, which arrives in 8 minutes. 5 service is not available at this hour.”

It’d also make it easier to figure out when to transfer between express and local trains on the same line as well. This should be introduced once we get countdown clocks on the B division.

BruceNY September 24, 2014 - 6:55 pm

When I saw the headline of this post for a split second I had high hopes that they were going to group the lines by IRT, IND, and BMT Lines again. Sigh…oh, well! But it is a good thing to bring this information back to the map–though it makes me wonder “But what about the 1-train” during overnight? Could they group the 1/6/F, and any other 24-hour lines together in one more box and just say “Regular Service”?

Bolwerk September 24, 2014 - 7:04 pm

Why on Earth would you want that? Most New Yorkers wouldn’t understand it, let alone anyone who is visiting.

sonicboy678 September 24, 2014 - 11:22 pm

What would be the point of that?

Michael September 25, 2014 - 11:13 am

One of the basic but not often stated ideas behind the Subway Map is that the subway runs 24/7/365, that the majority (99%) of the 465 stations are open 24/7/365, that the majority of the train lines run 24/7/365 – except as noted below.

It is so that one can simply EXPECT their line or their station to be open and that train service is running.

This is in complete contrast to some other transit systems and commuter lines where the riders can expect nothing, unless the schedules provided say so. Unless there is a specific time for train service, and specific times for station openings – the rider is simply expected to believe that there no service what-so-ever.

The Subway Map & MTA is attempting to suggest to the subway rider, to always EXPECT service, except where the details are listed. Like a utility, one should expect service, rather than having the water or electricity shut off at defined times of the day or night. It is a different mind set.


Michael September 25, 2014 - 11:29 am

One idea behind the Subway Map is the subway, trains routes and stations are basically all open and running 24/7/365 – except where noted. It is that subway riders should come to expect that there is train service and open subway stations all of the time, except where noted.

By noting the exceptions, folks can plan around those exceptions – rather than having to constantly check if the basic services are running.

Instead of other transit systems or commuter lines where the riders are simply to expect NOTHING that is not written within the schedule of service. The riders are not to expect open stations, train service etc, unless the specific schedule says so.

The MTA & Subway are following the idea of a utility, like water or electricity – the users are expect that there is service. This is in contrast to other places where the water, electricity and/or other services regularly shut down during certain periods.

It is a different mind-set that they are after.

Michael September 25, 2014 - 12:25 pm

Sincere Apologies about the double-posting. Mike

Rich September 25, 2014 - 1:18 pm

When i first visited NYC a few years ago i was waiting for a C somewhere in Downtown Brooklyn to go to Franklin Av late-ish one evening. I checked with the station attendant who told me to take the C, and so I let 2 A trains (20+mins apart) pass before i realised that it must now count as “late evening” and the A was running local. I was close to an hour later getting home than i was expecting.

An announcement on the platform prior to the train or from the train attendant would have helped, ditto something on the platform/map to tell me when “late nights” actually started.

Obviously as a regular traveller you get to know your local situations, but in unknown parts of the city, or as an infrequent traveller or visitor you are unlikely to be aware of the ins and outs and might not have a phone/data to be able to check. Some such information at platform level is definitely helpful

Tom Durkin September 28, 2014 - 7:02 am

I see two problems with this particular status box.

The Z train isn’t shown as changing on weekends. While regular riders know the Z only runs at rush hours, the map doesn’t show this and even implies that, in Manhattan, it runs 24/7. The map has absolutely no indication that the “Broad Street” station is closed all weekend.

For a visitor, the information provided for truncated weekend (or overnight) routes is confusing. Take the Q-Train, for example. The status box seems to say the “Q” changes between 57 St and Coney Island—implying no change in Astoria. Of course, the opposite is true: there is no change in the segment listed and the portion not mentioned doesn’t run.

Adding the words “runs only” or even just “only” (for example, “Runs only 57 St/7 Av–Coney Island”) would be much clearer.


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