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"The “Unofficial” Subway Maps: A Look at How Individual Mapmakers Have Depicted the Mysterious Workings of the Subway," with John Tauranac, the design chief of the official MTA 1979 subway map and a freelance mapmaker.


April 27, 2010

Ever since New York’s first successful subway opened in 1904, mapmakers have been trying to explain where the subway goes.  The approaches include geographic subway maps that detail every street to schematic maps that have the system operating in a void to everything in between. Some of the maps have been designed with corporate sponsorship.  Banks, hotels, department stores, “Ma Bell,” they have all underwritten subway maps, in part to show how easy it is to get to their sites, in part to perform a civic service.  Many mapmakers, from major map companies such as Hagstrom to individuals with little more than a drawing board and an idea, have scaled the heights and produced maps on their own, if only because, like Everest, the subway is there.   Learn about  the good, the bad, and the ugly.