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Adventure Blog

Mapping the World’s Subway Systems

Buzz Poole
07/05/2011 - 00:00

Big news out of London for fans, and critics, of the tube map: Mark Noad has recently made public a new design. Originally conceived by engineer Harry Beck in 1931, the London tube map is an icon of information design. Noad acknowledges this but avers that it has not aged well. On the new map’s companion blog, Noad explains his justification for the re-design: “There are twice as many lines, with London Overground and the DLR moving the emphasis away from the Circle line loop. Also, the map will increasingly be viewed on screen so we are not constrained by the limitations of the printed page.”

I’ve ridden the tube a few times per year for the last several years and I’ve always been able to understand it, and am now more or less familiar with the system. But I do still get caught making lengthy underground transfers in parts of town I visit less than others. Apparently, I’m not alone in this, and the new design better visualizes actual distances. As is to be expected, the re-design has critics and converts, but as Noad points out, the times change.

Just last year, the New York City MTA issued an overhauled subway map. The world’s fourth busiest subway system had last done a re-design a little more than ten years earlier. (Here is a great New York Times interactive feature about the differences in the two maps.)

The world’s three other busiest subway systems are Tokyo, Seoul and Moscow. 

What are your favorite subway systems? What system maps have made your head spin?



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