We have found some of the most interesting subway maps from several different cities across the globe for your viewing pleasure. The term maps is a misnomer because these are diagrams rather than maps devoid of any topographical features or scale. In the beginning of the 20th Century, map makers realized that trying to remain true to the scale of the city made maps unwieldy so they ditched both the scale and the topographical features. Eventually these maps became colorful diagrams which contains the basic information needed to get from point A to point B.
The current map of Mexico’s 11 subway lines is the most dramatic in terms of graphic design. It is simple with bare minimum information. The entire system is about 100 miles long and Mexico has plans to add four more lines to the system by 2015. Like Montreal, Mexico City spent a great deal of time and money to expand their subway system prior to 1968 Olympics. The work was not completed until after the Olympics, due to technical problems resulting from tunneling under the lake bed on which Mexico city is situated.
New York City’s Transit system is the only one which uses a subway map with topographical information. In 1972 Massimo Vignelli designed a modern diagrammatic map but New Yorkers found it confusing and complained. So in 1979 a new map was introduced designed by Mike Hertz which brought back the topographical features like major parks and waterways and that map has been in use for more than a quarter of a century.
London’s Underground Map is a cultural icon. It was first designed by Harry Beck in 1931 as a simple line map reminiscence of an electrical diagram. Subsequently that map has been refined several times and the modern 2007 map includes 110 stations and six additional lines. One of the distinct features of the map is its Sans-Serif font and the red circle with a bar across it, it is now identified with London’s tube world over, and is as much a London trade mark as Big Ben Tower.
The Metro System of Moscow is the largest and the busiest system in the world, carrying approximately 7 million people a day. The earliest maps of the system date back to mid 1930. The current map (2007) of the Moscow Metro is designed by Artemy Lebdev’s Studio, and is one of the most beautiful maps. It effectively displays a very extensive system of 188 metro stations strung over 200 miles of subway lines.
The Tokyo transit system is one of the largest transit systems in the world, covering an astonishing large area of 5,200 square miles. It connects to, and incorporates the largest commuter rails system in the world, serving approximately 35 million riders. In 2004 the Tokyo Metro initiated a new subway map where each station was identified by a number preceded by an alphabet letter denoting the transit line. This method of identifying stations by a number, and the lines by a letter simplified navigating through a very complex and interconnected transit system.
Washington DC’s Metro map is a marvel of graphic design. Despite the fact that it includes topographical features like Potomac River, Beltway and city monuments it still feels like a diagram than a map, unlike New York City’s subway map which still feels more like a map than a diagram. Washington DC’s Metro is one of the most advanced subway systems in the United States. It has not only air-conditioned trains but also has air-conditioned Stations. The platform edges light up as the train approaches. The capital M in white on a black panel has been adopted as the Logo of the system and is effectively used throughout the city to identify the entrances to stations.
Prior to 1976 Olympics, Montreal like Mexico City launched an extensive plan to built an entirely modern metro system, and showcase it during the Olympics. It was an expensive proposition but Montreal did not cut any corners, as a result Montreal’s Metro is one of the most stylized subway systems in the world. Montreal’s Metro stations are bright, spacious, architecturally distinct and are filled with art works. The Montreal Metro map is set on a black background which is not very common. However, the black background with bold brightly colored lines makes it a strikingly beautiful map.
* Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden was used as one of the sources for this article.
Metro and Underground Maps Designs around the World http://www.noupe.com/inspiration/metro-and-underground-maps-design-around-the-world.html
Recently Atlantic Cities also posted World’s Best Subway Maps on their site: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2011/09/20-subway-maps/227/#slide6