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110 Years of the Subway
Subway Map Timeline

The many versions of the map, reflect the subway"s evaluation from separate systems to unification, as well as the relationship between subway geography and city geography.

Notable Events
As with many other aspects of the subway systems extensive infrastructure, the earliest subway maps, dating back to 1904, were originally conceived as works of art. Individual transit companies produced paper maps depicting their routes transposed over the outline of boroughs, and the New York City street.

In 1958 the consolidated Transit Authority commissioned graphic designer George Salomon to design a system-wide map. The map was characterized by its sharp route lines, solid colors and orderliness which were stylistically related to the avant garde artistic movement of the 1950’s. Both clarity and aesthetic beauty were well emphasized.

In August 1972, the MTA unveiled a drastically different subway map designed by Massimo Vignelli (1931-2014). It showed the transit system as a series of straight lines that sometimes veered at 45 degree angles, rather than a more realistic tangle of curved paths. More information on Vignelli"s work for the MTA and reproductions of his designs are available at the New York Transit Museum and its store.

The MTA replaced the Vignelli map with Mike Hertz"s geographic approach in 1979 after customers complained about Vignelli"s “geographic inaccuracies” -- Central Park, for example, was a square rather than its actual rectangular shape – and others found it aesthetically confusing to make the water around New York beige rather than blue.

The current subway map in use, is a variation of the Hertz map, reflecting important streets, avenues, landmarks and natural features. It contains a significant amount of information and yet remains easy to read and understand.

The Weekender

The Weekender
In September 2011, The Weekender was introduced as a way to inform customers about the many diversions that occur each weekend when maintenance is done on the subway system. It presents a clear visual diagram showing exactly where work is being done.

This system incorporates blinking dots on a customized subway map, which specifically indicate areas of maintenance; if the dot is not blinking, there is no work being done in that location. With this structure in place, it allows customers to avoid the confusion of reading through lengthy descriptions of service changes on lines which may not necessarily affect them.

Over time, The Weekender has evolved into a mainstay for providing New York City Transit service information. There has also been the inclusion of The Weekender application for smartphones including the Android and iPhone, making weekend service information even more accessible while on-the-go.

Design of the diagram used as the base of The Weekender both online and in the mobile app is inspired by the 1972 New York City subway diagram designed by world renowned map maker and designer Massimo Vignelli, and was recently updated by Vignelli, Beatriz Cifuentes, and Yoshiki Waterhouse of Vignelli Associates. View the Weekender here.

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