stand clear of the closing doors

The Subway Map Is Not Entirely Accurate

Can we believe the accuracy of this logo?

In 1972, a designer named Massimo Vignelli created the New York City subway map, with a 1979 resdesign that only amplified the nearly universal acclaim for the work. Forty years later, John Tauranac, the guy in charge of the redesign committee, discovered that there are some mistakes in the map. Not the subway stops, but in the city grid. The Times explains:

On the West Side of Manhattan, beginning near Lincoln Center and extending toward the campus of Columbia University, Broadway is seemingly misplaced. It is west of Amsterdam Avenue at West 66th Street when it should be east. It drifts toward West End Avenue near 72nd Street, where it should intersect with Amsterdam. It overtakes West End Avenue north of the avenue’s actual endpoint near West 107th Street, creating several blocks of fictitious Upper West Side real estate. […]

Though [West End] avenue is subsumed by Broadway near West 107th Street, the 1979 map incorrectly showed the two merging three blocks north, at the station entrance for the No. 1 train. On the current map, West End Avenue has inexplicably been extended to around West 116th Street, forging roughly nine blocks of phantom terrain.

It’s surprising it’s taken this long for these mistakes to emerge, of course, but not as surprising as it is that there’s now a battle to take the blame. Michael Hertz, whose firm did the first round of design work on the 1979 version, says it was he, and not Tauranac, who messed up. And by “messed up,” he means designed the thing — there’s a long-simmering battle between the two over credit for the work, and apparently they’ll take the bad with the good. Though the designers seem sheepish about the mistakes, the MTA insists that they are not such a big deal and were part of purposeful “design decisions” that made the thing more readable. “This is not a street map,”  a spokesman told the Times. “This is a subway map.” One that’s been lying to us all these years! And yet we can’t seem to get mad: This must be love. Mildy inaccurate or not, that thing’s awfully helpful.

The Subway Map Is Not Entirely Accurate