Making the NYC region rail map

The Current Maps:

The currently available maps for commuter rail lines in the greater NYC region are a hot mess.  I mean, at the time of writing, clicking to view the Metro-North Railroad map takes you to the old MTA website, and to a hideous brown map.  Fortunately, the MTA released a map that fixes the inconsistencies between the agencies, but they don’t advertise it anywhere!

Its better, but it still faces the weaknesses with this style of map – You can’t reasonably use this map in paper form; the text sizes are far too small.  The final issue I have with this map is how a bunch of the LIRR lines merge off of one another; they do it at perfect 90 degree angles, despite having service to Penn Station!

The current New Jersey Transit map is significantly better off – it doesn’t try showing every major road and highway, and the shape of New Jersey works in its favor as far as text sizing is concerned.  My main complaint is how it tries showing every single line they own, like the EWR airtrain and the HBLR network.  I’m also not a huge fan of the inconsistent spots with crammed text, like Rutherford and Newark-Broad St, and the Montclair-Bontoon Line.

Designing a new map.

My design inspirations for the new map included the Viganelli MTA map and the brand new LIRR map, exclusively shown on the in-station screens.  I think this map is mostly meant as an art piece, but its absolutely awesome!

It still has weird angles on the Far Rockaway, Long Beach, and Oyster Bay branches for no discernable reason though.

And so, last week I set off to replicate a similar map with all 3 agencies (LIRR,MNRR,NJT)

The New Map

Edit: Click here for a full res light map, and click here for a full res dark map.

And here it is; a clean designed map, showcasing all 32 commuter rail lines in the NYC region (And the Trenton line)!

It does loose the geographical accuracy that both maps had, but I think it makes up for that with how readable this map is.  After all, its not like anyone’s using the Metro North map to walk to their destination; they are just using it to orient themselves and trace some lines.

I even made a dark version of the map; doesn’t have any advantages over the light map, but I prefer how the dark map looks.

Closing Remarks

Overall, I’m super happy how this map turned out!  Its nice and easy to use, and makes it easier to take intra-agency trips.

I’ve considered expanding this map in both directions to Philidelphia and Boston, but it would be very tough with how distorted this map already is.

I’d like to continue making some maps, so if you have any ideas for cities maps I should redesign, let me know!  (Looking at you, Chicago CTA / Metra!)

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