NYC regional rail map: Part 2

The Why:

The 3 railroads are very intimidating networks.  Unlike their easy to understand subway counterparts, the railroads feature tons of unlabeled service patterns and oddities that I find aren’t advertised very well on the existing maps.  Some branches go express, some local, some require transfers to shuttles (Greenport, Wassaic, New Haven branches).  The Montauk branch travels both via the Montauk and Babylon branches, but it is shown rather weirdly on the map.

The LIRR/MNRR map’s also tackle downtown the (in my opinion) lazy way: Instead of showing which branches go where, they just plop down gray lines and tell you to figure it out yourself.


There’s also a bunch of express trains, which save tons of time, that aren’t advertised on the current map.  The most egregious being a lack of Metro-North expresses, being the only agency of the 3 with full-time all day express trains on dedicated tracks.

Designing a new map.

Like the last version, my design inspiration for the new map included the Viganelli MTA map and the brand new LIRR map, exclusively shown on the in-station screens.  This map is mostly meant as an art piece, but its absolutely awesome!

This time around, I pivoted away from the LIRR art map, and closer to the Vignelli subway diagram, in an attempt to give NYC 2 consistent maps.  This included no longer using ANY angular text, and showing (most) services as independent lines.

The New Map

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

Here it is: My final tri-agency map!  This map was always the end-goal, but it took me a few weeks to finally figure out an approach that works.  Originally, I tried giving every LIRR line its own individual line, and the result was a complete mess in downtown.  Grouping similar lines was the only conceivable way for me to show the service patterns of every line.

Unfortunately, this map still doesn’t quite show every service pattern.  There’s a bunch of peak-time New Haven line trains that run semi-express, and make 5 or so stops between Stamford and Harlem-125th which I was unable to map.  I was also unable to map express Morristown / Gladstone line trains, as I couldn’t find any regular pattern.  I’m happy that it shows the general service patterns, though.

The Timetable Rant:

This very well could be my next post.  All 3 agencies timetables are SO FRUSTRATINGLY BAD!!!

This is one example of a major timetable annoyance.  Pictured left is a Port Jefferson branch schedule, while pictured right is a Hempstead branch line schedule.  On the Port Jefferson line, it appears that train 1502 goes right from New Hyde Park to Elmont / UBS, when it actually makes a stop at Floral Park.  Why the first schedule doesn’t mention that in any form is anyone’s guess.

This also exemplifies another issue I have with the schedules: They show too damn much.  These schedules don’t just show trains on their respective branch, but instead show any trains that share multiple stops with that branch.  This leaves the schedules bloated, and makes them harder to read; all so that a passenger at Elmont knows they can take a Port Jefferson train (Why not show a mini / inset schedule with those trains instead of bloating the main schedule?)

Since this is the ranting section, I wanted to add a few things pointed out to me on the MNRR / LIRR maps, and a few things that I’ve noticed since the last post:

Idk how both of these maps passed through checks, honestly.  Up until last week, when you clicked on the individual LIRR/MNRR maps, 3 stops were missing.  Fortunately, the new railroads map fixes this, but its funny how long these errors were around for.

Say what you will about me missing some stops in my first map, but I only missed 2 stops, compared to the MTA’s 3…  And I’m a Bostonian… and I didn’t have anyone to peer-review the last map…

Closing Remarks

I’m super happy with how this map turned out!  I’m also super excited to see how this map gets used.  If just one person uses this for an actual trip on one of the railroads, I’ll be psyched!

I’m really tempted to set up map commissions.  These maps take ABSOLUTELY FOREVER, so ideally if I want to make more maps, I can get a little money for my efforts.  Email me on the contact page, or reach out to me on reddit / discord if you want to buy a map.

If I do decide to make another large map, a CTA / METRA shared map is definitely next.

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