Urban Fold

Owning up to NYC's Subway Map Mistakes

Matt Flegenheimer reports on how newly found errors in New York's vaunted subway map have reignited a battle over who deserves credit for its design, and who should own up to its mistakes.

Replacing the previous design by Massimo Vignelli, the current New York subway map was always intended to be more artful than factual in its cartography. However, John Tauranac, who headed the committee given the daunting assignment in 1979 to update and redesign Vignelli's map, only uncovered some of its glaring geographic inaccuracies a few weeks ago.
"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."
"But Mr. Tauranac's sheepish discovery of the errors has at once rekindled and complicated a long-simmering debate over who deserves credit for the watershed 1979 guide," states Flegenheimer. Michael Hertz, whose firm was credited with designing the initial template for the map said, "He's overseeing the project," adding that he himself perhaps deserved some blame, but "not as much" as Mr. Tauranac. "I was not an expert on the geography of the city," he said.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will consider revising future subway map editions after taking into consideration these new findings.

Full Story: On the Vaunted City Subway Map, Mistakes and Phantom Blocks


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