The colorful history of the New York City subway map revealed


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New York Metropolis, 1932 – at that time, the New York Metropolis subway has been round for a whopping 28 years. With 472 station stops, round 800 miles of monitor, and over 20 totally different subway strains, one is perhaps shocked to listen to that in 1932, the NYC subway system was making an attempt to label all 27 subway strains with solely three colours. To even get near understanding how NYC subways went from three colours to at the moment’s 10, one must communicate to a person named Peter Lloyd.

Lloyd is an beginner historian of the New York Metropolis subway system. He not solely is aware of the system’s ins and outs he additionally is aware of the story of the inventive geniuses that introduced the system to the place it’s at the moment. The New York Metropolis subway system has an extended and excellent historical past, however with a view to be taught the place the color-coding system originated, we have to speak about 2 key gamers.

Firstly, there’s Raleigh D’Adamo, winner of a contest that the New York Metropolis Transit Authority held in 1964, and technically the creator of the fashionable color-coding system that exists inside the NYC subway system at the moment.


In 1964, the NYCTA contest known as on graphic designers to try to design a option to manage the extraordinarily disorganized subway system. D’Adamo wasn’t a graphic designer by occupation, however he was a subway map guru and a person with an thought, so he entered the competition and to his shock, he was considered one of three winners.

Though not the main focus of the competition, his background in training regulation got here in helpful; D’Adamo says, “to clarify it [his idea] I wrote a 19-page report evaluating New York Metropolis’s system with different methods like London and Paris.” D’Adamo went on to clarify that the important thing phrase that caught the eyes of the judges was, “It’s clear that the maps of the New York Metropolis subway system are utilizing too few colours to do an excessive amount of work.” All in all, D’Adamo’s thought was that each line could be assigned a shade, and so the fashionable coding system was born.

This organizational technique labored for a number of years however having a map with over 20 colours on it will definitely began to confuse folks. That is the place John Tauranac enters the image. At the moment, Tauranac is a professor at NYU, however again within the day, he was the chief of a key workforce within the MTA when the NYC subway map was going by way of some vital adjustments. To simplify the colour system, Tauranac and his workforce determined to include one thing known as “trunk strains.”


Trunk strains made it so subway strains that ran on the identical avenue have been all labeled the identical shade. Lloyd explains it finest when he says, “Lexington Avenue has three strains operating down it, the four, 5 and 6. Now again within the 60’s and 70’s every of these routes had its personal shade. John Tauranac’s thought was to color these three routes the identical shade and that meant he can draw a single line as an alternative of three strains, saving area.” This trunk line system remains to be in impact, and New York Metropolis has John Tauranac to thank for the easy-to-read maps of at the moment.

New York Metropolis is dwelling to the biggest speedy transit system on this planet. Nevertheless, with regards to reliability, it finds itself in the direction of the underside of the listing. This may increasingly change, however after understanding the wealthy and longstanding historical past of the NYC subways, it may be agreed upon that the correctly organized and precisely coloured system we at the moment have is much better than the considered one of bygone days.

See the unique video interview with Lloyd above to get the total story.

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