Fact: Hoboken, New Jersey is closer to Manhattan than most parts of Brooklyn. But few newcomers to New York, and even fewer tourists, ever cross the Hudson River to venture into the Garden State. Folks who have lived here less than a decade don't even seem to realize there's a light rail system connecting NYC and Jersey, and NJ Transit's atrocious website certainly doesn't make it easy to navigate.
This week, however, an unusual confluence of events led up to the release of a new NYC-region mass transit map bringing Jersey into the fold. The Superbowl is coming to town—well, to the Meadowlands—next month, and to make it easier for the influx of football fans to find the stadium, the MTA commissioned the new map (above) from Vignelli Associates.
Massimo Vignelli, of course, has a long history with NYC mass transit and graphic design: In addition to bringing Helvetica to the subway system, his design for the New York City Subway Diagram of 1972 was loved by design fans for its clean, non-geographic presentation.
Vignelli's '72 map was scuttled just seven years later in favor of this one, which hewed more closely to the actual geographical map of New York:
Fans of Vignelli's map said his was easier to read; fans of the '79 map said its addition of labeled streets made it easier to actually get around. Interestingly enough, Benjamin Kabak, who runs the unofficial NYC subway news website 2nd Ave. Sagas, fingers crime as the reason for the change:
[Massimo's '72 map] was a victim of the zeitgeist that hovered over New York City in the early 70s. Crime, graffiti and filth were a great disincentive for traveling around the city by subway, and when riders did venture forth, they wanted to be as close as possible to their above-ground destination, since everyone has an above-ground destination.
Vignelli's map so distorted the positioning and spacing between stations, streets and landmarks that the uninitiated rider could not trust it to assure that he was where he wanted to be...and this created a mistrust and public objection... [The '72 map presented] an unreality with which visitors and inexperienced riders apparently felt uncomfortable.
While the '79 map is still pretty much the one we live with today, with minor updates, in 2008 the now-defunct Men's Vogue asked Vignelli to update his '72 map. Here's what he came up with, in conjunction with Vignelli Associates principals Yoshiki Waterhouse and Beatriz Cifuentes (now Beatriz Cifuentes-Caballero):
The 2008 map was intended to be just for fun, only to appear in the (web)pages of Men's Vogue; but the MTA subsequently began using it for their interactive "The Weekender" website, and some design firms, like NYC-based Stereotype Design, have co-opted it to show their location on their Contact page:
Which brings us to the new Superbowl map, which the MTA is sexily calling the Regional Transit Diagram. It appears to draw heavily from the 2008 map, though the MTA solely credits "Yoshiki Waterhouse of Vignelli Associates" with the design. And what you see up top is not a zoom-in, but the map in its totality; Brooklyn has been completely cropped out. The Garden State is finally getting their cartographic day in the sun.