Are Our Transit Maps Tricking Us?

Jessica Gross, writing for the Atlantic Cities:

London’s city center takes up about two percent of the city. On the Tube map, it looks four times as big.

Over in New York City, Central Park—which is a skinny sliver, much longer than it is wide—was depicted in some 1960s and ‘70s IRT maps as a fat rectangle on its side.

So public transit maps are distorted, quite on purpose. All of them enlarge city centers. Many use a fixed distance between stations out in the boonies, even if, in reality, they’re spaced wildly differently. Curvy lines are made straight. Transfers are coded with dots, lines, and everything in between.

Part of that has to do with design, but I’d guess the other part has to do with the way we assign names to places. When population density increases—as it does in London’s city center—toponymic density also rises.

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