The MTA’s New Live Subway Map
October 20, 2020
Work & Co has launched the first major redesign of the MTA subway map in decades, and acclaimed filmmaker Gary Hustwit documented the process of creating a new "live map" — one that updates in real-time — to help New Yorkers and tourists better plan their journeys.
The Live Subway Map, which can be found at map.mta.info, is a more accurate, tech-forward option to printed maps and those commonly used on station walls. Using the MTA’s own data, the map, which is web-based to reach across a multitude of devices without a download, continually updates routes to illustrate current and accurate train service status.
The launch of the new map follows an 18-month partnership between Work & Co, the MTA, and the Transit Innovation Partnership, a public-private partnership between the MTA and the partnership for New York City. Work & Co led design concepting, detailed design, technical architecture, web application development, and quality assurance.
Work & Co collaborated with Hustwit —the director of design documentaries, including Helvetica, Objectified, and Rams— to produce a short film titled "The Map." The film examines the evolution of wayfinding and user interfaces and shows how good design and the latest digital technology can simplify one of the world's most complex transit systems. View the video up here.
"We saw an opportunity to help New York City by building a tool appropriate for our time,” said Felipe Memoria, founding partner at Work & Co. "As designers, we admire the history of the MTA’s legendary printed maps, but technology enables us to create something more powerful. We are laying the foundation for transit systems around the world to adopt real-time maps that further encourage the use of public transportation."
As we neared our original estimated launch, COVID-19 hit the world, and New York City was hit especially hard. The product we had been working on took on new meaning — illustrating how accurate train time data is not only critical for managing commutes but can help riders plan for more efficient riding and limited time in public places.
Sarah Feinberg, Interim President of New York City Transit, noted that the map is “part of a variety of efforts we’re taking to provide our customers with tools to help ensure their trips are as easy and dependable as possible.” She added: Especially valuable at a time when the MTA is facing a fiscal crisis of unprecedented magnitude because of COVID-19, I want to thank Work & Co for this incredible contribution to the transit system and to all New Yorkers.”
Key features of the new map, which is currently in beta, include:
- Automatically updating train lines: Train lines will redraw themselves using real-time data to illustrate current and accurate train service status. Sections of train lines fade out where a train line is not running and are denoted with dashes if trains are running in a single direction.
- Moving trains: The user will see trains moving, which helps to signal to users that the map is live and also reflect real-time locations of trains throughout the subway system.
- Zoom-In features: Greater map detail is exposed as the user zooms in, including the ability to see individual train lines, subway entrances, station names, and street locations and names.
- Subway accessibility: The new map highlights accessible stations and provides updates to accessibility-related equipment like elevators and escalators.
- Emergency alerts: The map uses the MTA’s data feed to convey official MTA communications for emergencies.
Work & Co on an annual basis asks team members to identify projects they may want to work on that contribute to and improve society, and helping the MTA update its iconic map —and improve and encourage the use of public transport—came up as a priority. This was a pro-bono project. Other pro-bono digital products the company has launched with the aim of helping society have included Planned Parenthood’s Roo, GiveBlck.org, and, most recently, Woke Vote.
Read more about our partnership with the MTA in The New York Times, Curbed, Fast Company, Time Out New York, and Gothamist.