NYC Subway Map Public Competition-1964-R Raleigh D'Adamo-Gary Lloyd-Reka Komoli-2Submission to the 1964 NYC subway map competition by Raleigh D’Adamo, original design, reconstructed by Reka Komoli

Ever wonder why the 1/2/3 lines are red, or the N/Q/R yellow? Curbed NY has an article that explains it all. We first have to begin in the era when the NYC subway system was really three different systems–the IRT, the BMT and and the IND. Sometimes you can still see the tiles in the underground that reference the old terminology. It seems like New Yorkers like to hang on to old things, as these colors stayed even a couple decades after the unification of the systems in 1940.

On the subway map even in the 1960s, with 34 at the time, it wasn’t the clearest maps. And so in 1964, there was a public competition for the redesign.

Enter R. Raleigh D’Adamo, a lawyer and transit enthusiast. The basic tenants of his ideas were:

  • More colors, with effort made so that the colors don’t clash with each other
  • No dot, no stop“: Using station symbols to denote stops, and different symbols for local and express
  • Different routes on the same tracks depicted with alternating squares of color: this idea wasn’t implemented, but rather now we have multiple lines side by side with their colors denoted

Another issue, writes Max Roberts of Tube Map Central, who reimagined the NYC subway in concentric circles, “D’Adamo observed that riders couldn’t trace routes end-to- end in the map’s diverging and converging lines, where branches of a trunk line shared the same colour.”

NYC Subway Map Public Competition-1964-R Raleigh D'Adamo-Gary Lloyd-Reka KomoliDowntown excerpt 

 D’Adamo’s hand drawn map was filed with the other winners, used for a study for a future map. It’s been lost, but in October of 2014 D’Adamo found a photograph and the map was reconstructed digitally in partnership with Peter B. Lloyd of Transit Map History and designer Reka Komoli.

Next, check out an animated GIF map of the evolution of the NYC subway system.

 Cities 101, Fun Maps, subway

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