MTA launches live subway map, creating next generation map following Hertz and Vignelli designs

Oct. 21, 2020
The digital map reflects service changes in real time and will replace the static "Weekender."

A new digital live subway map was launched by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a first of its kind guide to navigating the subway system in real time. 

The new map, which allows riders to plan trips more easily by taking into account service changes and seeing train movements as they happen, is the byproduct of an 18 month-long public-private partnership between the MTA, the Transit Innovation Partnership and Brooklyn-based global design and technology firm Work & Co. Currently in its beta phase, the map which can be accessed at, will ultimately replace The Weekender and will serve as the primary interactive means for moving around the subway system.

The ambitious marks the subway map’s first major redesign in four decades, replacing the design by Unimark International and Michael Hertz Associates seen widely on printed maps today. The Live Subway Map beta merges the best features of the existing printed map with the distinctive “Vignelli” approach of The Weekender by overlaying clear and detailed track routes atop a geographically-correct street grid that becomes more detailed as the user zooms in. 

MTA says Work & Co designed and developed the web-based digital tool on a completely pro bono basis with the goal of making the lives of New Yorkers easier. The map allows customers to navigate the system in an intuitive and digital way. Customers will no longer have to read through printed station signage to determine how they should travel throughout the system. 

In another first, the Live Subway Map beta shows the locations of trains as they move along the system in real time. 

“This beta 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,” said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit. “We want rider feedback as we continue to develop this exciting new tool. 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.” 

“Every rider has had the experience where we get on a train one weekend, look up from our phones and see a place we didn’t expect to see. When New Yorkers use this map, that will no longer happen,” said Sarah Meyer, New York City Transit chief customer officer. The map that Work & Co. has generously donated to the people of New York—will make their lives easier.” 

A key benefit of the new digital map is a feature to customize for individual rider journeys. With just a few taps, a time filter allows users to decide if they view current train service or future service with “Now,” “Tonight” and “Weekend" options.  

By selecting “Tonight,” a user can see what the map will look like after 9:00 p.m. to reflect nighttime service changes. An accessibility button highlights accessible stations. 

When users tap on a specific station, they’ll see information that lists the trains that arrive at that station, and the arrival times for any train scheduled to arrive within an hour. This is achieved using existing MTA data already feeding countdown clocks, the MYmta app and various third-party apps. 

“Modernizing transit is integral to New York City’s recovery and the MTA Live Subway Map brings more information to transit customers at this critical time,” said Rachel Haot, executive director of the Transit Innovation Partnership. “We applaud our partners at Work & Co. and the MTA for collaboratively developing a first-of-its-kind digital tool that transforms the transit experience and for their shared commitment to innovation.” 

"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. The Live Subway Map design incorporates the geometric clarity of Massimo Vignelli’s diagram with the geographical and organic curves of the Hertz map. With this new tool, train lines are up-to-date, and service changes are represented visually. We are laying the foundation for transit systems around the world to adopt real-time maps that further encourage the use of public transportation." 

The Live Subway Map will continue to evolve based upon user feedback, which can be submitted through the map site. 

Features of the MTA Live Subway Map 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 that help 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.
  • Airports: The map visualizes both major airports and the primary means of accessing them via the MTA system. The map indicates which train lines connect with buses and the AirTrain to be able to access the airports. Users can tap or click on an airport to learn even more about how to access the airport using public transportation.
  • Add to home screen for quick reference: iPhone and Android users can add the map to their home screen to access the map more quickly. The web-based map then behaves like a standalone app. Future integration with the MYmta app may be developed.
  • Dynamic and shareable URL: The URL will store the location a user is looking at, the zoom level they are on, the train line they've filtered by, and whether or not accessibility mode is turned on. This allows users to share exactly what they are looking at with each other, or, to save or bookmark a unique URL based on their preferred train line.