Design

Top Infographics: Subway Maps Around The World

Among all types of infographics, maps are my favourite kind. It’s really fascinating how much information a well designed map is able to communicate. And this makes subway maps both a challenge and a nightmare to designers.

Long before cars became our primary means of transport, the use of interurban transit provided commuters a way of traveling big distances inside a city. In 1933 the first subway map was created by Harry Beck: London Underground, a classic which then got imitated by many other means of transport. His design was inspired by electrical circuit diagrams, leaving aside the geographic references in order to make it clearer. Quite a lot has happened since then.

Much can be learnt from subway designs, and this is why I think some examples around the world can be very inspiring. I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to find all the designers behind these maps so if anyone finds out any of the ones missing please help me to complete this list.

I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible concerning dates and facts*, but if anyone sees a mistake, please leave a comment and I’ll revise.

 

1. London (UK)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- London-
Year opened:
1863
System Length: 402 km (250 mi)
Map Designer: Harry Beck (1931), H. Hutchison (1960), Paul Garbutt (1964)

 

2. New York (US)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- New York

Year opened: 1868 (Elevated),1904 (Subway)
System Length: 373 km (232 mi)
Map Designer: Michael Hertz Associates (1979)

 

3. Budapest (Hungary)


BP-metro_vill 120420.cdr
Year opened:
1896
System Length: 30.8 km (19.1 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

4. Boston (US)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Boston
Year opened:
1897
System Length: 61 km (38 mi)
Map Designer: Mikheil Kvrivishvili (2013)

 

5. Chicago (US)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Chicago-

Year opened: 1897
System Length: 165.4 km (102.8 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

6. Paris (France)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Paris
Year opened:
  1900
System Length: 213 km (132 mi)
Map Designer: Jean-Baptiste Berlier (1900)

 

7. Berlin (Germany)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Berlin
Year opened:
  1902
System Length: 151.7 km (94.3 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

8. Athens (Greece)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Athens
Year opened:
  1904
System Length: 79.6 km (49.5 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

9. Buenos Aires (Argentina)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Buenos Aires
Year opened:
  1913
System Length: 47.1 km (29.3 mi)
Map Designer: Diseño Shakespear Argentina (2010)

 

10. Madrid (Spain)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Madrid
Year opened:  1919
System Length: 293 km (182 mi)
Map Designer: Juan de la Mata (1920), Estudio RaRo S.L. (2007)

 

11. Tokyo (Japan)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Tokyo
Year opened:
  1925
System Length: 34.5 km (21.4 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

12. Moscow (Russia)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Moscow-
Year opened:
  1935
System Length: 317.5 km (197.3 mi)
Map Designer: Art. Lebedev Studio (2010)

 

13. Lisbon (Portugal)


Diagrama Metr-CP out
Year opened:
1959
System Length: 45.5 km (28.3 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

14. Kiev (Ukraine)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Kiev
Year opened:
  1960
System Length: 67.5 km (41.9 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

15. Montréal (Canada)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Montreal
Year opened:
1966
System Length: 69.2 km (43.0 mi)
Map Designer: ?, Thomas J. (proposal 2009)

 

16. Oslo (Norway)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Oslo
Year opened:
1966
System Length: 84.2 km (52.3 mi)
Map Designer: 2012 ?

 

17. Mexico City (Mexico)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Mexico
Year opened:
1969
System Length: 226.5 km (140.7 mi)
Map Designer: Lance Wyman

 

18. Beijing (China)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Beijing
Year opened:
1971
System Length: 456 km (283 mi)
Map Designer: Zhang Lide (1984)

 

19. Pyongyang (North Korea)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Pyongyang
Year opened:
1973
System Length: 22 km (14 mi)
Map Designer: Sakazaki Motohiko (2007)

 

20. Seoul (South Korea)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Seoul
Year opened:
1981
System Length: 320.5 km (199.1 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

21. Caracas (Venezuela)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Caracas
Year opened:
  1983
System Length: 54.2 km (33.7 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

22. Singapore (Singapore)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Singapore
Year opened:
  1987
System Length: 146.5 km (91.0 mi)
Map Designer: Land Transport’s Master Plan 2013

 

23. Istanbul (Turkey)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Istanbul
Year opened:
  2000
System Length: 141 km (88 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

24. Brasília (Brazil)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Brazilia
Year opened:
2001
System Length: 42.4 km (26.3 mi)
Map Designer: ?

 

25. Almaty (Kazakhstan)


Virginia Duran Blog- Infographics- Subway Map- Almaty
Year opened:
  2011
System Length: 8.5 km (5.3 mi)
Map Designer: Gleb K. Samoilov (2013)


*All technical information is based on this source.
Further reading: I really enjoyed the diagrams in this article about the world’s largest subway maps.


 

50 thoughts on “Top Infographics: Subway Maps Around The World

    • You’ve used quite a lot of them! Is Tokyo really easier than it looks? If you had to choose one of those subways for its clarity which would it be? I’ve got to say that Madrid is really easy to use.

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      • Madrid is very easy! Tokyo’s challenge is that it is a collection of several different systems, owned by different companies. You often have to buy another ticket to make connections if you don’t figure out the correct transfer combination🙂

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        • Oh, that was unexpected! So it isn’t owned by the government? Is it more like a private service? That’s very curious in fact. The smarter you are the less you’ll pay, right?

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        • I think they were originally built by the companies that owned the big department stores, with stations in the store! So convenient🙂

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  1. Love this post! I used Chicago,NYC and Paris transportation . Maybe you you would like to add Paris map, it’s one of the best transportations in the world.In terms of confusion I find Japan’s map extremely confusing!! Thank you again!!:)

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    • And between all those 3 which one seemed better in terms of clarity? I remember New York’s subway being quite confusing. It took us a while to figure out several trains stopped on the same platform. I’ve never been to Japan but it looks like a nightmare to me too haha. Oh and Paris’ is number 6😉

      Good to see you here🙂

      Like

  2. What a fabulous collection of maps! One of the interesting things about the London Underground is that there are a few stations that look quite far apart on the map but are actually almost on top of each other… the map is beautiful in its design and symmetry but it is often very deceiving. I always enjoy your blog!
    Best,
    James

    Like

    • Hello James, good to see you here🙂 I though of the same when I visited it. Sometimes we went walking and when I checked the distance on the map it looked further away. But besides that, it was clear and easy to understand how it works. Also, I liked the low height of the ceilings in the trains, it made it kind of cozy🙂

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  3. Of course London is always my favorite! But I am happy to say Los Angeles is back on track (so to speak). At its height LA had about 1200 miles of rail taking people to every corner of Greater Los Angeles. By the 1960s that was zero as the freeways and cars had taken over. But in 1990 the Blue Line opened and today we have six lines and 90 miles of rail… a long way to go but it is happening despite the NIMBYs (Not In My Neighborhood!). Riding on the underground Red Line I always feel like I am back in London. It is exciting. All the train lines are experiencing at least double the ridership that was expected… and we can only go up from here! Thanks for posting these maps.

    Like

    • I didn’t about Los Angeles subway. When I visited the city we went by car and I can only remember the traffic jams! So having a good urban infrastructure makes a lot of sense. The NIMBYs made me laugh. I didn’t know about its big growth either, sounds like the city is doing better and better. Do you think it will continue expanding?

      Like

    • hahah really? Well, to me the Mecca subway map is quite beautiful although I don’t think is very useful. Mexico it looks kind of a mess but it’s not that bad, actually when I visited the city I thought it would be harder than it turned out to be. What about the others? Did you get a chance to visit some of these?

      Like

      • The only two subways I have used are Washington DC and Chicago, although both are a mix of elevated train tracks and subway tunnels.

        I don’t particularly like public transportation as there are usually way too many other people around.

        As for choosing those two, it was just my estimate of two maps that would be somewhat useless unless one is already familiar with the lines.

        I can also say with a fair degree of confidence I will not be riding either of those two . . . ever.

        There are a few I might get a chance to use, but no immediate plans for it. Likely, even if I am at those places, I would avoid the subway . . . except Tokyo . . . maybe.

        Like

  4. I’ve ridden on several of those (London, New york, Boston, Chicago, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Montreal, Beijing, Oslo, Berlin). I should note that your map for Istanbul is out-of-date.🙂

    They’re in the process of adding lines and extensions to current lines. All of Istanbul seems like one giant construction site.

    Like

      • You’re welcome! The clearest maps were London, Paris, and B.A. Seoul and Tokyo make me think you need a magnifying glass to read them. Of course, that could be because there are so many stops and only so much space on the maps.

        Like

  5. Hi Virginia,
    I found your blog via an update from Kersten Harries. Your posts are very refreshing! I have added links to your city guides and maps to my blogs about Travel Resources for Architects on my Architects House Exchange website,
    http://www.architectshouseexchange.com/blogs/1/23/travel-resources-for-architects and
    http://www.architectshouseexchange.com/blogs/1/28/travel-resources-for-architects.
    I update these blogs when I come across new resources.
    I also just set up a LinkedIn group for all things travel related just for architects, The Architects Travel Network, http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Architects-Travel-Network-7418918/about. You are welcome to join and start and contribute to discussions if you are interested!
    Eva

    Like

    • Eva,

      Thanks for including my links to your site, which by the way looks amazing. Love the idea. Many useful information regarding events, magazines and other resources.
      Just joined the group and I’m currently signing up on your web.

      Virginia

      Like

      • Hi Virginia,

        Delighted you joined the LinkedIn Group and that you would like to join Architects House Exchange!

        There are lots of people doing great work in the area of travel for architects: it’s good to make connections, I believe that there is strength in numbers. I just read your post about the Julius App, look forward to more updates!

        Eva

        Like

  6. Hey Virginia. We’re in Morelia, Mexico and have an architectural question. And since you were in San Miguel, we thought you would be the perfect person to ask. We’d like to send a couple of photos for and ID, but we couldn’t find an email contact. If you’re interested, send an email to gallivance@gmail.com. Thanks. ~ James

    Like

        • I have been to Montreal three times. It is a lovely city at all times of the year. The Old Town is charming. During my winter visit the airport was closed for a few days due to very heavy snow. The temperature at night was bitterly cold. Because of the low temperatures there are a number of large shopping centres totally underground. Many large office blocks have their own underground connections to the metro system.

          Like

  7. Nice Job. However, there seems to be one major error. The NYC subway map you show is not the Map designed by Mike Hertz. you can find a version of the Hertz map at this website, http://web.mta.info/nyct/maps/mapsys.pdf.

    Please email me and privately, and I will give you send you Mike Hertz’ email for clarification, or more info.

    Like

  8. Pingback: Design: Infographics (II) | Virginia Duran

  9. Pingback: Design: Infographics | Virginia Duran

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