Tag Archive for 'subway'

The Mostly True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway

The Mostly True Story of Hel­vetica and the New York City Subway:

There is a com­monly held belief that Hel­vetica is the sig­nage type­face of the New York City sub­way sys­tem, a belief rein­forced by Hel­vetica, Gary Hustwit’s pop­u­lar 2007 doc­u­men­tary about the type­face. But it is not true—or rather, it is only some­what true. Hel­vetica is the offi­cial type­face of the MTA today, but it was not the type­face spec­i­fied by Uni­mark Inter­na­tional when it cre­ated a new sig­nage sys­tem at the end of the 1960s.

r-train

R-train icon, set in Hel­vetica and Standard.

I noticed this dis­crep­ancy ear­lier this year – I had to recre­ate some MTA sub­way icons for use on a project, and noticed that the R train map icon looked noth­ing like the Hel­vetica “R”. The MTA’s own web­site seems to be con­fused about the type used in the sys­tem icons, let alone its sta­tion signage.

Enter typog­ra­pher Paul Shaw, and his 10,000+ word piece on AIGA’s site. Did you now that Boston’s sub­way sig­nage sys­tem was the first to use Hel­vetica, with­out mod­i­fi­ca­tions? Ever curi­ous as to the process by which enamel signs are made? Want to just look at pretty pic­tures of sub­way signs over the years?

It’s a great his­tory, for fans of typog­ra­phy and the MTA.

Subway Love

Lisa’s photo on Gothamist!Another Valentine’s Day related post – Lisa’s snap­shot of this note in the Car­roll MTA sta­tion made it to a post on Gothamist!

The orig­i­nal is avail­able in her Flickr pho­to­stream.

She is kind of a big deal, ’round these parts.

Surreal

Surreal
They were clean­ing the Broadway-Lafayette sta­tion last night. It always struck me as a par­tic­u­larly filthy sta­tion, so I sup­pose this is good. But, peo­ple were walk­ing through the suds, slip­ping around – the MTA must have some good insur­ance. [from iPhone]

MTA Subway Map for iPhone

Since I bought my iPhone on June 30, I’ve been look­ing for an easy, high-quality method for view­ing the MTA Sub­way map. The phone’s built-in Photo appli­ca­tion “opti­mizes” all pho­tos and images down to a dimen­sion and res­o­lu­tion that doesn’t work well for images with lots of small text and details.

MTA Map

In search of the opti­mal iPhone MTA map.

What I wanted, was the abil­ity to view a PDF, or large PNG of the sys­tem map – and to be able to zoom in and drag it around eas­ily. Bill at iSubwayMaps.com out­lined one such solu­tion, which involved set­ting up a Yahoo! mail account, since IMAP mail accounts seemed to cache attach­ments locally on the iPhone. This did work for me, but I found the MTA’s PDF map slug­gish when zoom­ing or drag­ging around. And, I had to drill back through the Mail menus to get to my Yahoo mail account, (as I’m pri­mar­ily a Gmail user).

But, before I could go out and buy a old-fashioned paper pop-up map, another solu­tion pre­sented itself:

File­mark Maker gets around the lim­i­ta­tions out­lined above, by writ­ing files to a temp loca­tion on the device’s HD, by using Safari book­marklets. Then, the files are acces­si­ble in Mobile­Sa­fari. And, because the files are writ­ten to iPhone’s HD, the book­marklets work whether you’re online or not – or whether you’re above ground or not.

Here are the MTA Sub­way Maps that I used to make book­marklets using this tool:

Underground Man” update

Thanks to Mint, I noticed that a few vis­i­tors were referred here look­ing for the text of a New Yorker arti­cle writ­ted in Feb­ru­ary 2004 titled, Under­ground Man: Can the for­mer C.I.A. agent who saved New York’s sub­way get the Tube back on track?. I had scanned the text a while back, but my direc­tory secu­rity set­tings on my server were tight­ened, and the scans were no longer available.

So, if you’re look­ing for the arti­cle, it’s is now prop­erly linked in the orginal post.

I still wish I had a way of extract­ing the text via OCR…

Underground Man

After read­ing Dunstan’s humor­ous post on British rail, and the silly responses he received from Amer­i­cans and Ger­mans, I was reminded of an excel­lent arti­cle by William Finnegan in the New Yorker last week, Under­ground Man: Can the for­mer C.I.A. agent who saved New York’s sub­way get the Tube back on track?

After scour­ing the New Yorker web site and Google with­out luck, I decided it was worth scan­ning and post­ing the arti­cle. Sorry they’re jpgs… I prob­a­bly won’t leave it up very long (file size/bandwidth), unless some­one can sug­gest a way to extract the text of the article.

I’m your pub­lic library.

UPDATE 9/12/2005: I changed my direc­tory secu­rity a while back, so these arti­cles have not been linked. Here ya go:

IDEA! Boston ‘T’ Blog

Today I was sit­ting at the 1369 cof­fee­house in Cen­tral Sq., as I do most days of the week, read­ing the papers and gen­er­ally absorb­ing the hap­pen­ings… some guy in a shirt-and-tie fret­ting over Excel spread­sheets at his lap­top on my right. Another guy on my left, copi­ously prac­tic­ing Chinese-looking script for words like “cow”, “apart­ment” and “love”. Ahead of me was a man in his mid-40s sit­ting with his young son, who was play­ing Game­boy and occa­sion­ally chat­ting with some of the peo­ple who work there. One of these girls was tak­ing a break with a cof­fee, bagel and the New York Times. I liked her Lacoste Izod polo shirt.

Any­way, I had time to sit there, in-between read­ing the Globe, Her­ald, Times and the Cam­bridge Tab, to think about the mer­its of liv­ing in a place like Cam­bridge. I really have a lot of love for this side of the river—be it the bars, the wacky aca­d­e­mic types walk­ing around, or the Red Line. It’s got such a com­mu­nity feeling—even for some­body like me who prefers to sit and watch rather than interact.

For some rea­son, I began think­ing about NYCbloggers.com, a project that intended to cre­ate a geo­graphic com­mu­nity of New York blog­gers, based on which sub­way stop they lived near. I love maps, pub­lic trans­porta­tion, and I couldn’t help but be in awe at the shear balls it must’ve took to tackle such a project of that scope. I thought, why not try to do that in Boston?

Now, I know there are tons of Bostonite blogs, espe­cially given the 250,000 uni­ver­sity stu­dents that are here. BostonBlogs.com is doing a good job of set­ting up social gath­er­ings for us Boston-based blog freaks—although I can’t bring myself to attend one. Call it social pho­bia. Avoid­ance. Whatever.

Still, attempt­ing to tackle some­thing on the scale of nycbloggers.com would be a chal­lenge. Christ, mak­ing the maps them­selves would pose all kinds of issues. And would blog­gers in Boston be inter­ested in such a thing?

New York­ers famously have attach­ments to their dif­fer­ent sub­way lines—be it the F, A/C, 1/9 etc. It would be inter­est­ing to see the same kind of B-line or Red-line pride here in Boston. Once the back-end data­base stuff is devel­oped, I could see branch­ing out to other cities—Buffalo per­haps? Pub­lic Trans­porta­tion needs a cheerleader!

If any­one in Boston reads this and think that it is a worth­while endeavor, shoot me an email. Maybe it’d be a good collaboration.