If you’re an iPhone owner and you live in New York City, you want to be able to carry around the official Metropolitan Transit Authority subway map on your iPhone. There are a few options for this, including using a tool like FileMarker which locally saves a PDF copy of the map to be accessed through Safari. It’s a clever approach, but it seems too tricky for me.
Instead, I prefer using Photo Albums in my iPhone to view cropped versions of the subway map, a simple but effective technique I first saw demonstrated by Mike Essl, and which doubtless many others have also used.
One thing I haven’t seen with these maps is taking advantage of the thumbnail view in Photo Albums so that, when seen altogether, the constituent ‘tiles’ are visually re-assembled. This makes the map much more navigable, because if you have a mental understanding of how the city’s boroughs are laid out, you intuitively know which tile to jump to in order to find your stop.
When divided this way, it’s also possible to actually pan the map using the built-in forward and backward arrows, shifting from one tile to the next. Though you can’t move up and down, it’s nevertheless a surprisingly logical interaction model to move laterally, as it were, across the map, returning to the left side of the next row when you’ve reached the right edge of your current row.
All of which is to say that this is what I’ve done in creating my own subway maps for iPhone, and now I’m offering them here for download, free.
Overlaps Fill the Gaps
My map tiles also feature a significant amount of overlap, which makes panning much easier. There’s twenty pixels of duplicated map on the left and right of each tile, and seventy pixels on the top and bottom, so that it’s much easier to follow a subway line as it flows from tile to tile.
Right: A sampling of subway map tiles. Note the duplicated information at the edges. There are a total of sixteen tiles for the map — four across and four down — plus one for the legend.
In short, they’re the most awesome low-tech New York City subway maps for your iPhone that you can find anywhere. I’d venture to say they’re perfect… except for the fact that the standard subway map offered for download by the MTA — available as a PDF — is impossibly intricate. At iPhone size, it’s actually more difficult to read than I’d like.
What I’d like to do is to offer a version of this map, which is displayed online over at MTA.info as a GIF graphic, but not as a PDF. It’s much simpler than the fully-detailed version, and would read beautifully on the iPhone’s screen. In fact, I found a version of the map as a PDF and created tiled JPEG files for testing on my iPhone; it worked perfectly, except for the fact that the PDF that I found — the only one I was able to locate — is five years out of date. Many of the subway lines and stops have changed in small but significant ways, so I’m loathe to distribute it for fear of confusing some users. (If anyone can get their hands on a more recent version of this map — the GIF on the MTA site isn’t big enough to use, unfortunately — I will happily create a new version for distribution.)
Anyway, if you really want it, it’s available for download too. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Instructions for Mac Users
Installation is easy. Just download the ZIP file, decompress it and import the contents into iPhoto. The tiles should automatically import in the proper order, starting with the top left tile, down to the bottom right tile (plus one more for the map key) . To be sure they have, resize your iPhoto thumbnails so you can see only four across at a time; together, they should look more or less like New York City. Create a new album called something like “Subway,” drag the newly imported images into it, and set your iPhone to sync with that album via iTunes. Then buy yourself a MetroCard and take the subway.
Instructions for Windows Users
I think you have to do something with the DOS command line and edit your autoexec.bat file or something.