The subway can be a confusing place for anyone visiting New York City for the first time. It’s perplexing, and depending on the time of day and the route your taking, it can be crowded beyond belief. But by far, the most complicated thing for any fist-time visitor is figuring out how to navigate the system with a map. There are different routes designated by either a letter or number and three different colors representing the different operating entities of the subway network (which no true New Yorker ever uses) and yet none of it seems to make the system any easier to understand. Even after years of living in the city, some people still find themselves referring to Google Maps for directions. But why does everything have to be so confusing?
A new animated GIF from Appealing Industries has outlined the history of the development of each subway line. Using a blank map of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, each line charts how the subway system the city knows today came into existence. If you are a person with knowledge of the system, you can recognize the timeline emerging. The map charts the first three competing systems- the IRT, IND and BMT—that would later become the unified subway of New York City.
All 34 physical lines are represented in the map below, along with all 468 stations. The map covers 150 years of construction. Today the NYC subway transports over five million people back and forth to their destinations during the two day weekend. Take a look at the map below to see how one of the world’s biggest public transit systems was constructed. For a larger version of the map, visit the official website for Appealing Industries.