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Hell’s Noodles

Monday 23rd September 2013 – Part 2


Today involved a LOT of scooting around on the New York Subway system.

When I was here back in the summer of 1999 (to watch a film that shall remain nameless), the NY subway was great – okay it was a little tatty, but hell, it was only $1 a trip and it ran all night!

In your FACE, London Underground!!

How things have changed.

A one-day travelcard for the Tube is around £7.50. You cannot buy a one-day travelcard for the New York Subway. You just have to pay $2,50. For each and every trip. And so over the course of a day I ended up spending $15 on the goddamn train. A 7 day pass is only $30. Not cool, New York.

Next, there is the issue of cleanliness. You think the Tube is grubby? Think again – those white tiles positively sparkle when compared with the dark sooty mess that is the New York Subway. When the garish orange and cream décor of the Tashkent underground system is showing you up, it’s time to invest in a new tuxedo, New York, if you take my meaning.

But these are minor quibbles when compared to the most outrageous part of the New York subway: the map.

Mummy, make the bad map go away

Oh dear. I’ve only shown you a small portion of the map, lest your brain explode from the horror, the horror. Here’s the full nightmare in all its noodly glory, health warnings attached.

“True beauty is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.”

And we can take away so much of this thing, I’m having trouble thinking where to start.

Okay – how about WHY ARE THERE STREETS ON THE MAP? Okay, the location of Goldhawk Street in London might not be obvious, but 14th Street in New York….? Just hazarding a guess here… is it by any chance north of 13th Street and south of 15th street???

Yes. Yes it is.

But… erm, how many stations called “14th Street” are there…? At least three, maybe four. They can’t all be the same station, can they. No? Oh. Right. NOTHING CONFUSING ABOUT THAT THEN.

And think “2nd Avenue” station will be anywhere near “3rd Avenue” station? Think again noobs – they’re miles away.

Next up, what’s with having all the boroughs on every map? Yes it’s very good of you to include Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island on there, but I’m a tourist, I’m staying in Manhattan. How about a map just… and I’m gonna push the boat out here… FOR MANHATTAN? I say this on the basis that 99.9% of tourists that come to New York do NOT stay in Queens, Eddie Murphy in Coming To America notwithstanding.

Okay, now so (in my imagination) we have a map that has arrows coming out of the top, middle and bottom of Manhattan telling you what borough the line goes to and the name of the terminal station. We’ll have another map to pick it up from there, yeah? Next up WHAT IS WITH THE NOODLES??

Noodles! Noodles! As far as the eye can see...


THIS is how you “do” an Underground map:

Clear, precise, classic.

Yes I’m aware that the distance from Leicester Square to Covent Garden is like 100 metres and the distance between Angel and Old Street is 50 light years BUT I DON’T CARE. Yes Mornington Crescent on the wrong side, Bank and Monument should probably be one station and why are there two Edgeware Roads?


I can glance – GLANCE – at this map and suss out how to get from Gants Hill to Brixton. Central, Victoria, change at Oxford Circus.

Make a note of the time and then look at the NY Subway Map. Work out how to get from Colombia University to 2nd Street.


If you did it in less than 30 seconds, you cheated.

In short the NY subway map is a massive FAIL. I can’t believe that in a city of advertisers, TV people, designers, artists and marketing gurus nobody has set aside an afternoon to come up with something better.

UPDATE OCT 2020!!!

My oh my! It appears that somebody out there was listening!! 😆

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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