As the New York subway continues to fall apart on a daily basis, and transit expansion continues to fall behind the need for more transportation options, riders have plenty of reasons to bemoan the planning problems plaguing mass transit in North American cities. If only there was a better way, or a map forward.
One group on Reddit has a simple, albeit satirical, solution: Subway Subways.
As the name implies, the Subway/Subway subreddit has gathered a community of map and transit fans to lay out subway systems based on the location of Subway franchises. While it may seem like just another half-in-jest post about modern design and public transit—it was inspired by a discussion on the New Urbanist Memes for Transit Oriented Teens Facebook group—the maps are more useful than one may expect.
“As far as a goal in the group, I’m not sure there is one beyond creating fantasy metro systems,” says Reddit user Nik, a 24-year-old Wilfrid Laurier University student who started the group less than a week ago.
The fantasy Subway Subways have actually provided fairly useful, even generous, potential transit systems, says Nik, since the ubiquitous chain often serves more people in more areas than most existing transit systems. Since the restaurants are usually opened in “minor nodes”—commercial centers anchoring a neighborhood or shopping mall—and don’t have drive-thrus, they require locations with a certain level of pedestrian activity and tend to connect existing commercial corridors. It’s definitely not the worst criteria for deciding on where to located stations to connect different neighborhoods.
Others have been on the same wavelength in the past. A 2013 Baltimore map made by Chris Nelson followed the same idea. But the combination of the Reddit community as well as online mapping tools—group members have used a combination of Google MyMaps and an online metro mapping site—has led to a proliferation of new subways routes over the last few days. In addition to smaller cities in Ontario, including Guelph and Waterloo, users have even created systems for Paris and even a map of Manhattan that isn’t half bad. These Bodega lines would cover quite a bit of the city.
“Almost all responses to the maps have been, ‘Wow, if only this were the real,’” Nik wrote. “They would generally prove pretty useful in practice.”