on Feb 9, 2016   |   filed under maps

The Manhattan subway map looks like a confusing mess, but it’s actually pretty simple. Even the most fresh-faced transplant can make sense of it, if you just break it down into what you really need to know:

1. Manhattan is pretty much a rectangle.

2. Most trains run up and down the island.

3. You can go crosstown at 14th and 42nd,
two important streets in the city.

4. Below Central Park, the orange and
yellow lines cover more ground.

If you have this map in your head, you’ll do a pretty good job of navigating Manhattan. If you need to leave Manhattan, that’s easy too:

5. Below 14th, all the lines head east into Brooklyn.

6. Starting around 53rd, a handful of trains
peel off towards Queens.

That’s pretty much the gist of it. There are three more key complications:

7. The red and blue lines actually do
some leapfrogging on the west side.

8. A few trains diverge from their lines to cover
upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

9. The J, Z, and S trains exist.

Beyond that, it’s just a couple minor changes to get to a pretty good approximation of the Manhattan subway network.