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Maps

A New Map of New York's 'Subway Deserts'

An update to a previous project looks at areas in the city where it takes the longest to get to a subway stop.

When you think of New York City, you don’t really think of a lack of transit. But there are places in the city from where it takes more than 10 minutes to walk to the nearest subway stop. In New York City minutes, that’s practically a week.

Urbanist and data wizard Chris Whong has created a new map showing the areas that city’s transit system hasn’t penetrated to the same degree as others. This is an update to his previous map of “subway deserts” we featured here on CityLab.

Whong was surprised at the attention that first map garnered. In a blog post he wrote after that map became internet-famous, he wrote about its aesthetic and functional flaws:

I concede, a 6-minute walk to the subway doesn’t constitute a transit desert. I concede, it’s not the prettiest web map ever made, but as a concept it was successful in showing the “leftover” chunks of land that are distant from subway stops.

His new map fixes some of those follies. It now shows all the areas outside of a 10-minute walking distance (based on OpenTripPlanner data) of one of the city’s 470 subway stops (as opposed the previous map’s six minutes). The transit-accessible areas are rendered as waterbodies that blend in with the real ones surrounding the city, so the transit-light areas now look like actual islands. Here’s a screenshot of the new map:

(Chris Whong)

Despite tweaking the metric, the insights that the new map offers remain the same: The outer boroughs have a lot of neighborhoods that are relatively far from subway stops—Red Hook and Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn and Belmont in the Bronx are some examples. Staten Island and East Queens are particularly bare-bones when it comes to transit. Even Manhattan has slivers running down its eastern and western edges that have lower transit accessibility than the rest of the city.

Of course, access is not foremost on MTA’s list of problems right now. But Whong’s map is a good reminder that even the most extensive transit networks have a long way to go.

Play around with the map here.

About the Author

  • Tanvi Misra
    Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering demographics, inequality, and urban culture. She previously contributed to NPR's Code Switch blog and BBC's online news magazine.