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Maps

The New York Subway System, According to Instagram

What if the city’s transit stops were renamed according to their most popular hashtags? Next stop: #cronut.

A photo posted by Tags and the City (@tagsandthecity) on

If you wanted to do a whirlwind trip of New York focusing only on gigantic tourist spots, a handy reference would be this map of subway stations renamed for their most-popular Instagram tags.

The "Tags and the City” transit system, made by Jug Cerovic, David Goldwich, and Tin Fischer, uses geotagged Instagram data from 2014 to reveal the social-media fixations of the time. (Instagram has since stopped providing this kind of superspecific geographic information.) Thus the MTA’s 116 Street–Columbia University stop becomes #ivyleague, the PATH train’s World Trade Center Station #neverforget, and Christopher Street–Sheridan Square #sexandthecity presumably for Sushi Samba (and please don’t ask, because I don’t know, if this was the Sushi Samba where Richard tried to “woo back Samantha after she discovers his wicked ways, but his efforts are all wet when Samantha throws a dirty Martini in his face.”).

The cartography crew behind the map writes on Reddit:

[W]e chose the hundred most popular stations (popular on Instagram). The stations got their name mainly automatically, but with a bit of editorial choice. We calculate the most significant hashtag which is used around each station (largest deviation from average frequency of respective hashtag across all stations), usually within 300 meters. But if this hashtag is just the station’s or the neighborhood’s name we went for the next one. When a hashtag referred to an event which is not repeated each year at the same place, we skipped it too. We only counted one photograph from each account and a hashtag had to have a minimum frequency of 100.

What surfaces over and over again in "Tags and the City” is humanity’s fascination with stuffing our faces (#redrooster, #cronut, #shakeshack, #halalguys) as well as time-honored TV shows and movies. The tag #seinfeld exists in Morningside Heights for the sitcom’s repeated scenes inside Tom’s Restaurant, for example, and #ghostbusters appears at Franklin Street because of the nearby fire station popularized in the spooky franchise.

The folks who put together this map have also created versions for San Francisco, London, and elsewhere; head to their site for zoomed-in details and to buy them as posters and pillows.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.