Gerardo Cid

From a design standpoint, the map connecting the world via one mega subway system is a mess. But it says something about human mobility.

What if Beijing was only a subway ride and a few station transfers away from New York City? And if the metrorail lines of Paris, Tokyo, and Sao Paulo met at a single intersection?

Those are the kinds of scenarios that the World Metro Map, a whimsical graphic from the New York-based collective called ArtCodeData and the nonprofit Open Access Initiative, imagines. The map combines the metro rail lines of 214 cities into one mega subway system, totaling almost 12,000 lines and nearly 800 stations.

“This is a project that's been sitting on my computer for a while,” says the map’s designer, Gerardo Cid. It started out as a final project for college roughly five years ago. Cid found as many subway maps as he could online, then took them apart and reorganized the lines so that they were all interconnected in some way.

(Gerardo Cid)
This portion of the map shows the intersection between Paris, New York and Sao Paulo. (Gerardo Cid)

The result can perhaps be best described as organized chaos. Colorful lines crisscross one another in a tangled web and veer off in all different directions. Cid admits that it’s neither a functional nor effective design. In fact, from a design standpoint, he says, “it’s a mess.”

But that’s not the point. Rather, the map is meant to outline the concepts of connectivity and human mobility. “The idea behind it is that you can create imaginary paths between cities,” he tells CityLab. “It just shows the kind of planet that we live in, that there are so many corners that need to be explored, and that we don’t live on a square or a grid.”

The project, which surpassed its funding goal of $6,000 on Kickstarter after only two days, serves a larger purpose. Cid is selling his maps as part of a fundraising campaign for the Open Access Initiative, a nonprofit that aims to create a large database of “accessible environments in frequently [traveled] cities” for people with disabilities.

Zoom in on the map, and it becomes somewhat of a game. Just start at a station, and use your fingers to trace the route that leads you to your dream destination. Or, Cid suggests, you can follow the path that takes you around the imaginative world and right back to where you started.

(Gerardo Cid)
Poster, from $29 pre-order on Kickstarter.

About the Author

Linda Poon
Linda Poon

Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab.

Most Popular

  1. Postcards showing the Woodner when it used to be a luxury apartment-hotel in the '50s and '60s, from the collection of John DeFerrari
    Equity

    The Neighborhood Inside a Building

    D.C.’s massive Woodner apartment building has lived many lives—from fancy hotel to one of the last bastions of affordable housing in a gentrifying neighborhood. Now, it’s on the brink of another change.

  2. Design

    The Military Declares War on Sprawl

    The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.

  3. Life

    Why a City Block Can Be One of the Loneliest Places on Earth

    Feelings of isolation are common in cities. Let’s take a look at how the built environment plays into that.

  4. Equity

    The Poverty Just Over the Hills From Silicon Valley

    The South Coast, a 30-mile drive from Palo Alto, is facing an affordable-housing shortage that is jeopardizing its agricultural heritage.

  5. Members of a tenants' organization in East Harlem gather outside the office of landlord developer Dawnay, Day Group, as lawyers attempt to serve the company with court papers on behalf of tenants, during a press conference in New York. The tenant's group, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, filed suit against Dawnay, Day Group, the London-based investment corporation "for harassing tenants by falsely and illegally charging fees in attempts to push immigrant families from their homes and gentrify the neighborhood," said Chaumtoli Huq, an attorney for the tenants.
    Equity

    Toward Being a Better Gentrifier

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a neighbor during a time of rapid community change.