L train map by Lynch.

L train map by Andrew Lynch.

There are few useful maps that blur the lines between reality and fantasy as completely as a subway map. Curves are smoothed, the space between stations is adjusted and even geography itself is modified, all in the name of helping riders understand which train will take them where they need to go.

“It’s both form and function,” said Andrew Lynch, a New York City-based artist and cartographer. He’s part of a vibrant community of armchair urban planners who spend their spare time reinventing official transit maps. Their work, scattered across the blogosphere, is mostly functional but mixed with a healthy dose of creative license. Some maps add in entirely new subway lines where none exist in real life, citing ridership data that supports their presence. Others are unashamedly pop art, an abstract series of lines and circles representing routes and stations. The maps are making a big impact, though — both as art and as a source of ideas for actual improvements to transit systems.
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