Should the PATH be on the MTA’s subway map?

In his proposal called Subway NY NJ, Stewart Mader criticizes NYCMTA’s well-known subway map, saying that it conceals the PATH, a useful rapid transit service connecting Manhattan and New Jersey.

PATH is Incorrectly Represented

PATH is a rapid-transit system. It operates 24/7, provides frequent service with short headways (time between trains), accepts the same pay-per-ride MetroCard as the Subway for fare payment, and has six underground stations in Manhattan (four with direct physical connections to the New York City Subway). The current fleet of PATH train cars (PA5) are an updated version of the Subway cars (R142A) used on the 4 and 6 trains. However, PATH is represented on the Subway Map using the visual style labeled “Commuter rail service” in the map’s key: pale blue “railroad track” lines, square station markers, and small, lightweight text labels. This appears to be an incorrect application of the MTA visual style guide, and doesn’t effectively communicate to Subway riders that PATH is also a rapid-transit service.

Here’s the edit he’s proposing:


The PATH would be displayed as a light blue line in the same style as MTA subway lines. The proposal was well received. Except by the MTA. A spokesperson quickly shot down the idea,

Showing other regional services like PATH in greater detail is a good use for a regional transit map, similar to the one put together for the Super Bowl. However, our map is a subway map, and its primary purpose is to serve as a guide to the subway system. We put a lot of thought into how to reduce the visual distractions and clutter on the map—we don’t even show our own railroads in much detail—but this proposal would add to those non-subway distractions.

We already show PATH where it meets the subway system, although without seeming to imply nonexistent free transfers at the Sixth Avenue stations, and making PATH more prominent would require shrinking the subway portion of the map slightly to accommodate more of the New Jersey waterfront on the same size paper.

These arguments don’t hold up. As for shrinking the map, it is already geographically inaccurate.  Staten Island is in a shrunken inset in the corner. Manhattan is a chubby rectangle.

The spokesperson also says that showing the PATH on the map would imply that free transfers exist.  But the JFK AirTrain, a monorail service charging a $5 surcharge, is already on the map!  And guess who runs it?  Not MTA, but the Port Authority, the same guys who run the PATH.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 11.45.00 PM

Perhaps PATH could be denoted with the same thick, crosshatched line that makes it a prominent map feature but distinct form regular subway service.

A $1.5 billion PATH extension to Newark Airport is planned to break ground in 2018. In a decade, it will basically be an airport connector service, just like AirTrain.

MTA might be acting defensively because of a fear that showing the PATH could draw their riders. The systems overlap on Sixth Avenue, but the MTA’s B,D,F,M lines are clearly the more attractive service, with local and express service, combined with free transfers to other lines.  Unlimited Metrocard holders are always going to opt for the subway.

Passengers riding the PATH for trips within Manhattan is rare that it once made news in the New York Times, back when the PATH fare was $1.75 and the subway was $2.25.

The MTA subway map shows a general Jersey-phobia, showing tourist ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but not commuter ferries to Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, and Edgewater.  Similarly, the map denies the existence of rapid transit in New Jersey. The entire state is missing from the map, cast as a mysterious land that probably lies many miles across the ocean-like Hudson River.


4 thoughts on “Should the PATH be on the MTA’s subway map?

  1. After the Bridgegate scandal, there was talk of dismantling the Port Authority. A common proposal was to have NJ Transit assume control of the PATH. If the PATH was instead handed over to the MTA with some oversight, financing and guidance from representatives of Hoboken/Jersey City/Newark, suddenly Northern Jersey would become just another borough for many people. This could be an incredible change, but one that is unlikely given the archaic state borders.


  2. If the PATH was part of the MTA system, free transfers could really do a lot to bring NJ closer to NYC. There would be a a lot more people going from Brooklyn to Jersey City and JC to Brooklyn. More NJ commuters would take the train to Hoboken and Newark Penn and relieve crowding at New York Penn. But until then, status quo and insularity forever!


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