MBTA holds contest to redesign subway map

But how could you improve on this? Photo by Jen Falk.But how could you improve on this? Photo by Jen Falk.

Maybe a rider can come up with a better map, T says. There are two competitions: One to redesign the classic "spider" map, which must show all the subway lines (well, and the Silver Line), one a more open-ended contest that can be interactive or show as little as just one bus line.

Winning submissions will be showcased on the MBTA Website and will be on display at the State Transportation Building at 10 Park Plaza, Boston.

Top this. Or this.

Entries are due by 5 p.m. on April 30.

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    Comments

    Work for free!

    As Cameron Booth, the author of that second map, said: "Our map sucks, make us a new one for free." If you can make a map in three weeks that's good enough to officially represent a major transit system, you should definitely not be doing it for free in a contest. (And yes, you can make a living with maps!)

    The MBTA's previous contests with maps and apps were basically soliciting free labor and innovation too, but at least those were about open data and you still owned what you made. This time you fork over all rights and it looks like you don't even get a prize. Only glory, maybe, in the wide world of transit map designers.

    Also, the last time they ran one of their contests, they ended up trying to make the whole thing disappear because they didn't get a lot of entries. I'm not in a hurry to participate in one again.

    Showcasing.

    I disagree - this could take someone's hobby to a full-fledged career.

    The MBTA doesn't exactly have millions to throw around, and I believe they're well-intentioned enough that they would definitely pay someone if they could.

    I myself will definitely put in a shot at it - why not? It could be fun to do.

    The T is overreaching on this

    The MBTA is overreaching on this:
    "All submissions become sole property of the T and can be reused or reproduced in any way, according to the contest rules. Entries will not be returned."

    So any one that might want to take a shot at this is also going to surrender all rights to use their work with no hope of getting any monetary benefit. That just is not right. The winning design(s) ought to get something, even if just a free T pass for a year. And any designs not selected should revert back to the submitters.

    Single subway maps

    Have always seemed oddly useless. A map should show, dynamically based on the location of the person trying to get to on the subway, the easiest path to the airport, Fenway Park, North Station (Bruins / Celtics), South Station, Government Center, and Harvard Yard. Any other use cases, by stop, could be designed in a similar fashion (i.e., how do I get to Longwood from this bus stop?). Otherwise, the person probably either a) already knows how to get where they're going, or b) is going to be painfully confused by the information presented. I don't blame anyone coming to Boston for not knowing how to get to the airport from the city, as many circles the MBTA draws around it on their map, it is still not clear how to get there.

    Conversely, you could provide people at a desk who can give directions, with real time updates on closures and delays, and maybe even have two people who speak multiple languages. But I know, that's all crazy talk.

    Ha!

    Adam, that would be too helpful. The machine should display that message for ANY request for directions regardless of whether the machine can figure it out, unless the person asking for directions can provide a residential address where they grew up in Boston. If the person seeking directions can provide the residential address, the machine should respond with phrases such as, "you don't know how to get there? Its past the old garage near the used book store that burned down - you know" or "why would you want to go there?" or "what Parish are you from?" My favorite Boston-ish direction story comes from when we lived briefly in Summ'vl and my wife asked a co-worker (and very proud native to West Summ'vl) the fastest way into Boston. The response? "How would I know, why would I ever want to go there?"