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Taking Blame, Grabbing Glory for Subway Map Errors

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Although hardly anyone ever notices them—and even fewer complain—errors on today's subway maps are a bone of contention over who gets credit for the map as a whole. No creator likes to dwell on flaws in one's work, but John Tauranac, who was the chairman of an MTA committee formed in 1975 to redesign Massimo Vignelli's 1972 map, willingly accepts responsibility. "That's a mea culpa," Tauranac told the Times, when pointing out errors on the 1·2·3 line that have the subway crossing avenues and streets at incorrect points on Manhattan's west side. "That's his schtick," replies the map's designer Michael Hertz. "We’ve had parallel careers. I design subway maps, and he claims to design subway maps," Hertz told the Times.

While Hertz, who is widely credited with the 1979 map re-design that has been widely acclaimed over the years, chafes at any attempt by Tauranac to take ownership of the committee's design work, he is comfortable with letting him take the blame for the errors, because Hertz says he was not that familiar with the city's geography in the late 1970s. Defenders of the map stress that any factual discrepancies on today's maps aren't errors so much as design decisions. And in a 2007 interview, Hertz said that the deliberative nature of the process that led to the 1979 map left him without much need for second-guessing:
"Unlike most design projects, this map was designed over the course of three years. It was reviewed internally at MTA and revised many times. Many options were considered and most of the major problems were worked out before it hit the streets. Of course, there are always things one would tweak, but they are not likely to be changes that the public would notice."
· On the Vaunted City Subway Map, Mistakes and Phantom Blocks [NYT]
· Michael Hertz, Design of NYC Subway Map [Gothamist]
· Subway map coverage [Curbed]