The MTA’s Great Subway Sign and Map Change: The Art Class and The Thievery


The New York Times notes this morning that a whole bunch of signs and maps are going to have to get switched out because a whole bunch of changes are happening to the subway system. Because despite having the $400M for hyperawesome fancy new Kawasaki-designed subway cars, we had to cut service to some of the now more marginalized parts of New York City in order to save money. So, how’s this going to happen, and what’s going to happen to all the old signage when they have to switch it out?

Well, how it happens is actually kind of rad: It’s a bunch of Pratt students, sitting around, listening to jazz, cutting things out with X-Acto knives:

The subway’s sign shop, in a nondescript shed near Utica Avenue, is a cross between high school shop class and a SoHo art studio. Cool jazz hummed from a radio on a recent visit, and a bag from City Lights, San Francisco’s beatnik bookstore, hung from a wall over a stack of back issues of Art in America magazine and vintage catalogs from Christie’s, the auction house.

Oh, those crazy beatnik bookstores! This surely, however, creates an opening for you to take your own piece of New York home with you, right? Wrong, as always, because the city’s going to try to make a buck off of them:

Old signs will be donated to the city’s transit archives or sold online, although officials said any revenue would be negligible.

Negligible…in comparison to the $400M cars, right? No finders-keepers here, though if you were, presumably, to steal a subway sign, you likely wouldn’t be the first. That said, if you are the quick-handed type, you should note that temporary aluminum signs will be going up in some locations before they get their actual porcelain replacements “for the first few months.”

A few early prototypes have already been produced, including the first orange M decals and a message never seen before in the system: “M to Forest Hills — 71 Av via 6 Avenue.”

Mind you, that’s an Orange M. Don’t be surprised if you see an uptick in petty-theft charges for Mets fans in the forthcoming months.