The Actual Boston Subway Map

(Originally published August 3, 2010, a lazy many years after the author actually created the map)

Being a son of a seafarer, I developed a kind of fascination with being on the sea, and with maps. It is because of the latter (and because I happened to live in Boston, and because I didn’t quite like how MBTA imitated Harry Beck, and because I always wanted to know how far it actually is between the different subway stops) that in 2005 I decided to make an actual Boston subway map, that is, a geographically-accurate map of all subway stops.

It was several years ago — I believe MBTA may have added a few subway stops since then, and you can also see all these stops on Google Maps, but there’s something elegant in the simplicity of my diagram. It’s also a good case study of Google Maps, scripting and LaTeX.

The idea was to find all the subway stops on a map downloaded from Google Maps using the locations of the stops as reported by MBTA (as you can imagine, it was a humongous pain to click on every single station map to figure out where to actually plot each station), and put the coordinates of each station in a LaTeX file that would generate the pdf image of the subway map. I used pstricks, which is a great LaTeX package for drawing graphics.

I wrote a tcsh script downloads the relevant quadrants from Google Maps and creates an HTML file that displays all the quadrants on one large page (you can download the script below).

Then I opened the large map in Photoshop and figured out the coordinates of each subway station and turned them into a LaTeX file. Finally, I ran LaTeX to generate the following image file:

 The actual MBTA map (pdf).

The actual MBTA map (pdf).

Sources

The tcsh file that downloads the relevant quadrants from Google Maps (the URL format for the quadrants has changed since 2005 – yes, 2005! – but you get the idea...) 

The text file with coordinates of each station. 

The translated TeX file.