New York City is a beautiful and exciting city, especially when you have time and it’s nice outside, it’s delightful just to walk around and look around. But then there are also bad days, when you are in a hurry and it’s cold and rainy… on those days, if you had to take the subway, you would either want to be underground for as long as you can, or to have the most efficient way around the station, right?

There are signages in the subway stations, but they don’t give you an overall picture of what the stations look like. In light of that, I have taken the initiative to illustrate some of the more complex stations, as well as the landmarks and popular destination points around them. Let’s look at the 59th Street Columbus Circle station: 

59th Street Columbus Circle Station layout map
Disclaimer: Drawing is not to scale and only shows the approximate and relative location of things


The 1 train runs on the upper level, along the diagonal Broadway, and the A / C and B / D trains run on the lower level, straight along 8th Ave / Central Park West. On both levels, the east tracks go uptown and the west tracks go downtown.  


  • Starbucks and upper west side: northern end of the downtown track
  • The mall / Time Warner Center: southern end of the downtown track (there is an escalator)
  • Central Park: midpoint of the uptown track, opposite to the semi-circular array of turnstiles
  • Globe-shaped sculpture: midpoint of the uptown track, out of the semi-circular array of turnstiles
  • Museum of Art and Design: south end of uptown track, opposite to escalators to mall
  • 57th Streets exits: What used to be a tunnel is now under construction. When it opens there will be an underground transit-marketplace under 8th avenue, between 57th and 58th Street, and will look like this:


To transfer between uptown and downtown trains, the shortest path is the walkway between the tracks on the lower level. I marked it with a red dotted line in the graphic. It has a wavy guardrail and it looks like this:

So this is the first of a series of blog posts I plan to do for the five stations I have picked. More to come! 


When I started this project, I naively thought I could just go walk around in the stations, take some pictures, and sketch the stations out casually like this:

But in reality, it was way harder than I thought. In order to work out where things are relative to each other, I had to developed a process to visualize the stations step by step. First, I document the entrances (from streets to turnstiles) on the neighborhood maps:

Then I make 2D drawings in the computer:

And then I go back and sketch some more, verifying my guesses and adding things I missed:

Then I model it in 3D:

And I render it:

And all of these steps kinda go back and forth and back and forth until I get the overall picture. The final graphic will be a combination of all of these. Almost there!


It all started when my old office moved downtown to the financial district. The office is on Broadway, somewhere near the Fulton Street station. The station is HUGE -  there are so many exits that it was very confusing, and it took me and my coworkers forever to figure out how to get to the exit nearest to the office.

I am from Hong Kong, and in Hong Kong’s MTR (subway) stations, there are diagrams like these on the walls:

List of station layouts can be found here:

List of station layouts can be found here:

A quick search shows that Japan has similar:

And I thought to myself, why isn’t there any in NYC’s stations? Fulton Street is definitely not the only complex station, and I can't be the only person who wishes there is some form of visualization to help one find his way inside the station.

So I gave myself the challenge to make it happen, and this blog will be a record of this journey.