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This isn’t necessarily a tenet of subway map design: plenty of other major systems (London and Paris spring to mind as similarly large and old systems) do not show any underlying streets on the map — NYC stands fairly alone in its geographical as opposed to diagrammatic map.

On the other hand, one might argue that Manhattan’s grid structure (and I say Manhattan specifically because when talking about how “New York” is on a grid, people really mean Manhattan — I doubt you would be able to get many tourists to accurately describe the grids of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx) justifies the inclusion of the streets.

That’s a legitimate argument, but I just wanted to point out that NYC stands fairly alone in what it’s doing, so it’s by no means bucking a generally accepted tenet of subway design to go all diagrammatic.

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