Maps that suggest a Hudson ocean

The map above is from the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority. It shows downtown Manhattan with the Hudson River (ocean?) on the left and the East River on the right. For some arrogant reason, New York mapmakers, especially those with the MTA, do not like to acknowledge New Jersey. But, many people in New Jersey work, shop, and party in Manhattan.

The purpose of maps is to orient us to our surroundings and guide our journeys. They should. at least, be accurate in their portrayal of the surrounding environment. City limits are no longer accurate divisions of metro areas. Metro areas include numerous towns and cities that are more accurately defined by the the television viewing area, geography, and highways. David Letterman often referred to New York City metro as the 'Tri-State area' (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut). That makes sense. Is there some deep disgust or repulsion of New Jersey? Have all the jokes about the state affected rational thinking? New Jersey, the Garden State, is actually quite beautiful with hills and forests.

This seems to be another example of designers not communicating efficiently to their target audience. Designers must keep in mind the end user and design for those people, not for themselves. The MTA cartographic designer was narrowly thinking of just having to show the routes within Manhattan, even though parks and a somewhat detailed coastline are included. He/she may have assumed that the viewer doesn't care about the surrounding environment or wouldn't notice. But viewers are often smarter than that and viewers want and need more than that. They (we) want to comprehend information efficiently and as accurately.

The map above on the left may be the worst example of snubbing New Jersey. The map was the cover of a brochure for an "exciting weekend celebration of New York City's architecture & Design." "Learn about New York City and the places around you." While the weekend may be dedicated to only sites in New York City, the viewers (mostly designers) are smart enough to know that New Jersey is right over there. The map shows very detailed outlines of the coastlines of the city boroughs - Staten Island in the lower left, Manhattan in the upper center, and Brooklyn and Queens on the right. The East River is clear here, but what's that expanse of ocean off to the left of Manhattan? Would it have diminished the weekend too much to have had the outline of the opposite shore of the Hudson River on the map? Of course not.

Maps that got it 'right'
These maps above are a bit more accurate - they show the proximity of New Jersey to Manhattan.

Transit routes in New Jersey, as it should be since it is one metro area. New York's bid for the 2012 Olympics acknowledges New Jersey, even though this would have been called the NYC Olympics.

A map from 1968 included the Jersey shoreline. The MTA has since dropped that detail.

The ocean island of Staten

Okay, the map above on the left This is just ridiculous - Staten Island is not that far from land mass. Again, it seems the MTA cartographers just refuse to show New Jersey. The map on the right is more accurate - it shows the closeness of New Jersey. Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?

Saint Louis as a coastal city

If Missouri had the same disregard for Illinois as New York does for New Jersey and if the New York mapmakers were given the task of a St. Louis map, the map of the city of St. Louis would look something like the map above. That city would miraculously now be on the ocean - the Mississippi Ocean - with the downtown bridges spanning an expansive body of water. Gateway Arch would beckon ships arriving on its shores much as the Statue of Liberty beckons sailors on the Hudson Ocean. Fortunately, cartographers in Missouri do a better job of portraying their cities than those in New York.

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/hudsonocean.html