Be glad they don’t have coffee-tables in the Tube, métro, subway and U-Bahn, otherwise you wouldn’t have any excuse not to take this book with you on your subterranean peripatations. ‘Transit Maps of the World’ is an expansion of the earlier ‘Metro Maps of the World’ and was published at the end of October by Penguin USA.

This map was a promotional e-card for the book, the caption at the bottom reads: “This playful diagram shows all the cities which have, are building or are planning to construct an urban rail system. It is the opening page of a new book about the graphic design of subway, metro, underground and U-Bahn system maps and diagrams.”

Produced in the by now iconic style of Harry Beck’s 1933 London Underground map, the diagram reveals the differing degrees of metro-isation around the world.

  • Africa is most poorly endowed with public underground transit systems: only Cairo and Alexandria (Egypt), Tunis (Tunisia), Algiers (Algeria) and Lagos (Nigeria) have or are planning them.
  • Actually, Oceania is even less metro-ised, but this is self-explanatory: there’s no need for subways in a continent where most countries are small island nations. Only Australia (Melbourne, Sydney) and New Zealand (Auckland) – significantly less small than the other Oceanic islands – have them.
  • Beck’s method of making geography subservient to clarity distorts distances, in London as well as on this fanciful map – rendered even more bizarre by some unlikely stops close to each other: how about Baghdad to Izmir via Jerusalem, or Athens to Esfahan via Tel Aviv? Or Taipei to Pyonyang via Seoul?
  • As in Beck’s design, there’s a concentration of lines and stops in the central area (which on the London tube map, I’ve only recently discovered, has the shape of a bottle). This gives the impression that outlying areas, such as the Americas, are much less metro-ised. Which might be a bit of an exaggeration, much like the placing of Bologna at the centre of this world map is an overstatement of that city’s charm (to everyone but the Bolognesi, I’m sure).
  • Okay, this is a fantasy transit map. But just imagine taking the metro in Vancouver, all the way to Shanghai! With stops in Montréal, Amsterdam, Prague, Kiev and Novosibirsk! Come to think of it: that’s a pretty long stretch to have to sit in a dark tunnel…

This map was kindly provided to me by Mark Ovenden, author of the book.