/ CALL US + 44 (0) 20 7045 0900
  • 4531_SmartTransit_2019_Banner_728x90
  • 180731_BU_EB_1802_unife-wrms_728x90

9 unique subway and metro maps from around the world.

Posted by Sarah Wright on Sep 3, 2015


SmartRail World regularly reports on the latest developments in Apps and digital technology designed to help passengers navigate their way around a metro network. But the most used tool is still the simple map – whether it be viewed on a phone, a digital display board or on a folded up piece of paper in your wallet or purse. Maps often provide the first impression of a network, and a good map can make navigation far simpler and more enjoyable. However a complicated or intimidating map can set passengers leaving the station and hunting for the nearest taxi. Being based in London, it’s the electrical circuit board inspired designs of Harry Beck first drawn up in 1933 that help us get around but new SmartRail team member Sarah Wright, took some time out of her London commute to investigate how some other major cities have designed their metro maps and found that whilst there are certainly similarities, there are also plenty of differences…




Tokyo Metro operates 195.1km of track, 9 lines, 179 stations, 2,702 and on average has about 6.84 million passengers a day. After being was opened in 1927 Tokyo’s Ginza line was heralded as the ‘oldest in Asia’. Stations are given both names and numbers. The station numbers are made by using the name of the line and the stations unique number. For example G13 is Ginza Line, station 13: Kanda.

Boasting not just one but two underground systems, this map, which looks similar to a crazy game of snakes and ladders is of the largest: Tokyo metro. You can only imagine how dizzying it must be to find where you want to go on this map!



Copenhagen’s a baby in the scheme of things, opening between 2002 and 2007. In true Scandinavian tradition, simplicity in design and the running of the trains is highly important to the metro system in the Danish capital. Functionality and comfort is of course essential. And the trains themselves were designed in cooperation with the Giugiaro Design team, Italy, who are renowned for their car designs.

Simplicity is key with Copenhagen’s metro system. The two lines come together halfway along the line, so getting confused about whether or not you are on the right train seems unlikely.

Being so new Copenhagen’s metro takes full advantage of technology and for this reason all of its trains are fully automated, no drivers, just simple fast trains. This also means that the trains run 24 hours a day! 




Delhi’s metro system has strong links to India’s ever rapid urbanisation. Like the metro system in Copenhagen, Delhi’s metro is relatively new, forming in the late 1990s and opening its first corridor between Shahdara and Tis Hazari in 2002. Delhi metro operates 141 stations and 216 trains, it is part of a monumental effort to revolutionise travel in India’s capital and further the entire country.

Delhi metro, is quite rightly, proud of its environmental action. It has been awarded by the UN for reducing greenhouse gases and carbon emissions in the city by 6.3lakh tons a year, but also for every tree it took down during its development 10 more have been planted.

It’s almost as though Delhi’s rail map reflects its green intentions echoing a spider web. The length of the lines shows how vast India’s capital is and how important a great rail system still is.

Read the Rail and Metro Innovation Guide 2017



This year Moscow celebrated the 80th year of its metro system. Plans for the station were made much earlier than this, with many of them being submitted to Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II in 1902. Discontent and revolution in Russia, followed by war however put Moscow’s metro on hold.

Moscow’s metro is well known the world over for its opulent stations. Stations that glorified its communist past by capturing the likeness of its leaders in bronze and mosaics. On its first day in 1935 Moscow’s metro reportedly took on 285,000 passengers. Today, it is used by 9 million people a day and is gearing up for further expansion.

Moscow’s metro map seems reminiscent of the era and political background from which it came. Each line is drawn into the centre by one dominant circular line that draws them all in together, the effect is that it does not matter where you are in Moscow you are easily connected to the rest of the city.

New York City


The NYC Subway has the most stations in the world, there are a staggering 468 stations to choose from. Not to mention it has 656 miles of tracks. The development of the subway system in 1904 was fundamental to the growth of New York City; it connected each borough, got commuters to work and remains great for these very reasons today. New York is notoriously the city that never sleeps and therefore neither can its subway. NYC subway is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The subway map, which understandably is huge, had to be simplified for the 400,000 tourists that were expected to attend the Superbowl in 2013!

NYC subway map is covered from North to South and East to West in rail lines. There is no doubt that the boroughs are all well connected, but I’m not sure I fancy my chance at trying to find the right station. Afterall there is only a 1 in 468 chance that you will pick the right one!




The Stuttgart Stadtbahn is a light rail and tram system, with only 15 miles of track underground. A classic European network, what is eye-catching is its 3-D map with not a single vertical or horizontal line in sight! Some might find it confusing, but I quite like it! And look out for the little images denoting some of Stuttgart's major attractions.



The Madrid Metro is the 8th longest metro in the world and has grown quickly in the last 20 years has also put it among the fastest growing networks in the world. Unlike normal Spanish road and rail traffic, which uses right hand drive, its train uses left hand running on all lines for historical reasons. Its 13 lines and 301 stations operate every day from 6 am until 1:30 am serving an annual ridership of over 560 million!

What is eye catching about this design is the use of straight lateral lines and clear spaces between them. One for the minimalists!




Opened in 1966, the Montreal Metro is Canada's busiest metro system, and North America’s third busiest in total daily passenger use after New York and Mexico City. Originally consisting of 26 stations on three separate lines the Metro now has 68 stations on four lines totalling 69.2 kilometres (43.0 mi) in length. And the only map that we could find that was on a black and not white background!

And one that got away... London (1908)


(Click here to see full size)

This first combined map was published in 1908 by the Underground Electric Railways Companys of London (UERL) in conjunction with four other underground railway companies using the "Underground" brand as part of a common advertising factor. (Ed- I wonder how much Army & Navy Auxillary Stores,paid to feature on the map?). The challenges of fitting all the network in a sensbible way on a map persisteed until Harry Beck's creation in 1933. And the rest as they say is history!

Which are your favoruite subway and metro maps? Let us know underneath in the comments section or email


You may also be interested in...

New York subway ridership number hits 65 year high.

What is the most lost item on the London Underground?

Why have 2,500 New York subway cars been dumped in the sea?


Read Building the Digital Transport Network of the Future


Topics: Passenger Information Systems, quirky

Sarah Wright

Written by Sarah Wright

Post studying for a Masters in History at the University of Essex and taking time out to travel Europe and South East Asia, Sarah came into the world of events and marketing. She has been putting her communication skills and creativity to good use here with us since.

Get The Latest Updates From SmartRail World

Please use the form below to leave a comment about this story.