The problem with map design is the tension between accuracy and usability. You make a map too detailed and it becomes too hard to use. On the other hand, if you cut out too much information and it might not be worth using. That’s why this article from Wired explaining the latest update to the London Tube Map is so significant. In a nod toward both efficiency and exercise, the oldest subway system in the world has added walking distances in steps. Can’t you just see commuters across London strapping on their Fitbits for a brisk stroll?

detail of the new London Tube Map
A detail of the new London Tube Map shows distances between stations in steps.

So now Londoners can use those tiny numbers to figure out whether it’s quicker to ride or walk short distances, especially during peak times. How would this really work?…

In the detail above of the complete map, we can see that had the Beatles continued their famous stroll across Abbey Road they could have reached the next tube station at West Ham in just 1000 steps—a few more for the height-impaired Ringo. By the way, London’s Tube (or the Underground as it use to be called) is the oldest system in the world, and has several fascinating design stories in its history. We’ll cover more of them in future posts.