Kickstarter raises $140,000 to fund a poster listing all 468 New York subway stations

A close up of the NYC subway poster. Image: Alex Daly & Hamish Smyth.

Long term readers may remember the unlikely story of the Kickstarter campaign to fund a reprint of the 1970 New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual. Last autumn, it managed to raise $250,000, in just one day.

The little crowdsourcing campaign that could was the work of Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth, a pair of NYC-based designers who guessed, correctly, that there's a sizeable group of New Yorkers who really, really like fonts.

This, it turns out, was not some kind of one-off fluke. Earlier this year, Smyth made a poster, listing all 468 stations on the New York subway in alphabetical order, in their official fonts, and above the logos of the lines that serve them. The campaign, which launched on 16 June, was intended to raise $29,800 to fund a print run.

At time of writing, it's raised $140,281. There are still seven days to go before the campaign closes.

Here's a picture of the poster in question. It is, it must be said, a quite lovely bit of design:

Smyth's girlfriend and collaborator Alex Daly, the founder of the crowdfunding firm Vann Alexandra who sometimes goes by the unlikely name of the "Crowdsourceress", told us via email that Smyth had originally made the poster for purely decorative use. But, "everyone who visits our apartment loves the poster and asks where they can get one", so they decided to print more of them.

The commercial version, which is officially licensed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, will be printed in 11 pantone colours in Italy. There'll also be a limited run of 40" x 55.5" silkscreened prints by one-time Andy Warhol collaborator Alexander Heinrici:

The poster, like the one to reprint the graphics manual before it (which, incidentally, Daly says Smyth and his colleagues found under a pile of dirty clothes in their office's basement), looks very, very cool. But Daly says there's more to the campaign than that:

Hamish and I are hoping to create a model of democratising New York design. We want to get important design artifacts – from design bibles to everyday subway stations – into the people's hands.

We're not entirely convinced by this the MTA still own the design, after all but it is, nonetheless, very pretty. And also, if, like us, you are a bit of a nerd, very, very cool.

You can read about the MTA Graphics Manual Kickstarter here.

And you can donate, should be feel inclined, here.

All images courtesy of Alex Daly and Hamish Smyth.


Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.