Can you guess which cities match each Underground system outline image?
(Images courtesy of lineposters.com and Core77)
Yes, that's right: the first is New York City, the second is London, and the third is Paris.
It's interesting how iconic and almost aesthetically "stylish" the Underground systems of these cities have become, given that their purpose has always been a utilitarian one: to get masses of people from A to B in a vast urban area while not contributing yet more traffic to the streets above. They were hardly built with style in mind.
The London Underground map, in particular, has taken on a life of its own, with countless piss-takes and imitations. This list on Londonist of alternative tube maps is as authoritative as it gets, and there really is some mind-bendingly weird and amusing takes of the map on there, designed by enthusiasts, from it in 3D to all the stations translated into German. I particularly like this one by Mark Noad that shows the map as how it would actually look if the stops were depicted in a geographically accurate manner (given that Harry Beck's ubiquitous schematic map ignored this in favour of topological straight lines and, by and large, disregard for actual spatial distance between stations):
The one that made me laugh the most from that Londonist list has to be this representation of the map by The Poke in terms of the 'moral underground' pushed by right-wing tabloid The Daily Wail (sorry, The Daily Mail):
Rest assured that house prices and the Euro currency are in there somewhere.
As for this one by Francisco Dans, frankly I haven't got a clue what it's all about, but it looks incredible:
Finally, I leave you with the version below (not sure who it's by), which has a certain kind of beauty. It shows an aerial view of Greater London with the Tube map superimposed. If there's one thing that image brings to mind, it's just how vast the distances between stations can be - and just how vast London as a city is.
(NB If anyone from London Underground/TfL is reading this, I'm aware that the map is copyright, and that you're not supposed to reproduce any versions of it without permission, but I'm not making any money from this blog, and if you're nice to me I'll say from now on that the London Underground is always great, even when lines aren't running due to signal failures...)