The MTA's subway map can be intimidating.

"It's quite complicated," said Sebastian Gutmann, a tourist. "Because you see so many street names, so many station names, and you have to figure out where you are.

It wasn't much help to Jake Berman when he first moved to New York from San Francisco 12 years ago. So he decided to make his own version.


Jake Berman's subway map. Courtesy Jake Berman


"Frustration is a great source of creativity," Berman said.

But when he began selling his creation, the MTA threatened legal action, and got the website Etsy to temporarily take it down.

Berman refused to back off.

"It’s something that you don't expect to get," he said. "And I'm surprised quite frankly that the MTA is even concerning itself with this.

The MTA called Berman's work derivative of its weekend service map, which is based on the agency's iconic 1972 map design.

Berman says his map was the result of inspiration from a weekend trip that went awry, and not intellectual property theft. He planned to take the B train from Manhattan to Brooklyn, but the map failed to indicate that the line does not operate on Saturdays and Sundays.

"I waited like an idiot on the platform for half an hour, wondering, 'Where is my train?'" he said.

Berman's vision features symbols for stations where trains stop on nights or weekends only, and lines correspond with streets.

"I designed it because I thought there were flaws in the existing subway map," he said.

Former MTA map designer John Tauranac says he can sympathize.

"To take it upon yourself to design a subway map is almost a loony undertaking. But I'm probably one of the leaders of the looney tunes," Tauranac said.

But he's no fan of the MTA's current map. Like Berman, Tauranac makes and sells his own.

"Many aspects of today's MTA map are muddy, to be kind. A mess, to be honest," he said.

He didn't think Berman infringed on the MTA's intellectual property.

"The MTA is gonna try to protect its property. I think, however, to step on somebody's toes in that nature is short-sighted," Tauranac said.

On Friday, the MTA dropped its legal challenge. While the Berman's map and the MTA's both show the system's lines, Berman's does not use the MTA's distinctive route symbols. 

Berman says his map will again be sold on Etsy. He's invited the MTA to be a customer.