Penn Station Atlas Status


Proof of concept is here . . .

What’s on view in the video are draft versions of one way that a user-centric atlas of a complex space could be implemented for New York’s Penn Station. Because the idea itself is simple, almost unremarkable, I've built out a select set of maps and models in detail in order to show the effect that a simple concept can have when realized in robust form. From that perspective, I think of the contents of this site’s video as an initial proof-of-concept for an ambitious project.


. . . but there’s still a lot to do.

Despite the level of detail in these maps and models, the project is still in early days. One of the major activities that remains to be done is user testing, gathering feedback on the quality and effectiveness of the existing work. Initial testing should be performed with paper prototypes of current maps. Results from the testing of printed prototypes will help to validate, disprove or otherwise inform the content and propositions that are built into the project. Those findings will also help to guide next steps by providing insights into nuanced interactions as well as sharpening underlying assumptions for developing the project across platforms and devices

Another task that remains is the ordinary but substantially detailed business of document preparation. The first draft designs that are in the video have yet to be formatted for viewing and use across multiple platforms (operating systems, devices, screens, printed page, etc.). Necessary tasks in this area include optimization for digital files comprised of hundreds of layers and many hundreds of individual elements. As in other steps forward, revisions will be a required part of the process. Notably, unlike purely data-driven maps that can be quickly reconfigured or re-coded, the maps in this project have been designed ‘by-hand’, making each set of revisions time and labor-intensive.


What it’ll take to make it real

So far, The Penn Station Atlas has been the work of one person. The benefit of that has been to forego bureaucratic hurdles, streamline initial prototyping, and quickly get to concrete results, real designs that can be a basis for discussion and testing. But fundamental questions still remain about the overall project – for example: is this approach to a user-centric atlas as effective and helpful as it can be? Are there other strategies, perspectives or kinds of information that would improve this project? And what development process will be the best way to evolve these prototypes into functional tools that deliver the most positive impact for Penn? These questions highlight a key limit of an independent initiative – the gap that exists where the need for dialogue and multiple perspectives is essential to evolving and strengthening the work.

Beyond that, in purely practical terms, the coming steps in the project will entail a breadth of work (testing, iterations, platform optimization, etc.) that requires nothing less than a team effort and a dedicated budget.

This project is ready to enter a next phase where partnerships, collaborations and dialogue will be key to bringing it to life and making it real for the people who use Penn Station every day.

Are you a potential partner who can help to make this project real?

If you have questions, suggestions, criticism or want to start a conversation about the project feel free to touch base through the contact page.

Project roadmap. Click for full-size PDF.

What version 1.0 will be:

static maps

static images


web-based interface




What version 1.0 will NOT be:

Apple or Android app


indoor location-based service (LBS)

interactive 3D

purchase or subscription