This Guy Is Installing Actually Helpful Subway Signs

Published On 05/08/2015 Published On 05/08/2015
Courtesy of Ryan Murphy

While nobody would ever admit it, even longtime New Yorkers can occasionally lose their sense of direction when coming out of the city's often disorienting maze of subway platforms and connecting tunnels, since existing signage often does little to point you in a specific direction. That's why Rhode Island School of Design student Ryan Murphy has created -- and posted -- signs on stairs out of the subway that actually say what street you're heading to and in what direction. That's pretty damn helpful.

So far, Murphy has installed the signs on stairs at the 86th and Lexington 4, 5, 6 station on the Upper East Side, which he said is heavily trafficked by people who could use the helpful indicators like large tourists crowds heading to museums and the neighborhood's big residential population. He hopes the signs will help people choose which stairs to take when exiting the subway. 

"If you exit on the NE corner, you will walk out of the stairs facing either South or West," Murphy said via email. "To someone who hasn't been to this station it can be incredibly disorienting. You think you are exiting north but end up facing south. After prototyping signage on the turnstiles, walls, ceiling, and stairs, I found people responded by far the best to signs on the stair risers. It is helpful to know when exiting at the SE corner that you are actually heading West, and that if you kept walking you would hit 3rd Ave."

Courtesy of Ryan Murphy

Murphy plans to install additional signs at other stations along the 4, 5, and 6 lines, depending on how quickly the MTA takes down his current batch, he said. Additionally, he plans to post a list of what signs should say and where they should be placed at other subway stations (hopefully including instructions to a nearby bar) for the people who have reached out to him in hopes of replicating his efforts.

"I expect the MTA will take the signs down shortly, much to my disappointment, but I hope they will see the potential of this project (and others) to continue providing beneficial services for the city of New York," he said. "... There is continued rhetoric within the MTA that current signage is as beneficial as needed, and my worry is that we will not listen to our city's residents and will fail to move forward in the future on potentially helpful signage solutions."

Courtesy of Ryan Murphy

Follow us on Facebook for a steady stream of daily NYC stories, and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun/news New York has to offer.

Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and occasionally gets his directions all messed up after coming up from the subway, which is no fun. Send news tips to and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.



Learn More