Subway Anagrams and the Wrath of the Transit System

By James King

Modification trends have no formula or pattern; they just erupt online, catch on to a large blogging community, and spread and dissipate in a matter of days.

Finally, hours of deadpan stares aimed at Toronto’s public transit system maps has yielded an indie urban movement: the transit system anagram mod.

It began when the Tube map of the London Underground was transformed to unearth new stations such as Frog Innard and Eldest Rot. Anagram transit maps have since conquered Amsterdam, Chicago, Manhattan, Oslo, Boston, Atlanta, Vienna, D.C., L.A., Cleveland, St. Louis, Singapore and more. Canada’s largest city even made the cut with a mod of the TTC map. Bathurst has become Butt Rash. Eglinton? No Tingle.

Our public transit systems are a vital part of our cities’ cultural construction. How we navigate our streets is how we experience and interact with our city. A remix of the maps, then, seems inevitable-and hilarious.

Unfortunately, Toronto and London aren’t getting the joke. Both transit systems issued legal warnings over the mod maps, claiming copyright infringement. Apparently, promoting the “the better way” can’t involve anything as endearing or effective as these maps made by transit fans-they might run the risk of (gasp!) actually connecting with riders. The TTC seems to think pictures of sleeping families and drab tales of dull “heroism” will work much better.

Thankfully, the people over at ttcrider.ca have forced TTC chair Howard Moscoe to remove the legal threat in an open letter detailing the TTC’s jaw-droppingly stupid claim against the modded map.

London-based geofftech.co.uk hasn’t been so lucky; its creator was forced to remove the content as the transit commission threatened to shut his website down completely. A transcript of the politely-worded email threat is available on his site, as is his response.

By the time you read this, of course, this mod will have passed on. But rest assured that affectionate re-appropriations of public images will be vigorously defended by our cities’ misguided transit legal departments, preventing any of us from the embarrassment of trying to find Gino’s Snot on the Old Font Harbor line.

Go to ttcrider.ca for the Toronto map and boingboing.net for a comprehensive list of other worldly anagram transit maps.

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