Swat Visually: A Swarthmore College Subway Design by Matthew Goldman

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This week, Swat Visually is featuring Matthew Goldman ’15, who visualized his story of Swarthmore by designing a subway map of campus. Goldman sat down with Swat Visually to share his inspiration for the map and the story it tells.

Maps have fascinated Goldman from before he can remember. Having taught himself to read at four by studying the New York City MTA Subway map, maps have been an important part of Goldman’s life.


“While all maps are significant to me, subway maps move me the most.” Chuckling, Goldman rephrases: “I mean, they excite me. They really draw me in.”

When asked why transportation maps “move” Goldman, he cites their narratives. Whether the map shows a campus or a route from New York to Singapore, they are packed with stories about how people journey.

His love of storytelling through maps is what drew Goldman to create a subway map for Swarthmore. Well, that and a good friend of Goldman’s, Lily Jamison-Cash ‘15, who first suggested the idea one day in Sharples.

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With his inspiration and impressive knowledge of train systems, Goldman began with a “trunk line” – the central, “spinal” line common in Euro-American subway systems. Attracted to these systems for their quirky and often contradictory character, Goldman designed Swat’s map with that history in mind.

From there, Goldman determined the hub where all lines would meet. While at first he assumed this would be Parrish, he quickly changed his mind. Parrish is easy to get to from every line in Goldman’s system, but the real hub is Sharples. Sharples is the one place that most students will visit at least once a day every day. Moreover, Goldman thought about the future of Swarthmore’s geography: the Matchbox, the dorms near PPR, and the new hotel.

“Sharples is a particularly central location as relative to what we’re familiar with now with this new world that is coming,” Goldman said.

Not only did Goldman design the map with our own convenience in mind–he suspects the magnolia line would cut down the commute from Sharples to Sci Center by seven minutes–but he also did so with a story in mind.

“To visualize our campus is to appreciate the complexity of our daily life, and the crisscrosses, the curly Q’s, the swoopty doops, the loopty da’s that we take in a given day in a given hour to do what we do,” Goldman said.

Of course, while the map touches on larger themes at Swarthmore, Goldman insists that the map is primarily personal.

“There are Matthew Goldman qualities to this map. There are people who will question why stops are in certain places,” he said. “This isn’t a totalizing vision, but it’s my vision. And for me it’s a perfect vision.”

When, at the end of our interview, I asked if he had anything to add, Goldman–in the fashion of someone with this sort of passion for transportation–thought for a second, and then added:

“Oh, yes, the circle line extension runs only in the morning rush hour, not throughout the rest of the day. That’s the one that will get those Mertz, AP, DK kids to the Trotter area during that 9:53 crunch. But remember, it only runs in the morning.”

For next week, Swat Visually will be looking at transferring from Swarthmore and the different factors that cause students to consider transferring. Regardless of if you considered transferring or how seriously you considered it, please take 2 minutes to fill out our questionnaire!


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