The commuting cartographer Bus rider pulls out all the stops – and marks them on his maps

As common as riding the bus is in Hudson County, there hasn’t actually been a complete map of the county’s bus lines – until now.

When Mike Vago, 31, moved to the Heights section of Jersey City from Brooklyn with his wife, Lorraine Freeney, two years ago, he was surprised to learn that guides for his daily commute to the West Village were hard to come by.

“New York, there are maps everywhere,” he said in a recent interview. “I couldn’t believe that as good a [public-transportation] system as Jersey City has – and as Hudson County and the state has – they almost go out of their way to make it hard for you.”

So Vago did what any enterprising map-less man would do: he made his own.

Vago’s first bus maps were little more than hand-drawn sketches. But with his homemade maps and bus-line pamphlets from NJ Transit and other carriers to guide him, Vago created a digital version of his countywide transit map during his free time and launched the website earlier this month.

The site traces the routes of county bus lines as well as the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, PATH trains, and Hudson River ferries.

‘It’s about time’

So far, Vago said, reaction has been universally positive.

“A lot of people said it’s already been a help to them or that it’s about time somebody did something like this, which is nice to hear,” he said.

Vago has gotten e-mails with tips on bus lines that he missed, as well as offers to help upgrade the site.

“We’re actually redesigning the site with Google Maps,” Vago said, referring to the Internet search engine’s free mapmaking feature. “It’s going to look much better and it’s going to be easier to use.”

Easier, yes. But the updated site – which Vago is working on with web designer Owen Gunden – is not likely to retain the handmade charm of the original. Version 1.0 was clearly a personal endeavor, sprinkled with typos and quirky commentary on neighborhoods throughout the county.

A sample excerpt: “Birthplace of baseball, Frank Sinatra, Yo La Tengo, and triple-parking, Hoboken has it all. Except parking spaces. And affordable rent.”

There was even a cartoon sea monster drawn into the Hackensack River, marked with the warning, “Here Be Monsters.”

Mapping his future

So, what’s next for Hudson County’s answer to Rand McNally?

“I’d love to be able to keep expanding [the map],” Vago said. “If there’s interest and I have the free time to do it, I might do the whole state, if I can.”

Beyond that, Vago half joked that his website could lead to higher aspirations.

“My wife’s convinced that this is my first step to becoming mayor,” he said.

And what about NJ Transit? Might they follow Vago’s lead and finally offer a system-wide map?

Said Vago: “They can buy mine if they want to.”

Christopher Zinsli can be reached at


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