A team of researchers examined the relationship between the New York City subway map’s color-coding and how that impacts commute times
Trunk coloring was found to be more effective when riders switch between lines
No matter what coloring system the map had, they found that navigational hazards consistently prevented commuters from getting to their destination
They believe that artificial intelligence could detect navigational hazards
It’s not just you — New York City’s subway system really is complicated.
And it may have nothing to do with the number of lines, but rather the subway map’s confusing, color-coded design, according to researchers.
A new study from scientists at the University of Kent and the University of Essex looked at the color-coding of New York City’s subway map to determine how that impacts its usability.
They discovered that color-coding plays a role, in addition to a number of irritating ‘navigational hazards’.
The scientists also believe that artificial intelligence software could be used to rectify many of the map-related mistakes plaguing commuters.
Researchers used New York City as a case study because it has switched between different color-coding systems and is known to have several ‘navigational hazards’.
‘The New York City subway has one of the most complex service patterns in the world, and is currently undergoing re-evaluation and development of its information delivery,’ the study noted.
They recruited almost 300 participants and randomly paired them with a type of color-coded map.
New head of NYC Transit is becoming local hero
Andy Byford has headed New York City Transit for five months—normally long enough for disgruntled straphangers to start turning on him. But events this week showed that his honeymoon period isn’t over.
On the contrary: It’s just beginning.
Thursday morning, before some 400 transportation movers and shakers in an auditorium at NYU, the onetime London Tube station manager made his first public presentation of his 75-page plan to modernize the world’s largest subway and bus system.
It was a reprise of his Wednesday performance before the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where Byford introduced his blueprint, Fast Forward. And while he didn’t delve into what he called “the elephant in the room”—its cost—he made sure everyone in the NYU auditorium knew the plan was big.
“This needs to be a complete overhaul, not a tweak,” Byford said. “We must aim higher than just stabilizing what we have today.”
In the first five years, he would shut down chunks of the system on nights and weekends to replace an antiquated signaling system on five major lines with a communications-based-train-control system. He would buy more than 650 new subway cars capable of “talking to each other” and render an additional 1,200 cars CBTC-capable. At the same time, more than 50 new stations would be made wheelchair-accessible.
The MTA is installing new signals on the 7 and L lines, which will benefit 900,000 riders a day, and working at a rate that would require at least 40 years for a complete overhaul. His plan would benefit 3 million riders, tackling “the big movers, the heavy lifters,” including the 4, 5 and 6 lines.
“There are people saying, ‘It can’t be done,'” Byford said. “Well, we’ll see about that.”
His words were such music to the audience’s ears that he got a standing ovation.
Byford received a similar response Wednesday at the MTA’s monthly board meeting.
“There was sustained applause from the public who attended the meeting,” recalled Jon Orcutt, director of communications and advocacy at TransitCenter. “And those are usually people who are there to complain about something.”
Inspiring the public—and transportation advocates—may be Byford’s first order of business as he lines up political support for a plan that The New York Times reported could cost $19 billion. (Byford said the price tag is still being worked out—and carefully, to avoid the MTA’s usual practice of blowing through project budgets.)
“He did a really good job of getting people to buy into his vision of transformative change,” said Jack Davies, campaign manager at Transportation Alternatives. “It really underscored that he is the right person at the right time to fix our transit system.”
4 Subway Lines Will Get More Trains To Cut Wait Times
The MTA plans to run 16 extra trains on four subway lines starting this fall to reduce wait times and crowding. The A, D, E and F lines will see additional trains running just before and after the typical weekday rush hours starting in November, the transportation authority announced Monday.
Seven bus lines in Queens will also see additional weekend service starting in July as officials adjust to changes in ridership and demand in the city’s transit system, the MTA said.
“We’re thrilled to add some additional service for subway and bus riders, and much bigger improvements are on the horizon,” Andy Byford, the president of New York City Transit, said in a statement.
The extra subway trips will run in the late morning, mid-afternoon and late evening, hours that don’t align with the traditional peak commuting times but still need more trains to serve riders, according to the MTA.
Eight trains will run between 7 and 11 p.m., six will run between 10:30 a.m. and noon, and two will run between 2 and 4 p.m. All the trains will make round trips, meaning there will be additional service in both directions.
Six of the Queens bus lines will see more buses through all or part of the day on Saturday, while the Q65 route will see increased service throughout Sunday. The MTA will also cut Saturday morning service on the Q29 route because of light ridership.
The announcement of increased service comes as fewer New Yorkers are riding the subways and buses while officials work to get the transit system back on its feet.
The subway’s average weekday ridership was 5.3 million in the first three months of this year, a 3.6 percent drop from the same period last year, according to MTA figures. Average weekday bus ridership in first quarter fell 7.1 percent from the prior year to 1.8 million.
Byford will likely address the transit system’s many woes in his corporate plan to overhaul New York City Transit, which he is set to unveil on Wednesday.
“We regularly tweak schedules based on changes in demand and operating conditions, and the comprehensive plan I’m announcing this week will outline the path towards even more significant improvements to service that will be felt by all of our customers,” Byford said.
Here’s a breakdown of the additional subway service, which will begin in November.
Three additional southbound A trains on weekdays between approximately 8:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
One additional northbound D train on weekdays between approximately 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Three additional northbound D trains on weekdays between approximately 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Three additional southbound E trains on weekdays between approximately 10:30 a.m. and noon
One additional northbound F train on weekdays between approximately 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Two additional southbound F trains on weekdays between approximately 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
One additional southbound F train on weekdays between approximately 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Two additional southbound F trains on weekdays between approximately 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
And here’s the plan for increased Queens bus service, set to start in July.
Saturday Q6 frequency will increase throughout the entire day.
Saturday Q8 frequency will increase in midday, afternoon and evening periods.
Saturday Q29 frequency will increase in the afternoon period.
Saturday Q47 frequency will increase throughout the entire day.
Saturday Q49 frequency will increase in the morning, afternoon and evening periods.
Saturday Q101 frequency will increase in the midday and afternoon periods.
Sunday Q65 frequency will increase throughout the day.
What To Expect From New Plan To Overhaul NYC’s Subways
Even as the MTA has tried to patch up the subways, straphangers have demanded to know how officials plan to fix them for good. The clearest answers yet may come this week when Andy Byford, the president of New York City Transit, unveils his corporate plan to overhaul the agency that helps New Yorkers get around the city.
Since taking the helm of the MTA in January, Byford has promised a “radical” plan to modernize the subway system and tackle its myriad problems. He offered a taste last month with his vision for turning around the city’s bus system, which advocates praised as ambitious.
But Byford has said the corporate plan will take on all facets of the city’s transit system, from its infrastructure to its operations.
“It will be bold. It will be wide-reaching, even controversial in its ambition,” Byford said at a Regional Plan Association event last month, according to NY1.
Transit advocates expect the plan to include big-ticket items the subways desperately need, including new signals, train cars and upgrades to make more stations accessible to the disabled. It’s also likely to tackle less splashy but still critical operational issues such as contracting and management.
But the success of Byford’s likely pricy plan will hinge on whether state lawmakers — including Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who controls the MTA — will pony up funding for improvements that likely won’t be finished until long after they’re out of office.
“For the first time in my career I actually have faith that the authority is going to do the right thing (and) come up with a comprehensive plan,” said Nick Sifuentes, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “I have next to no faith that elected officials are going to step up to their end of the bargain, which is funding.”
The scope of Byford’s plan will likely be much bigger than the Subway Action Plan, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota’s $836 million initiative to tackle the system’s short-term problems.
It’s time for long-term fixes now that Lhota’s plan has “stabilized the patient,” Sifuentes said: “This phase two plan needs to be the open heart surgery plan.”
The idea of such a sweeping plan hearkens back to the 1980s, when the officials Richard Ravitch, Bob Kiley and David Gunn overhauled the MTA and New York City Transit by laying out clear solutions and reporting on progress, said Jon Orcutt, the director of communications and advocacy for TransitCenter.
“Some of that transformation was very visible, not day to day but year to year,” Orcutt said.
Replacing the subway system’s ancient signals will be a linchpin of Byford’s plan, advocates say. The existing system is decades old and frequently causes train delays.
The MTA has previously estimated that resignaling the subways would take 40 years. That’s too long for commuters to wait, advocates say, so Byford’s plan could include a more aggressive timeline for that work.
The subway’s trains are also getting old and many need to be replaced. Rolling out new cars and adding substations to increase the amount of electric power going into the system could boost reliability and allow trains to run more frequently, advocates said.
State officials will need to help pay the multibillion-dollar bill for that infrastructure overhaul, said Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance.
“He (Byford) can’t conjure up billions of dollars but the fact is under the state constitution, the governor is someone who can,” Pearlstein said.
Byford’s plan may also build on his pledge to make the city’s public transit more accessible to disabled riders, advocates said. About a quarter of the subway stations are currently accessible and projects to increase that number are underway, Byford has said.
Sifuentes said he wants the subways to reach 100 percent accesibility within 30 years. “We should at least try to get to the halfway mark in the next decade,” he said. Byford has promised to study how much it would cost to make every station accessible.
The behind-the-scenes aspects of the plan will be just as critical as the things commuters will be able to see and touch, advocates said.
The MTA’s contracting practices and deals with labor unions are reportedly to blame for the enormous costs of big capital projects such as East Side Access, the construction of a Long Island Rail Road station at Grand Central Terminal. Work rules also reportedly played a role in forcing trains to slow down near tracks where construction is underway.
Byford has tried to make public transit friendlier by hiring a chief customer officer, openly apologizing for failures and trying to engage more directly with riders.
But he’ll need to speed up procurement, overhaul management and change the agency’s culture for real progress to happen, Sifuentes said.
“He’s going to have to grind against the bureaucracy,” Orcutt said. “It’s been doing things its own way for a long time. But I don’t think that’s insurmountable. He’s the boss and if he says go, they have to go.”
The plan’s success, though, will depend on funding. If it’s as ambitious as Byford’s bus proposal, it could require multiple new revenue streams, Sifuentes said, including congestion pricing and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed tax hike for wealthy New Yorkers.
Advocates have urged state lawmakers to adopt congestion pricing — a proposal to toll cars entering part of Manhattan that could raise as much as $1.5 billion annually for the MTA —as a long-term transit funding strategy. The city also contributes funding to the MTA.
But the legislative session in Albany ends in about a month and has so far produced only small pieces of that plan, including a surcharge on trips in taxis and other for-hire vehicles in the recently approved state budget.
The picture seems bleak — despite the recent heat Cuomo has taken for the subway’s failures, there’s been a “startling lack of political accountability for transit over the past generation,” Pearlstein said. But lawmakers could benefit from supporting Byford’s potentially bold plan.
“If Albany can get behind it with the resources and let him work, it will end up being a great legacy for Cuomo,” Orcutt said. “As much as people have tagged the subway crisis to him, this can sort of erase that if it’s working.”
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