Detours are a familiar frustration to any New Yorker who uses public transportation. Since train routes are subject to frequent changes, a missed memo could be all it takes to disrupt a trip home. Thankfully, MTA and their Transit Innovation Partnership program teamed up with digital product agency Work & Co to create a new web-based digital tool that will make taking the New York City subway easier than ever.
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The new MTA Live Subway Map, which was honored as the Professional Winner in the Transportation category of the 2021 Core77 Design Awards, is the first real-time map of the New York City subway system. With this innovative modern technology, commuters can access accurate, immediate route information straight from the source. The map automatically redraws itself as needed, users can watch trains move through the map, and GPS integration makes it easy to navigate stations. Riders can filter their searches to focus on the lines they use most frequently and zoom into them for more specific details. With the “Tonight” and “Weekend” functions, users can view how any line will change based on a particular time.
In addition to its user friendliness, this Map is innovative for bringing the iconic design of the New York City subway to life. Animation, interactivity, and cutting edge technology adds a kinetic burst of energy to Massimo Vignelli’s clean, instantly recognizable diagram.
One of Work & Co’s biggest challenges was condensing an abundance of data to be viewable on a phone screen. With the assumption that most passengers would view this tool from a smartphone, they prioritized optimizing the technology for mobile. This was a welcome challenge for the team. “At first, the notion of having to squeeze all of the information into a small mobile-phone sized screen would seem like a big constraint. But the smaller canvas actually allowed us to merge geometry with geography while using the ability to pinch —and zoom in and zoom out— lets us be deliberate about the level of content that can be surfaced,” the Work & Co team noted of the project. The Map works just as well on a tablet or desktop computer, so it’s easy for passengers to plan trips wherever they are.
The Map is a part of a larger effort within MTA’s Transit Innovation Partnership to improve and streamline transit in New York City. Since the COVID pandemic posed great challenges to public transportation, the MTA wanted to make sure passengers felt safe and comfortable on board. “It’s times like these that digital tools go from nice-to-haves to critical infrastructure,” said Rachel Haot at the Transition Innovation Partnership. The Map was designed with pandemic safety in mind, with a structure to help users plan rides with as little time on the platform as possible. It also contributes to the city’s continued move towards widespread vaccination, providing information on local vaccination sites.
MTA is aware that rider satisfaction is essential to their success, and they plan to continue to adjust the Map to passengers’ needs. “This beta map is part of a variety of efforts we’re taking to provide our customers with tools to help ensure their trips are as easy and dependable as possible,” said Sarah Feinberg, Interim President of New York City Transit. “We want rider feedback as we continue to develop this exciting new tool.”