What if you attached a seismograph to the T?

Visualizing MBTA Data is just what it sounds like - a series of graphs based on MBTA data. I'm partial to "Subway Trips on Monday February 3, 2014," which shows a seismograph-like graph of service on each line - even without the explanation, you can quickly see when things went awry due to dead trains.



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      This is really great

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      I can not say enough great things about this visualization—it's really fantastic. Getting Green Line data (coming, apparently) would make it better. There is probably a lot of the T to learn from this regarding operations and passenger information, and for passengers to see just how complex the whole system is. (And, yes, how much better it would work if some rolling stock that was designed more recently than the Johnson Administration was acquired.)

      It's also a testament to the open data from the T and MassDOT. They've been leading the way with open data (for instance, NYC doesn't even have a decent bus tracking system) and encouraging developers to use it. So kudos to them.

      Kudos to whoever at MassDOT

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      Kudos to whoever at MassDOT and the T realized that instead of paying consultants millions of dollars to do data analysis you can just let the general public do it for you for free.

      They should at least publish

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      They should at least publish the turnstile counts for the underground Green Line stations.

      The T should use this data to investigate and solve whatever problems cause train bunching. I don't mean the big jam when the Red Line train broke down in the evening. I mean the packs of 5 or 6 trains that form on every line during rush hour.

      The bunching problems come

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      The bunching problems come from the surface stations where it takes forever to load and unload the passengers. Even when they allow passengers to exit using all doors, it takes a while to process waiting passengers through the front door.

      That would be the green line's problem

      However, it isn't the issue on the Red, Orange, or Blue surface stations - these are all gated entry stations.

      There has to be some other reason - possibly having to do with the "clear the doors there is service directly behind this train" problem.

      Oh the dwell time problem can

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      Oh the dwell time problem can also happen with level boarding -- it's just an indication of severe overcrowding. For example, Park Street station at rush hour -- the Red Line dwell times go up severely because practically the entire train attempts to push out onto the platform and a whole new trainload of people try to push onto the train. And then they have to close both sets of doors. Actually, the original designers of what we now call the Red Line anticipated this problem and implemented what is known as the "Spanish style" solution at Park Street, possibly the first such in North America. The idea is that waiting passengers are on the sides, and exiting passengers go through the central platform. But the T abandoned that many years ago and just lets everything go willy nilly.

      Dwell times are the kind of thing that American subway designers don't spend enough time thinking about. It's not a flashy subject. There's a bunch of research into it, and it's all about geometry and accessibility: shape of the doors, stairs or no stairs, size of the platform, size of the doors, number of doors, interior arrangement of poles, arrangement of seats, pedestrian flow, boarding procedure, layout of station, etc etc etc. In places like Japan where every second counts, where trains run on schedule within a margin of seconds, they really think about all this stuff. Not so much here. We do things like force everyone in the train to board and alight through a tiny door up and down some stairs. Or even if not that, then the doors are small and the platforms are an uncoordinated mess. So we end up with dwell times expanding and resultant bunching of trains.