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Visualizing New York’s Transit Data: Clarifying Service Lines



During the MTA’s monthly board meetings, MTA teams often use different terms to describe lines in the subway system to MTA decision makers, which makes planning conversations difficult. Designers Leroy Tellez and Shelly Ni created a system of visual elements for decision makers to use as a quick reference during meetings, so that they understand what portion of track is being discussed.  This system is medium agnostic – it can be applied to interactive maps, turned into a printed key, or used to compare data sets for decision makers to reference during meetings.

For example: the Lexington line encompasses the 4,5,6 and Times Square shuttle services, between Grand Central station and Borough Hall station. We soon realized that this was too much information to show at once, and instead we designed a flexible system of elements for MTA teams to use across a variety of use cases.

Labels from our system can be used to quickly compare service issues and trends across lines. The visual map elements —endpoints and lines —can be used to create print reference maps or interactive ones. Whether the elements we designed are implemented for dashboards, interactive reports, or print references, they share one goal in common —creating a common language for MTA decision makers to discuss and organize data during important planning conversations.