Transit planning engine

Brand New Subway

Brand New Subway was an entry into the “Power Broker” Game Design Competition. It’s an interactive transportation planning game that lets players alter the NYC subway system to their heart’s content.

Players can choose to start from scratch or one of several NYC subway maps (including present-day, maps dating back to the early 1900s, or maps from the future). They can build new stations and lines to expand the system to new areas, or tear it down and redesign the whole thing. The game intends to evoke an imaginative spirit, to empower people to envision transportation according to their needs and desires, and to evoke the fun of tinkering with maps.

How the game works

The game is built upon a real, live map of New York City. When players build each station, the game uses a variety of data sources (census data, jobs data, existing transportation demand data, etc.) to estimate the station’s ridership. Those numbers are used to calculate a system-wide daily ridership. The game also calculates an estimated single-ride MetroCard fare, based on the construction and maintenance costs of the stations and tracks.

Taken together, the ridership and fare are combined into a letter grade, scaled based on the present-day subway’s actual daily ridership and MetroCard fare (which scores as a B).

Players might choose to re-design the system from scratch and see if they can produce a system that’s more affordable and that reaches more people. Or, they might investigate the impact of a particular project, like building a subway extension to their house or down Second Avenue. Or, they might just engage in the fun of map-making and design “fantasy” maps that radically change the subway from what it is today.