A NYC subway entrance indicates where a passenger would find the nearest elevator for the station.

The Ups and Downs of NYC Subway Elevators

Data Clinic social good hackers jump-start analyses to better understand New York City subway elevators

Erin Stein
Dec 19, 2019 · 2 min read

As several high-profile stories have highlighted this year, accessibility — especially in the NYC subway system — is on a lot of people’s minds. And it was on ours, too. Having spoken to several advocates for increased accessibility and read the MTA’s plan to expand such efforts in their latest Capital Program for 2020–2024, we wondered what it meant to navigate NYC’s underground mass transit when relying on elevators, and how data might be able to better support this segment of New Yorkers.

We pulled together about 20 people from across Two Sigma for an internal Hack Day tackling this very issue earlier this month, and prepared some key datasets in advance: turnstile data indicating traffic in and out of stations, elevator outage data, and a mapping between subway lines and stations. Could we tie these datasets together to uncover a nuanced understanding of the relationship between outages and subway users?

We split into a few teams, and each made headway — from decrypting the underground labyrinths and breaking down outages by people impacted, to understanding outages along common journeys. Excitingly, this is just the beginning. Could these analyses help optimize scheduled maintenance? Help elevator users plan alternative routes? Inform future system improvements?

The rush-hour crowd shuffles through a designated accessible boarding area.

One lesson we all came away with: New Yorkers feel a certain sense of pride about the grit needed to live in this city — to deal with the sidewalks packed with tourists, the exhaustion of the last set of stairs in a fourth-floor walk-up, the rush-hour sardine-packed subway cars… but the mettle needed to be a New Yorker when the world isn’t so easy to navigate? Being wheelchair-bound, pushing a stroller, temporarily on crutches, dragging a heavy suitcase? These New Yorkers know grit.

We look forward to sharing our research, including data and code that we’ll open source, and hope it will be a helpful resource to all civic hackers. Stay tuned!

Data Clinic

We help nonprofits have a greater impact through data and tech

Erin Stein

Written by

Head of Operations at Data Clinic, Two Sigma. Learning and making stuff and helping people are my jams.

Data Clinic

We help nonprofits have a greater impact through data and tech

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