Flappy Train: Game Design for Subway Rider Behavior Statistics
New Yorkers seem to unanimously agree on two things: pizza should be flat and round, and the current state of the subway system is unacceptable. On top of being crowded and outdated, or perhaps because of its age and their 24/7 use, New York’s subway frequently runs behind schedule. With 4 million people in Manhattan on any given week day, and 2.9 million on the average Saturday and Sunday (Moss, Mitchell, and Carson Qing), the city desperately needs a subway that operates, if not seamlessly, as least relatively reliably for its 1.7 billion annual riders (Moss, Mitchell, et al).
Delays caused by construction, accidents, or violence are difficult to avoid as a rider. They’re also difficult to gamify. But with so many people using the subway each day, a more accessible modification to the subway system is making sure that everyone is safely inside, that everyone is boarding and unboarding the cars safely and respectfully, and, with safety and respect being priorities, that everyone is boarding and unboarding as quickly as possible. The “Beat the Q” game attempts to collect data about how quickly people board and unboard trains, as well as why people may not be able to get into or out of car quickly in order to allow for future designs that make subways easier to get in and out of.
Players of “Flappy Train” open the game when they board their train, and begin clicking their train forward as their actual train move forward. Their final time to the next station is recorded, as well as the time before they start playing again. The time before they start playing again is the time that can be analyzed to see where, and with the modifications, why trains might be slower. The “game” part of “Flappy Train” is less important, data-wise, than the time the player spend idling at the station, answering questions about the behaviors of people boarding and unboarding. Clicking rapidly to the next station is just meant to be a fun game interaction similar to a “Flappy Bird”-style game that keep the player interested, especially when they arrive at the next station and see how their time compares to a journey of the same length accomplished by previous subway-takers on the same line, or subway-takers on the Q line of the subway, one of the faster, newer, and more popular lines.
The in-between time can be used by the player to answer some questions about how train riders get on and off the train. Via pop-up prompts, the player could answer yes and no questions like:
    Are people waiting for train passengers to get off before boarding the train? (Y/N)
    Are people taking all available seats? (Y/N)
    Is anyone blocking the doors? (Y/N)
    Is the car air-conditioned? (Y/N)
    Is the car clean? (Y/N)
    Did the doors open and close more than once? (Y/N)
    Did the doors open and close more than twice? (Y/N)
Such questions could be used to determine why the train stops for longer than necessary at the platform, and how long each particular barrier to train access means that the train will linger at the platform. This data can then be used to create solutions to the often difficult and crowded process of boarding NYC subway trains.
Works Cited
Moss, Mitchell, et al. "Subway Ridership 1975-2015." NYU Rudin Center for Transportation (2017) Web.

Moss, Mitchell, and Carson Qing. "The Dynamic Population of Manhattan." Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management (2012) Web.

Back to Top