NYtick: MTA’s The Weekender somewhat demystefies weekend subway service

New York City’s subway is baffling to many visitors. And then it gets really fun at night and on weekends when constant, varying ‘planned service changes’ leave visitors (and locals) scratching their heads. Old subways running 24 hours a day necessitates these closures for maintenance and repairs. Recently the MTA has made efforts to improve the lives of riders: clearer notices posted in station, a plan to shift some of the weekend disruptions to weeknights, and release of a late night service map.

The Weekender is a new online tool to visualize weekend service disruptions. On weekends, visits to the MTA’s homepage are redictected to The Weekender and on weekdays it vanishes. The splash page has key highlights (i.e. major disruptions). This weekend has the L train closed between 8th Avenue in Manhattan and Broadway Junction in Brooklyn. Those on intermediate stops in Brooklyn will likely regret attempting to use the replacement shuttle buses.

Weekender 1

The traditional Service Status table is supplemented with listings by Station, Line and Borough, though Borough view does not display a map. The main criticism of these listings is they do not make clear that certain lines or sections of lines do not run at all on weekends. Click the B, for instance, and the listing is “No scheduled work affecting service on this line.” The only indication that this line does not run on weekend is that the B is grayed out on the corresponding line map.  These regular closures are only clearly displayed in the PDF service guide on the main MTA site.

Weekender 2

The M, which normally only runs its easternmost section on weekends, is this weekend partially extended west to Midtown Manhattan due to closures on other line. The normally closed section is still gray but the open stops are indicated by flashing dots. Well, not exactly because flashing dots only indicate that stations are affected, which can mean open or closed, and the only way to know is to decipher the oracularly cryptic descriptions. Different symbols for open or closed, and a lot more plain English, would do a world of help.

Weekender 3

The Weekender is a big step forward for the MTA in the setting-the-bar-low-style of the former slogan of Philadelphia’s SEPTA, “We’re Getting There.” The design is clean but requires too much prior knowledge about the MTA to effectively utilize. The MTA should work with tourists to modify the tool until it is clear to someone popping out of Penn Station for the first time how to enjoy their weekend by subway.

Snarled

Photo by Payton Chung

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  • KB

    Hurrah! About bloody time.
    I loathe the NY subway for the exact reason you point out in this post: it’s really, really confusing for visitors.
    I travel a lot in Europe, have no gift for languages but am able to manage on subways from Paris to Moscow. I have no issue with the El in Chicago or the Metro in DC. But the NY subway makes me so mad I avoid like the plague.
    This is a great innovation, but sadly not a new one. The London Underground has for years produced a weekly email you can subscribe to and it sends you details of the planned closures and works. It has been shocking, in these pre-Olympic years, to see a map that has more lines closed than open, but at least you know .