Home MTA Technology The subways are in ur facebook, updatin’ ur transit alerts

The subways are in ur facebook, updatin’ ur transit alerts

by Benjamin Kabak


A screenshot of the Facebook Subway Status application. The Seventh Ave. Express is definitely running local on the weekends for now until the end of time, it seems.

This afternoon, SUBWAYBlogger pointed its loyal readers in the direction of a nifty new Facebook application. The application — which you can find here — is called Subway Status. And that, folks, is the genius of Facebook and the orgy of (mostly) crap they unleashed with the application roll-out a few months ago.

(For all of you who don’t know Facebook, it’s a social networking site that started with colleges, expanded to high schools and has ended up open to everyone. It’s more addictive than crack if you were born in the 1980s or later.)

Anyway, the application, as you can imagine, brings subway information to the Facebooking masses. Using information readily available to the public as well as input from readers, Subway Status keeps subscribers attuned to the latest service alerts. To use this informative application, a Facebook user installs it on his or her profile and selects a favorite or oft-used subway line. That person can then view the alerts in that line and contribute. While nearly everyone in New York takes more than one subway, the application limits users to just one line, but it’s very easy to “transfer lines,” as the application so aptly puts it. I like where this is going.

Now, while SUBWAYBlogger and this Daily Intel post took care of the preliminaries, I decided to use Facebook for its true purpose: stalking your friends making new connections. I contacted Amos Bloomberg, the application’s creator, via Facebook, and he graciously answered some questions about this app. As Bloomberg mentioned, he’s worked on an idea such as this for a while, and it all stems from the lack of communication from the MTA, something with which we are quite familiar after recent events.

So take a read through the interview. And if you want to Facebook me, do it here. I’ll be your friend.

Second Ave. Sagas: Is Subway Status an independent application or was it developed in conjunction with the MTA?

Amos Bloomberg: This application was developed independently. In the long run, we hope to integrate with the MTA. But until they clear the train traffic up ahead in their vision of what it means to have an online presence, we are going it solo!

SAS: What inspired you to develop this application?

AB: I am interested in New York culture, tribalism, and subways. There is a need for an application that targets subway culture. It’s something that everyone shares but experiences independently.

While taking a class at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program taught by Clay Shirky a few years ago, I made initial experiments at creating a physical device that subway riders could use in a social way with the people around them on the trains.

The difficulty with using any such device or online application, and the difficulty with communicating on or around the subway is the high barrier to entry. You have to get people using it and build a critical mass before it really becomes useful. Facebook has provided that critical mass for us and has opened up their environment to developers, so it seemed like the logical time and place to build something like this.

SAS: What changes, if any, do you plan on making to the application in the future?

AB: This application is a community within a community. I intend to build out features specifically targeted to this community. We all know New Yorkers are a diverse bunch of people, so I intend to celebrate this diversity by providing sub-communities of the subway community the tools they need to express themselves as well as intercommunicate with others whether they’re off or on the train.

SAS: What role do the users play in making this an application that is more than just a convenient place for MTA alerts?

I see the MTA alerts as being of limited utility. The meat of the application is the people. Anyone in New York is brutally aware that the MTA has little to no idea (or is not willing to communicate) what is going on in any of its trains at any given moment. Yet there are so many people in the subway at any given moment who have the potential to share this information far more effectively with their community in a matter of seconds. There is utility in this, as well as a joy in being part of the madness that is New York.

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Harlan August 23, 2007 - 7:11 am

How the heck does it know who swiped a metrocard when???

Brett August 23, 2007 - 10:44 am

It doesn’t… that’s just its language for saying that you installed the application and registered your main subway line.

rust August 23, 2007 - 11:01 am

I live in queens and ny line changes depending on the time of day. On weekdays it’s the V, on weekends it’s the R, and at night it’s the E. I CAN’T CHOOSE JUST ONE!

mg August 23, 2007 - 1:01 pm

I also live on a pair of lines and frequent others. It’s a pity that you can’t choose any and all relevant subway lines.


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