Thursday, January 6, 2011

MTA Apps are Whiz Kid Certified

Lately the subway trains have had ads posted on them by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, who runs them, about the various improvements they're making to New York City's transit system.  As one says "a city is only as good as its transit system."

One of them admits that they didn't create their own apps, "Our apps are whiz kid certified.  Instead of developing transit apps ourselves, we gave our info to the people who do it best."

Now, as what they would probably qualify as a "whiz kid" I don't think I'd certify the app based on the screen shot they show.  From a UI perspective it looks awful.

A quick glance at it and I'm confused.  Those are definitely subway lines, but if I was looking for one, they don't seem to be in any order.  The rectangle in the upper left makes sense, 1 2 3 and 4 5 6 on the next line.  But why is J between 3 and 7?  That makes no sense!

My first thought was maybe they were ordered by their routes, although that might make sense for someone who really knows the whole system, knows that 2 3 4 & 5 all run pretty near each other for long distances.  But if that was the case, why isn't J by Z?  J and Z run perfectly parallel their whole routes and are so tied together a famous singer even used the J & Z lines as his stage name...

Or maybe I should make an allowance for half the screen being cut off from the ad?

Hopefully it's not made by the same people who wrote the software that creates their status alerts on their home page.  During last week's blizzard one had this:

MTA Service Notice
Due to ongoing snow related conditions:
There is no Description: service between the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard Station and the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue Station in both directions.   
There is no Description: service between the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue Station and the Whitehall Street Station in both directions.
Please allow for additional travel time.

Ok, sounds reasonable.  One of my coworkers, who very, very rarely takes the subway, went to the Q station nearest her and found out it was closed.  She thought it was running.

I did, too.  Until I looked at a route map.  Turns out Astoria-Ditmars and Coney Island are opposite ends of the lines.  Basically, that Q notice translates to "there is no Q service" because it's not running from the stations at each end of the line.

My guess is the MTA must have some application which lists the lines and they just check the first and last stations that are out of service and it generates the message for their web page.  But it doesn't recognize that if the first and last stations on a line are checked, then the whole line is out of service.

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