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Introducing The “The Weekender”

 

Mark Groce: I’m Mark Groce and you’re listening to an “In the News” podcast on TransitTrax, New York City Transit’s podcast service.

Mark Groce: Listen up Weekend Warriors.  There’s a new way to check just how much of an impact construction and upgrade work will have on your weekend subway rides.  It’s called “The Weekender.”  Paul Fleuranges, Senior Director of Corporate & Internal Communications explains.

Paul Fleuranges: We do an incredible amount of capital program rebuilding and upgrade work on the subway every weekend, so much so that the system our customers use during the week is almost unrecognizable on the weekends.  So The Weekender is a response to that.  It’s an interactive website that allows our riders to go on to mta.info and check exactly how weekend work is going to affect their trip. 

So, from the menu bar at the top of the page they can check by subway line for an overall view of work, they can check by the subway station or stations they plan on using, or by the borough they are either starting or ending their trip in.

Mark Groce: The Weekender uses as its base the data included the Trip Planner+ itinerary program, which includes diversion information, but takes the information and breaks it out differently. 

Paul Fleuranges: What we had to figure out was how best to take advantage of the flexibility of the web to display diversion information in a way that our customers could easily digest, something like we did for our Planned Work posters introduced about a year ago.  Those posters use a color-coded system to display diversions by weekday or weekend and by time of day – either nights or days.

The key to The Weekender, however, is the use of a subway diagram, which is a different look than our current geographic subway map.  What the diagram allows us to do is to plot the information both electronically and graphically.

Mark Groce: But it’s not just any subway diagram.  For The Weekender, the MTA is using a diagram inspired by the 1972 Vignelli map, designed by world-renowned map maker and designer Massimo Vignelli.  Vignelli and his associates Yoshiki Waterhouse and Beatriz Cifuentes-Cabarello updated that map from scratch.

Beatriz Cifuentes-Cabarello: The diagram was really started from scratch this time because we took advantage of all the new technologies that are available.  Especially, we tried to keep reference points within the map geographically correct.  So all the stations are exactly where they are supposed to be in relation to each other.

For the website there are two levels: one is the diagram itself which is the static layer and then there is the stations or the dots that is the dynamic layer.  And that layer actually is the one that gives you different information depending on what the status of each station is.

Mark Groce: As her associate Yoshiki Waterhouse explains, those dots are the key to the diagram.

Yoshiki Waterhouse: By isolating specific stops along individual lines you can gain a lot more information it essentially becomes a digital exercise and so it transferred very, very well to the website as a result.

On The Weekender website you can see specifically what kind of planned work is on the horizon for the weekend by looking at the status of the dot.  If the dot is flashing you can click on it and find out what’s going on.

Mark Groce: The Internet Applications group at NYC Transit had their hands full in coding all this information on to the site.  Sohaib Mallick heads up the group.

Sohaib Mallick: The full text description of the diversions is not well suited for The Weekender’s design specification.  Our staff developed algorithms to pass and reformat the text for this application.  The ability to query diversion information by borough is unique to this application.  And Internet Technology staff developed the associated tables and arrays to make such queries possible.  The MTA’s internal systems contain all the weekend planned work information.  The challenge here was to enable customers to query that information using highly intuitive graphical based interfaces.  We also included the MTA neighborhood maps to allow customers to view affected stations in a street geographic context.

Mark Groce: The Vignelli style can be found not only with the map, but with the look and feel of The Weekender itself.

Paul Fleuranges: When we made the decision to use the Vignelli map, it was clear our original design for The Weekender wouldn’t work.  So we asked, and Vignelli Associates agreed, to help us with the overall design.

Yoshi Waterhouse: As you know, Massimo is responsible for designing the subway signage back in the day, and we wanted to ultimately start off from that point and that’s exactly what you have in the navigation banner.  It is a New York City subway sign, so it’s immediately something that you are used to seeing.

Mark Groce: But it’s not just about aesthetics, it’s about function.  And by integrating the Trip Planner+, which automatically plans your subway trip by taking weekend service changes into account, The Weekender is truly where your subway ride starts.

Need Bus, Long Island Rail Road or Metro-North info? Just click on the menu bar.

The Weekender will be the front page of mta.info starting Friday afternoon through early Monday morning.

For TransitTrax I’m Mark Groce.  Thanks for listening and thanks for riding with NYC Transit.