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Redesign the Subway System to Your Heart's Content With Interactive Game

By Nicole Levy | August 1, 2016 1:08pm
 You can now alter the MTA subway system any way you like — or build a new one from scratch.
You can now alter the MTA subway system any way you like — or build a new one from scratch.
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Jason Wright

It now takes only a few minutes to construct a Second Avenue subway line. 

In the new interactive transportation planning game, building tracks and stations to transport Q trains up the eastern side of Manhattan is as simple as clicking several times on a map of New York City.

"Brand New Subway," the creation of electrical engineer Jason Wright, invites players to either modify current, future and past MTA subway maps or create their own from scratch. 

The game is Wright's submission to a competition challenging designers to transform Robert Caro's 1,336-page biography of master planner Robert Moses, "The Power Broker," into a "playable, interactive form," either a video or tabletop game, "that preserves the flavor and themes of the written work." 

While Moses favored highways over public transit, building highways such as the Brooklyn-Queens and Cross Bronx expressways, Wright's SimCity-like game embodies the scope of the controversial planner's visions for his city and his disregard for political oversight, he writes in an explanation of its features and inspiration

"Want to build a subway connecting your house to your job and nothing else? No one is there to stop you," Wright writes on his site.

"Brand New Subway" lets players build stations and transfer walkways anywhere they choose, but it also uses census data, jobs data, transportation demand data, and estimated construction and maintenance costs to calculate the consequences of their decisions. With every new station, the game determines the impact it will have on daily ridership and single-ride MetroCard fares. It then assigns a letter grade to the system, relative to the B grade Wright has assigned the current network.

The game isn't the first to let New Yorkers manipulate public transit. Another interactive called Mini Metro lets users start with a small city of three unconnected stations and grow train lines as the population swells, according to a 2014 article from CityLab

Wright, who lives in Crown Heights off the 3 train and designed the game specifically around New York City, said he designed "Brand New Subway" for people who have a stake in their neighborhood's transportation, unlike Moses, who built bridges and expressways for the cars he never drove himself.

So you could let your imagination run wild and draw the map of your fantasies. Or — if you're feeling idealistic — you can create a system that's more affordable and services more people.