in New York City, Technology and Society

IA, Policy, and the New York City Subway

Olga just sent me a link to her new project UX Social, in which she’s interviewing some guy on how IA could/should be applied to government policies and the like. Oh wait, that’s me!

(watch the 2nd part at Olga’s site)

In this interview, Olga gave me an opportunity to vent a little bit about the bane of my existence, and probably that of a few million other fellow New Yorkers, the MTA. Officially, the acronym stands for the Metro Transit Authority, though I think a more accurate meaning of is Mysterious Train Activity.

Anyhoo, one of the many many many stupid things that our beloved MTA did was to install ‘Emergency Exits’ at all of the several hundred subway stations. Problem is, these exits used to be normal exits, except they were bigger and wider than subway turnstyle exits, so that people with bikes and baby carriages could use them. The thing was, though, you had to press a tiny button next to the door and then wait for a subway attendant to buzz you through. And if there was no nearby attendant booth, well then there was no large exit door, so you’d have to trek to the opposite end of the station to be able to exit with your bike or whatever.

To address this problem, the MTA came up with a brilliant, brilliant!, solution. Y’know those doors with the big horizontal bar on the insider of the door that you push to exit? Well, they replaced all the old doors and installed additional doors at unattended areas with that *huuuge* button just begging to be pushed, which allows people to exit even if there is no attendant around. Oh, one small detail, there is a very noisy alarm that goes off when you push that huge irresistible button. But what do you care, you’re long gone up the stair and out of the subway, while the people on the platform have to contend with a sharp whining sound that seems like it’s never going to stop. Well, there’s more to the story, but check out Olga’s page for the rest of it.

Thanks Olga!

Oh, and she’s got lots of other great interviews with people a lot smarter than me at UX Social.

  1. Anders,

    This is a great explanation of what we talked about in the interview. Thanks for writing about it. :)

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