Super Handy Maps Show Which NYC Subway Lines Get Cell Service, and Where
One of my most habitual subway routes begins on the Manhattan-bound L train, which I take to 6th Avenue before switching to the F or the M line. As soon as the L train pulls up to the 6th Avenue platform, my phone, previously deprived of reception, is graced with connectivity. If my plans have changed, I find out with the arrival of previously stoppered text messages. If Spotify has cut out, it’s suddenly resuscitated. It’s hard to find pleasant moments on the subway, but this is one of them.
To find more of these moments, head to Subspotting. The data visualization project maps the available cell phone reception for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon across all 21 of New York City’s subway lines. The maps chart, with blue, yellow, pink, and red lines, the electromagnetic peaks and valleys found along the city’s subway tracks. You can even download an app that lets you monitor your connectivity throughout your commute.
Subspotting is the work of Daniel Goddemeyer, who runs the New York City design and research studio Office Form Field Culture, and data-viz designer Dominikus Baur. Baur lives in Munich, but Goddemeyer lives in New York City, where he says he (like many of us) is “an avid subway rider.” One particularly hectic day, he says, he was riding the subway and needed to fire off some urgent emails. Thanks to a few scattered pockets of connectivity, he managed to do so.
The experience—one that plagues many a subway rider—got Goddemeyer thinking. To investigate the state of available underground cell phone service and Wi-Fi, which the MTA has been gradually doling out to stations across the city, he and Baur created a custom app that could log the reception of the four main carriers in two-second intervals. He then packed a briefcase with four iPhones—one device per carrier—and rode all the subway lines. In both directions. It took two weeks.*
This foot-soldiering resulted in a unique portrait of subterranean New York City, as well as a suite of tools. There are geographic maps of the city with the availability of each carrier, and there are reception graphs for each subway line. That’s in addition to the app Goddemeyer and Baur created, which also shows service for each train in a linear chart. Goddemeyer created this on his own, as a client-less passion project, and plans to update the app as the MTA rolls out Wi-Fi to more stations. It’s a small but poignant bit of community service, and Goddemeyer has a dead-simple goal: “To let people know where they can connect, to download the PDF, or send the next email.”
*To be fair, TaskRabbit “taskers” did some of the data-logging.
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