Mapping the NYC Subway Transit Sheds

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of a transit shed since I first encountered it studying the transit system in New York City. The idea is similar to a watershed, the area drained by a particular river. Public transit lines are like rivers of people, feeding them into the great reservoirs of jobs all around the city during the day and then back out to the tributaries of residential life in the evening.  After a recent project I did visualizing transit data for NYU’s Rudin Center with Jeff Ferzoco of linepointpath, I’ve become even more interested in this idea of how people move around the city with public transit.

So naturally, I created a map:

Map of Census Tracts colored by percentage of the population 16 and over (who don't work from home) who travel to work by subway or elevated train. (Source 2013 ACS 5-Year Estimates and NYC Department of City Planning; map hosted on CartoDB)

Map of Census Tracts colored by percentage of the population 16 and over (who don’t work from home) who travel to work by subway or elevated train. (Source 2013 ACS 5-Year Estimates and NYC Department of City Planning; map hosted on CartoDB)

The data on subway commuters comes from the 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate. Using the Census Bureau API, I found the number of workers 16 and over who commute to work by subway and divided it over the total number of workers 16 and over who don’t work from home for each census tract in New York City. The outline of the census tracts are from the NYC Department of City Planning’s Bytes of the Big Apple page and are clipped to the shoreline.

Obviously there are some issues with this map. There is no control for the number of people in each tract, which may account for the fact that 100% of the population of Willet’s Point in Queens ride the subway to work according to this map. What’s interesting is the high percentage (69%) of people 16 and over who don’t work from home that take the subway to work in Pelham Bay Park despite having no subway line close by. The same is true for East New York, where 67% of the population 16 and over who don’t work from home commute to work by subway.

Also interesting is that living near the Staten Island Railroad doesn’t increase the likelihood someone reports (the ACS is all self-reported) using the subway as their primary means of transit to work. This could be due to people looking at the ferry as their primary means of transportation or some other factor (maybe they just don’t use the SIR).

Also clear are the transit deserts. Southeastern Brooklyn is not a place where taking the subway is an easy option. The same is true for the Maspeth and Middle Village areas in Queens. While these areas are no doubt well-served by buses, even the fastest bus likely can’t compare to a subway line for speed and reliability.

And while the 2nd Avenue Subway will no doubt relieve pressure on the Lexington Avenue Line (the 4,5,6), it will be interesting to see if this increases the percentage of people who use the subway to commute to work, especially considering it’s proposed route takes it through areas with some of the smallest percentages of subway commuters in Manhattan.

Feel free to explore and leave any comments you have on the maps. My hope is to start expanding on this idea and do more maps that show where subway riders come from.

UPDATE: Based on a comment below and my own insatiable curiosity, I created two other maps looking at bus commuters and vehicle commuters.

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10 thoughts on “Mapping the NYC Subway Transit Sheds

  1. Do you have a map for the percentage of people who get to work by bus? I suspect this is higher on the UES than elsewhere in Manhattan, because the subway is overcrowded and provides poor east-west service north of 59th. (An underrated feature of Second Avenue Subway Phase 1 is that it creates a reasonable two-seat ride from the Upper East Side to the Upper West Side.)

  2. Pingback: Mapping Vehicle Commuters in New York City | Datapolitan

  3. Pingback: Mapping NYCT Bus Transit Sheds | Datapolitan

  4. Pingback: Map Hacking NYCT Subway Station Conditions, Part I | Datapolitan

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