Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.
Click on your location and see how many minutes you could save by integrating buses into your journey—mapped in vivid color.
Compared to subways, buses tend to lose. "Their routes are byzantine, their schedules confusing, and they don’t really shine in the whole inter-borough getting-to-work department," writes NYC data visualizer Jonathan Soma. "If you’re like most New Yorkers, your first choice is usually the subway."
But perhaps the four-wheeled workhorses deserve a bit more credit. At visualizing.nyc, Soma defends their case with a revealing interactive, "Transit Battle NYC." Click on a location, and the map generates in vivid color how many minutes New Yorkers could save by integrating buses into their city sojourns.
Not on work commutes, necessarily. But trips to further flung destinations (or by contrast, within your borough, with the exception of most of Manhattan) speed up remarkably with a bus/subway combo.
Soma tells CityLab that he based the time estimates using data feeds from MTA, and ran them through OpenTripPlanner. And if you're wondering, isn't taking the bus often slower than the subway?, Soma replies yes, but he had these design considerations in mind:
Measuring both faster and slower means only having two colors, and it isn't nearly as pretty as one direction with tons of colors, so I went ahead and made it subway vs. subway+bus. Because if you're taking the bus, you're probably okay with taking the subway, too, right? And that way subway+bus is always either the same as or faster than the subway, so it's all positive numbers and we can invite lots of colors to hang out.
If you opt for subway versus bus or bus versus subway, however, it'll still only show what's fastest—what's slower is counted as "same-ish."
What the map excels at is revealing those secret spots that bus routes serve best. Brooklyn, west of Prospect Park, is chock full of bus-lovin' destinations, which Soma details, among many others across the boroughs, here.