John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Some frat brothers opt for Scarface posters. Ian Reynolds just wants to watch the trains arrive.
Bostonians who want to know when the next train arrives could check an MBTA schedule app. Or if they’re in the area they could peer into Ian Reynolds’s window, as the guy has made a glowing system wall map updated with real-time location data.
“The MBTA is a big part of life in Boston, and I built this as sort of a love letter to the transit system that we all know and love (to hate),” writes the 21-year-old MIT engineering student on Reddit. It took him three weeks and more than two-dozen feet of Adafruit NeoPixel LED strips to finish. Reynolds has it synced with the transit agency’s API so he can watch the “trains,” shown as bright LEDs, putter through the system from the comfort of his frat room’s loft bed.
Which he definitely does, according to the Boston Globe:
“I do find myself staring at it sometimes,” said Reynolds. “I’ll just turn it on and then zone out.”...
In terms of letting the MIT student know when to dash out the door to catch a train, it’s not very useful, he said. But it does add pizzazz to his living quarters. Plus, it was fun to build and program.
“It’s just something that makes the room look nice,” Reynolds said.
Since he’s a generous guy, Reynolds has penned an explainer on Medium so other transit-heads can create their own city maps. This video gives an idea of what it looks like at night—note the dots update only every 15 seconds or so and there is some blurriness (though if you’re zoning out with the proper substances, that should seem correct).