Daily Commute

Transit puzzles for NYC

See it live

Commutes force us to engage with the city. They happen every day, making us fight against the same throng we are a part of. We are slowed down by the mistakes of others. We are subservient to transit delays that force us to detour, recalculating our route without warning. We face the elements. We dress accordingly.

An efficient commute is brag-worthy. After testing streets, evaluating intersections, counting steps, choosing subway doors, and watching the clock, we can reliably get from door-to-door in 25 minutes flat. Or 10 minutes by cab. Or 45 if take the West Side Path. Leaving before 7:05am will mean less crowded trains. This street has a nice coffee shop, but that street is a more direct route to the bus stop.

Commutes have personalities of their own. They are optimized patterns. They are ritualistic, often times designed to reduce mental overhead and just get from here to there. But they are subject to our moods. If we don’t feel rushed, maybe we walk through the park. If we’re hungry, maybe we grab a bagel. If we’re meeting a friend, we pick a place along the way. If we’re biking, we seek out bike lanes. If it’s the weekend, we avoid the subway.

Navigating New York City is complicated, but the city’s transportation network system is the sturdy backbone that supports millions of agendas every hour of the day. Once we think we’ve figured it out (or maybe it’s our first monthly MetroCard, or maybe we’ve nailed the timing three days in a row), we wear the invisible badge of honor that says “I can deal with New York City.”


Every day, Daily Commute picks to locations and asks New York City “what’s the best way to get from here to there?” What if you need a coffee, a happy hour spot on the way home, or the F train is running on the A line?

The following day, Daily Commute presents the previous day’s most popular routes. It’s a little like the daily crossword; do the work today, see the answers tomorrow.

This data can generate behavioral pyschographs of how New Yorkers use the city based on these narratives. What’s is the scenic route? What if I’m late? How do people in Spanish Harlem get to the West Village? How do people in Chinatown get to Chelsea if they’re in a rush? What’s the best route from the East Village to Midtown if I want to walk by a dog park?

Daily Commute aspires to teach New York City how to use it’s own transit system. Every day is an opportunity to empathize with daily life in other parts of the city.

It also gives us the chance to see our city’s whims, quirks, habits, and behaviors reflected back onto itself.


Works in progress

The project’s UI has gone through various phases, but the goal continues to be to keep it simple. Below is a collection of images cataloging its development.