Stuyvesant Transit and Urbanism Association Unveils Transit Predictor Board

Issue 3, Volume 113

By Ruiwen Tang, Talia Arcasoy, Craig Chen, Ian Kim, Jasmine Yuen 

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The Stuyvesant Transit and Urbanism Association (STUA) recently launched their MTA transit predictor board on September 12. The board displays estimated arrival times of the trains and buses most commonly taken by Stuyvesant students and faculty.

The transit predictor board serves as a way to ease the commute of Stuyvesant students. Insights regarding NYC transit arrivals and delays are readily accessible to students and staff just before they exit the building. “The second-floor hallway gets crowded with people on their phones trying to see when the train leaves and whether they can make it in time,” sophomore and STUA member Muhib Muhib said. “The board has a simple purpose. It shows what trains you can reach and if you can get there in time.”

For students and faculty who have multiple options for commuting, the board offers additional information about which routes may be preferable at the moment. “I live in Brooklyn Heights, and there are many different trains I can take to get there. So, I want to know which one is coming first,” sophomore and STUA member Jakob Weir said.

Senior and STUA Co-President Jeffrey Mui organized the initiative alongside senior and STUA Leader of Communications and Design Ravindra Mangar, while other members of the club pitched in with their own efforts to make the project a reality. In all, the objective of the club is to spread information on public transit and urban development.

To implement the project at Stuyvesant, members of STUA coordinated with administration to receive approval and generate support for the transit predictor board. “First, I asked Ms. [Director of Family Engagement Dina] Ingram who to talk to, [...] and she said to talk to [Assistant Principal of Organization Dr. Gary] Haber,” Weir said. “I talked to [Haber], who eventually said I had to talk to Mr. [Computer Associate Sydney] Lindsay. So we talked to [Lindsay], who ended up switching us [from] using that board to the TV that we now use.”

STUA’s partnership with administration allowed the organization to acquire and set up the necessary equipment, including a spare TV unit for the transit board itself. “[In meetings with administration,] we discussed mostly the problem of where we would get the software and the hardware for [the board],” sophomore and STUA member Theo Eicher said.

To kick off the project, members of STUA then collected information from the student body to determine which modes of transit should be displayed. “If you saw surveys on Facebook, I put them up so we can ask what trains or buses people take from Stuy so that we could know what to put on the board,” Muhib said.

These surveys were particularly informative for determining student usage of various lines. “We knew that 1/2/3 [train line] and A/C/E [train line] were obviously going to be the most taken, but those last two rows on the board, like the N/Q/R/W [trains], 4/5/6 [trains], and the buses, we didn’t know how much space we should dedicate to them,” sophomore and STUA member Seth Huse said. “We were able to get around 220 responses. Additionally, we learned that the X27 and X28 express buses were the most used [buses] among Stuyvesant students.”

Though it was just recently finalized, the project was initially proposed in 2018 by former president of STUA Julian Wong (’20). However, the project took some time to come to fruition due to difficulties with transforming data from the MTA’s API gateway into more readable information. “MTA data was kind of hard to parse, so they [had already] work[ed] on the project for two years when I became a board member,” Mangar said. “They passed it on to me as they were graduating.”

An additional obstacle that prevented the project from moving forward was the slow speed at which the board would update with information from the MTA. “[The club was] having a bit of trouble getting the response time for the board down. Originally, it was at 50 seconds or something like that, which was a lot of time for it just to be sitting there. That was the main reason we couldn’t get it up at the end of last year, which was our goal,” Huse said.

Nonetheless, members of STUA were ultimately able to implement the software necessary to improve the board. “[Mangar] converted the MTA’s data from their format to a readable format that I could then use and turn into the screen,” sophomore and STUA member Lopen Zuo said. “I would post updates [to the club] for feedback on what the screen should look like. With a lot of help from [Weir], I learned Python in my freshman year [...] The board itself is with Python, and the UI is with PyGame.”

To the surprise of STUA members who worked on the project, the transit board has quickly surged to be a popular topic among the Stuyvesant student body. “I don’t think any of us really predicted the amount of people [who] would see eye-to-eye with us on this,” Mui said. “When we first put up the board a few days ago, there were a lot of people. Heads were turning.”

Among all other emotions, most students found themselves positively curious about the new board. “My first thoughts were that it was a pretty cool addition. It was something new and nice to see. A lot of people, like me, stopped for a little bit and took a look at the new screen,” senior Weichen Liu said. “The layout of the display is well made, and it’s easy for those passing by to comprehend. In terms of location, I believe that it would have been optimal for the school to have placed it so that it hangs from the ceiling so that it would be easy for everyone to see, especially during the crowded dismissals.”

Some students had a less positive outlook on the board. “My first thoughts were [that] it was kinda useless because regardless of when you get to the train station, you probably won’t need to wait more than five minutes,” senior Faiyaz Rafee said. “I have never left school at a different time to catch the train the board says is coming.”

In spite of the generally successful execution of the project, some students express that there are other methods than the transit board to check arrival times. “I don’t think that most people actually are making use of the board, though I’m sure some people must find it useful. There already exists a transit app that can easily be downloaded and accessed on your smartphone much more easily and consistently if you want to be aware of transportational arrival times,” Liu said.

Regardless, STUA members are proud of the recognition the transit predictor board has received and hope that the club will continue to make a difference in the school community. “We wanted to take advantage of the moment to see how we can continue furthering our visions for the school,” Mangar said. “We have a part two of the project where we put some use to the board during off-peak hours [...] outside of periods eight, nine, 10. We’d like to add some functionality.”

Though they may not envision the exact same idea, some students foresee various applications for a board accessible to the student body like the transit predictor. “Of all of the developments and ideas encapsulated in this project, the concept of having an electronic board displaying information at a spot that sees so much traffic is the most notable,” Liu said. “I think that a lot more can be done with this idea, for example having boards that present relevant world and school news or perhaps other significant pieces of information that the student population should be made aware of.”