Data Science Summer School 2018 – Exploring the Reliability of the NYC Subway System


August 2, 2018


Jake Hofman, Akbar Mirza, Brian Hernandez, Amanda Rodriguez, Renzhentaxi Baerde, Phoebe Nguyen, Peter Farquharson, Ayliana Teitelbaum, Sasha Paulovich


Fordham University; Stern College for Women; Lehman College; CUNY Baruch College; Adelphi University; Hunter College; City College of New York; Columbia


The New York City subway is the largest rapid transit system in the world, serving approximately 5.5 million riders each day. Recently there has been a growing concern over the state of the subway system due to aging equipment as reflected in system-wide metrics such as “on-time percentage”, or how often trains run according to schedule. While these metrics provide some insight into the performance of the subway system, they fail to capture how riders experience the system. In this project we use recently released countdown clock data that logs where each train is reported to be at each minute of the day to gain a better understanding of how riders experience the subway system. We examine rider wait times and trip times, considering not just average but also worst-case performance of the system. We also compare the subway to above ground travel, investigate how changes to the system affect rider options, and look at how commutes vary across demographic groups. We find that the subway is typically quite reliable, but that averages can be misleading: variance in subway performance can account for up to a 50% difference between average and worst-case travel times. We also find a correlation between income and commute times and that small changes to the system (e.g., adding or removing stops or lines) can have large effects on riders’ options.


Jake Hofman, Akbar Mirza, Brian Hernandez, Amanda Rodriguez, Renzhentaxi Baerde, Phoebe Nguyen, Peter Farquharson, Ayliana Teitelbaum, Sasha Paulovich

Senior Researcher Jake Hofman
Jake has taught numerous machine learning classes at Columbia.

Akbar Mirza
Akbar Mirza recently graduated from the City College of New York, double majoring in Computer Science and User Experience Design. He is excited about product design, UX, and software engineering. Akbar is an interdisciplinary thinker and loves to push his limits. In the past year, he’s taught a course on iOS Development, used data science to explore the MTA subway system, and launched an app with Quadrant 2 called MigraCam. Designed to help immigrants reached loved ones in emergency situations, Migracam is one of his best examples of using the power of civic tech to help others. Akbar is interested in expanding his knowledge in civic tech, user research, and software engineering and is open to new opportunities to grow and learn.

Brian Hernandez
Brian Hernandez graduated from Hunter College in June of 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He has been absolutely enamored with Data Science and Machine Learning ever since he watched a neural network program overcome one of the hardest levels in his favorite video game. After completing a few courses and programs focused on data, he found his ultimate data-driven learning experience in DS3. Outside of technology, he loves dancing, singing, and doing handstands.

Amanda Rodriguez
Amanda Rodriguez is a senior at Lehman College, majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science. She plans to apply for PhD programs in Theoretical Computer Science during Fall 2018. In addition to her research interests, she loves to play tennis, hike, and travel. She spent her previous summer doing research in Colombia and traveling throughout Europe. After her time with DS3, she will participate in a service trip to Barranquitas, Puerto Rico to help those affected by Hurricane Maria through the CUNY Service Corps – Puerto Rico initiative.

Renzhentaxi Baerde
Renzhentaxi Baerde graduated from Adelphi University in May 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He dreams to be able to read a research paper and actually understand it. He also likes to downvote reddit posts and is facinated by procedural generation. Currently, he is sending out thousands of application, hoping to get a job before his family disowns him. He discovered his love for programming when he realized he could beat games by using a Cheat Engine. 1 out of 10 people find Taxi funny. 9 out of 10 people dont talk to Taxi.

Phoebe Nguyen
Phuong (Phoebe) Nguyen is a rising Senior at CUNY Baruch College, majoring in Computer Information System, specializing in Data Analytics. She found her passion for technology and education during her gap year when she filmed her first documentary about parenting methods in South East Asian countries. Her ambition is to work at the forefront of the technology with the ability to find innovative solutions to the world’s problem, serving as an advocate for underprivileged children and young women to get involved in Tech.

Peter Farquharson
Peter Farquharson is a rising senior at Lehman College majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics. He is passionate about working with Data Structures and Algorithms while incorporating tools from Data Science. He was thrilled to be a part of DS3 to gain an understanding of Data Science and working in a research setting with diverse individuals. He is an avid gamer and enjoys playing cricket and soccer in his spare time.

Ayliana Teitelbaum
Ayliana Teitelbaum is a rising Junior at Stern College for Women (Yeshiva University) studying Computer Science and Biology. She was introduced to computer science in high school, and knew she wanted to go into coding. However, she is also intrigued by biology, and hopes to combine both disciplines. Last summer, she worked in a program teaching elementary school students how to code while getting them excited about technology and software engineering. She enjoys using data to answer practical questions that come up in her and others’ daily lives, and hopes to continue to use technology to improve the lives of those around her.

Sasha Paulovich
Sasha Paulovich will be graduating from Fordham University in December 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Originally a dancer, her interest in computer science stems from her desire to apply her creative tendencies to analytical challenges. For her, DS3 presented an opportunity to share the patterns and stories hidden in mountains of data. In addition to DS3, Sasha also participated in the Interactive Telecommunications Program Camp at NYU this past June, where she was able to explore the world of interactive/immersive technology. Inspired by her experiences this summer, Sasha hopes to pursue the intersection of interactive technology and data science, and discover ways in which she can communicate data-driven narratives.