Alexander Chen: “Conductor”

Interactive Designer and Google Creative Lab’s own Alexander Chen reinvented the subway map of  New York City into an interactive, real-time instrument at By utilizing the MTA’s actual subway schedule, each departing train is graphically represented — beginning its journey independently and assuming a place in the symphony at large. The piece extracts data from the MTA’s public API and visualizes every motion of the New York City transit system, while steadily continuing in a 24 hour loop. In his own words:

“The piece follows some rules. Every minute, it checks for new trains launched from their end stations. The train then moves towards the end of the line, with its speed set by the schedule’s estimated trip duration. Some decisions were made for musical, aesthetic, and technical reasons, such as fading out routes over time, the gradual time acceleration, and limiting the number of concurrent trains. Also, I used the weekday schedule. Some of these limitations result in subtle variations, as different trains are chosen during each 24-hour loop.”

However, according to Chen, the map is not entirely accurate and while the train departing time is on par with reality, the map is mostly an exercise in creativity. Moreover, the visuals are based on Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 diagram.