Redesigning Subway Map to Mitigate Bottleneck Congestion: An Experiment in Washington DC Using Mechanical Turk

TitleRedesigning Subway Map to Mitigate Bottleneck Congestion: An Experiment in Washington DC Using Mechanical Turk
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationSubmitted
AuthorsGuo Z, Zhao J, Whong C, Mishra P, Wyman L
JournalTransportation Research Part A
KeywordsCongestion, Mechanical Turk, route choice, subway map, Washington DC
Abstract

This paper explores the possibility of using subway maps as a planning tool to influence passengers’ route choices in order to mitigate bottleneck congestion. Specifically, it tests whether extending an overcrowded subway line on the Washington DC subway map would switch passengers to other underutilized lines. The experiment was conducted through the Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing platform, with 3,056 participants, producing 21,240 route choice decisions on the official and six alternative maps. Results show that redesigned maps significantly affect participants’ route choices. Depending on the specific line shape, a 20 percent increase of the length could switch 1.9 to 5.7 percentage points of ridership away to an underutilized line. The change could remove up to 10 passengers per car during the highest peak, reducing the number of highly congested periods (100-120 passengers per car) on the overcrowded line from 4 to 1, and the number of crush periods (>120 passengers per car) from 3 to 1. This is done at the minimum or even zero cost. The paper calls for more attention from transit agencies to the planning potential of transit maps.