How full are the other subway cars?

This morning’s commute was particularly jam packed and it seems to be happening more and more. As I stood there squished like a sardine, I wondered if all the cars on this train were just as packed as the one I had chosen. I know seasoned commuters have strategic cars they board aligning with their destination’s exits, and thus some train cars are probably more packed than others. Other commuters simply crowd around the entrance stairs and don’t venture down the platform.

How might we encourage commuters to spread out more evenly along the train cars to prevent overloading in just a few?

Maybe they could add pressure sensors to the floors of every train car? This could then measure weight and distribution of riders. The data could then be used to show commuters waiting on the platform which cars are empty and more specifically which doors of a specific car are more packed than others.

Maybe this could be indicated by large LED light strips along the sides of each car. This strips would need to be visible from both the side and straight on, and possibly in a staggered position above each doorway. So as the commuter stood on the platform and looked down the train, they could see different colors: green for empty, yellow for getting full, and red for packed. This would help guide them to a more empty train car or less packed doorway. LED color blocks would also make the status of each car visible as the train pull into the station rushing past the commuter, letting the commuter know if the cars that have passed them are empty or full.

I’m tired of guessing where to stand on the platform to most likely encounter an empty car or jogging from door to door looking for an open spot to stand. Maybe with a few simple sensors and low-energy lights the MTA could help commuters fill out the whole train rather then just a few cars.

Just a thought…