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MTA Flex

How will data and technology transform how we experience, access and move within cities?



In February 2019, our team won a 5k grant fellowship organized by the NYC Media Lab in partnering with Havas Media to harness the power of technology, emerging media, and data. We were challenged to think about: How will data and technology transform how we experience, access and move within cities? We specifically focused on building solution to support growing commuter needs in NYC.

From our research, we identify there is a huge gap traveling between Brooklyn and Queens. As increasing job opportunities expand to non-Manhattan boroughs, commuters desire a more convenient and efficient way to go to work. However, there is a lack of reliable public transportation options for people traveling in the outer boroughs, where subway access is harder to come by, wastes commuters time and money.


MTA Flex is a public on-demand bus service powered by a smart dispatch system.

NYC residents deserve a service that is accessible, transparent, reliable and flexible. MTA Flex is an on-demand bus service that connects disparate neighborhoods and businesses. The service aims to provide commuters with the convenience of ride-share but the affordability of public transit using real-time data.


Scope : 10 weeks
Collaborators : Jason Branch, Margarita Yong, Ke Hu
My Role : Research, Ideation, Storyboard, Illustration
Advisors (Havas) : Joe McHeffey (ACD Exp. Design), Ashley Case (AC Analytics), Stephen Cohrs (Tech Lead), Sargi Mann (EVP Digital Strategy and Investment)





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User Surveys

We gathered 46 responses from NYC commuters on their travel experience with public transportation, including subway, bus, ferry, taxi, private car, and shared rides. Users have helped us to identify that commute between Brooklyn and Queens is more stressful and difficult. And they value travel time and convenience the most.


User Interviews

“ They are very unpredictable, thus making it difficult for me to calculate my travel time. Sometimes the wait is so long I decide to walk instead. And when you’re almost there, you see two or more buses arrive.”

- Diana, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

“ I live in the border of Queens and Brooklyn. I have to take the bus to get to the train. I wait 5 minutes on a good day, and 20 minutes on a bad day.”

- Amy, Maspeth, Queens


Research Synthesis

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In order to understand and validate our hypothesis, we mocked up a field trip to test the travel experience from Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Ridgewood, Queens. We compared the travel time via subway, bus, and a car we rented (following ride-sharing route).

What we learned from this experiment:

  1. We need to limit the distance and stop numbers for passengers.

  2. We are not replacing the whole MTA Bus System with on-demand service.

  3. We need to target people that live far (not walking distance) from a subway stop.

  4. We need to optimize the road space or bus size to fit buses on local road.

  5. We might need terminals or meeting points in between the preferred stops.



Our team sketched out and iterated the storyboard, asking people to identify confusion and validating the concept. With a script, we eventually used it in producing the concept video.





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Our team presented a 7-minute concept pitch to transit experts, Havas team, and a group of panelist, including Rachel Haot (Executive Director, Transit Innovation Partnership), Youssef Kalad (Program Director, NYCx), Seth Ullman (VP, Ports & Transportation, NYCEDC), Harry Bernstein (Chief Creative Officer, Havas New York).



Visitors adored our project and had enthusiastic reactions, like "I want this tomorrow!" or "Why doesn't this exist already?" Demo Day was a morning Open House event hosted by the NYC Media Lab at the RLab, Brooklyn Navy Yard to gather engineers, designers, data scientists and creative technologists who showed their demonstrations of new technologies and user experiences.



Drawn by Jennifer Wei

About NYC Media Lab
Founded in 2010, NYC Media Lab is dedicated to driving innovation and ultimately job growth in media and technology by facilitating collaboration between the City’s universities and its companies. Comprised of a consortium including New York City Economic Development Corporation, School of Visual Arts, New York University, Columbia University, The New School, CUNY, IESE, and Pratt Institute, NYC Media Lab's goals are to include generate research and development, knowledge transfer, and talent across all of the city’s campuses.

About Havas Media
Havas is a company devoted to building meaningful brands and meaningful experiences. While big brand campaigns are needed, the company also strives to make a positive impact on real people’s lives and better communities through building experiences. Impact comes in many forms. It could be utility, inspiration, or support. And a little can go a long way. Key is to be alert to shifting needs and proactively offer solutions and support when they are needed most.