Data on the New York City subway system
About a year ago a magnificent thought occurred to me. I had previously thought that it would be impossible for the MTA to determine what level of subway cheating there is. It would be an important statistic, useful for police departments and general knowledge. But there are not enough cameras and security guards…
Then I realized this: while someone jumping a subway turnstile is not counted electronically, they aren’t going to jump the turnstile on exit. Simply by subtracting the number of entrances from the number of exits over the course of a year, the MTA could determine how many people cheat and how much money they are losing on it. The subway became a closed system, a data laboratory!
Until a few days later, when I observed a massive crowd trying to get out of the turnstiles. Some data-insensitive bozo popped open the Emergency Exit door and the flood exited through there. In the anarchy and chaos, a few people jumped in through the door. I cried a little inside, watching these data points hop off of my perfect cheating metric.
I still cry a little inside when I see those Emergency gates open, filled with longing for what could be.