Beat the T! Biking Toward a Healthier Boston

Julia Appel, Iris Fung, Eric Lau

The data says that in Boston, more than 30% of work commuters depend on the T to get to work and that biking is a faster and healthier way to do it. Within city limits, biking often saves time when compared to the T. Furthermore, bike commuting helps Bostonians stay healthy and active, adding up to 50 minutes/day of moderate to vigorous activity with an average round-trip commute. Bikers can burn almost 400 calories per day this way! Still, only 1.9% of Bostonians commute to work by bike. We want to tell this story to encourage more people to reevaluate their commuting options, by creating an intervention in their daily routine encouraging them to bike – for their time and health.

To that end, we propose an interactive data game that is commissioned as a joint venture by the Boston Public Health Commission, Hubway system, and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). A stationary bike that looks like a Hubway bike will be installed onto various T station platforms.When the user begins pedaling, the game begins on the large screen in front of the stationary bike. For the purposes of this prototype, we are assuming that this bike is installed in the Brigham Circle T station and the user has chosen the Museum of Fine Arts, two stations along the E extension of the Green Line.

Our audience is the regular MBTA Green Line commuters who have not yet seriously considered other commuting options and may not even be aware of those available to them. The Green Line, in particular, is notorious for late trains, weather delays, and unexpected breakdowns. Furthermore, the Green Line covers areas that are easily bikeable, especially further away from the city. We envision a commuter standing on the station, with some time to kill as they are waiting for their train to arrive. The explicit invitations from the screen and implicit invitations from the empty bike seat entice the person to hop onto the stationary bike. They would then play the game, which would automatically start as they pedal. As they play, facts about biking, the T, and public health appear on the top-left corner of the screen, engaging not just the participant but also the surrounding audience. The data is drawn from a variety of sources, including the suggested Hubway 2011-2013 dataset; and annual statistics from the MBTA (2014 Ridership and Service Statistics) and National Institutes of Health. At the end, the benefits of biking are strongly emphasized by the fact that players are able to “arrive” at the destination station faster than if they had taken the T!

Our goals are to provide an immersive and informative experience to persuade people to reevaluate their own method of commuting and switch to biking for increased efficiency and fitness if it makes sense. We would like to ease their transition to becoming a Hubway member if they so choose. We have designed a receipt that will be printed out at the end of the game, with a code for a free Hubway ride if the player wins the game (i.e. beats the T). At that point, by choosing to hop onto the bike at the station to try and beat the T, the participant has already engaged in healthful, vigorous physical activity. Furthermore, with the receipt “reward” from the kiosk, they have a gratifying, persistent encouragement to become a Hubway member, speed up their daily commutes, and join the Hubway community in biking towards a healthier lifestyle for themselves and Boston as a whole.

So, can you beat the T?

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