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How Many Of These Cities Can You Identify Using Only Their Transit Stops?

Can you “Guess The City” with nothing more than bus stops and train stations?

image via "Guess The City" screen capture (Portland, OR)

I can still remember the city bus route that took me home every day after high school (good ol’ B-84) and, if hard pressed, could probably rattle off at least 60% of the stops it made along the way. Public transportation is unique in its ability to bring people together while easily letting them explore the contours of their shared metropolis. There’s something about public transit that sticks with you, and helps define your very understanding of what makes a community tick. Spend enough time on mass transit and it becomes impossible to separate your time on the rails or roads from your sense of the city as a whole.


Public transportation may help us understand our communities, but a new game from the sustainable urban community-focused Center For Neighborhood Technology (CNT) asks whether we can identify cities based solely on their mass transit stops.

image via "Guess The City" screen capture (San Antonio, TX)

In “Guess The City,” players are shown a map covered in dots, each representing a bus, train, or ferry stop in an anonymous city’s public transportation system. The darker the dot, the more frequently the stop is used. Players must then identify the city being shown from four possible options.

Sounds simple? It’s not.

image via "Guess The City" screen capture (Waterbury, CT)

Striped of any identifying markers beyond bus stops and train stations, cities become deceptively simple abstract patterns, devoid of context and content. The more you play, the harder each locale becomes to identify, until finally you’re left staring at something more like a municipal Rorschach test than an actual map. It’s a striking reminder of both the obvious similarities, and subtle differences shared across America’s vast network of cities and towns.

The game is part of the CNT’s All Transit project, which bills itself as “the largest source of transit connectivity, access, and frequency data in America.” On their site you can also explore a “Transit Connectivity and Job Access” map, which highlights access to public transportation options within a thirty-minute window for residents of a particular locale.

Public transportation options have always been key to creating a healthy community. Now, thanks to All Transit and “Guess The City”, understanding just what makes a city’s transit grid unique is as easy (or not) as connecting the dots.

[via Laughing Squid]

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