Exclusive: Meet the Man Behind Triptrop NYC


Earlier today our friend Adda Birnir sent us the link to Triptrop NYC, a fantastic new site that bills itself as “extraordinarily pretty subway maps from anywhere to everywhere in new york city,” but looks a little more like what we’d imagine would happen if you ate a lot of mushrooms and decided to play around on Hopstop.com. After the jump we chat with creator Jonathan Soma about walking speeds, rainbow visuals, and the strange maths involved in realizing his project.

Flavorwire: So my first (and rather obvious) question is, what in the world made you think of this?

Jonathan Soma: It’s a lot easier than running a half-dozen addresses through Hopstop to see what’s convenient to go to. I could just pop in my address and say “oh hey, this area over here is about 30 minutes away, maybe i should focus on this area.” (It’s taught me that I need to investigate Sunset Park.)

FW: Our entire office was freaking out over the rainbow effect. Is your background visual?

JS: I’m actually very much from a development background (development background as in, get-a-monitor-tan-while-making-websites development) — the design aspects are accidentally nice. I started doing visualizations last year and people were reacting well to them, so I’d say it’s more a marriage of content and delivery.

FW: What was the process for calculating the travel times? Did you use other sites, or pound the pavement?

JS: The first step was the time between subway stations, which came from the MTA. Then I did some number crunching on that and calculated walking distances math-wise. That part took about 4000 hours of computing time, spread across 200 machines! It was a pretty insane feat, I think, although I woke up the other day and thought of a pretty easy way to do it all for if/when I do other cities.

FW: I was just going to ask — where is next?

JS: It’s a bit of a toss-up as to where I’d do next. I’ve gotten some emails from people in Chicago, but me and DC have a history. I’m sure there’ll be enough interest, it’s just mostly matter of where.

FW: London would be cool.

JS: Berlin has also been mentioned! I’m sure if I spent some time I could build something to generically do any city, but we’ll see how this one goes first.

FW: How did you come up with the name?

JS: I made a list of any word that I could think of that was associated with the map (rainbow, map, transit, subway) — it was forever long. Then I went down the line combining them. Then started adding suffixes, prefixes, all of that. Triptastic was a personal favorite. Eventually Triptrop came up when I was playing with vowels, and it ended up sticking. Someone suggested Mapple, which is completely adorable, but somehow Triptrop won out over that.

FW: Mapple is adorable. But Triptrop sounds like movement.

JS: Definitely. One of my friends who was fighting against Mapple said it was cute but totally blank, while Triptrop had a little flavor or meaning along with it.

FW: How much were friends involved with this?

JS: I’m surprised that i still have friends after sending so many permutations of the maps to them. “Should the lines go in the water? Is this transparent enough? Should the key go on the top or the bottom?” It wasn’t that democratic, but at least I was a benevolent dictator.

FW: You mentioned Sunset Park before. Has the project turned you on to any other neighborhoods that you didn’t really know before?

JS: It’s trying to convince me to hang out in the Financial District, but I don’t think it’s going to be successful on that front… but Prospect Heights is a lot closer than I thought. Iwas underestimating the power of walking. (Fun fact I learned while researching some of the mathy parts: women supposedly walk at 3 mph, men at 3.5 mph.)

FW: I’m also going to tell people to vote on what city they’d like to see next in the comments. And pretend you’ll consider honoring it.

JS: Oh cool. You have my pretend word that I will consider honoring it!