Optimizing Taxi Rides with HubCab

Caitlin Dempsey


A team consisting of computer scientist/physicists, interaction designers, and web developers create a project called Hubcab at the MIT Senseable City Lab. The project focused on optimizing taxi services in NYC and how riders might quantify the savings such as travel costs, less congestion, and lower CO2 and pollution emissions that might be gained from sharing a cab with others.

The project pulled over 170 million taxi trips that occurred in 2011 from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission which tracks taxis using GPS.  All of that data was mapped out and is available on an interactive map on HubCab which geocoded taxi pickups as yellow dots and taxi drop-offs as blue dots.   The map shows 200 thousand street segments in New York which translates which amounts to more than one trillion flow combinations (taxi pickup and drop-off).  The interactive map is powered by MapBox and MongoDB.

The interactive map that allows viewers to chose to and from where they’d like to take a taxi ride and the visualization shows them how many people in a given radius and at a given time range have taken that exact same trip. The data visualization can be restricted based on the time of day.  By choosing a pickup and drop-off location, users can also see the total fare fare savings to passengers, distance distance savings in travelled miles, and co2 emission savings in kg of CO2 that would result from sharing their taxi ride.

Map showing taxi flows and potential taxi sharing benefits between two locations in Manhattan.
Map showing taxi flows and potential taxi sharing benefits between two locations in Manhattan.

The project found that with a minimal amount of disruption, riders could help reduce the daily number of trips by 40% in the city simply by sharing rides.

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The project was led by Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and funded in part by VW Group’s ERL, Audi and General Electric.


P. Santi, G. Resta, M. Szell, S. Sobolevsky, S. Strogatz, C. Ratti. Taxi pooling in New York City: a network-based approach to social sharing problems (2013)
M. Szell, B. Groß. Hubcab – Taxi-Fahrgemeinschaften, digital erkundet. Die Stadt entschlüsseln, Bauwelt Fundamente, Birkhäuser. Eds: D. Offenhuber, C. Ratti (2013)

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.