The Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee


During spring break at MIT in 1966, Peter R. Samson saw this quote on the back of a New York City subway map:

"A Flushing youth, who wanted his money's worth, rode all lines of the subway on a single token. With doubling back as needed, the trip totaled over 400 miles - more than the train journey from New York to Pittsburgh. It took him 25 hours and 36 minutes."

This set in motion Samson's extensive efforts to duplicate the feat. Enlisting other students and some serious MIT hardware (including a PDP-6, the use of which was authorized by Marvin Minsky himself), Samson dedicated himself to the task of mapping the subway system and determining ideal routes through it. Using artificial intelligence (after manual calculation failed to produce a satisfactorily fast outcome), the team of MIT hackers engaged in a realtime subway race assisted by computers back at home base, relaying information via payphone.

Along the way, the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee was formed. Samson organized the group in order to decide upon rules and definitions, in order to help regulate the nascent "sport" of subway racing. Here's a selection of the official rules from Samson's personal history, The Rise and Fall of the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee:

Regulations Regarding Amateur New York Subway Riding Definitions This document sets forth the rules of the competition with the name “Amateur New York Subway Riding.” There are three Classes of Competition: Class A: Covering all Lines Class B: Touching all Stations Class C: Passing all Stations In general, the object of the competition is to set a record minimum time for a given Class of Competition by planning a route through the New York City Transit System subject to the qualifications of that Class; and making a timed run over that route. These rules, and all records of the competition, are maintained by the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee, referred to herein as the Committee. Each person who intentionally participates in the run, or who attempts specifically to expedite the run by his actions during the run, or who participates in the selection of lines and stations to be followed during the run, is considered a contestant with regard to that run. ...

The rules go on for quite a while. Read Samson's article for the whole story, including information about the artificial intelligence program used in the stunt (ahem, "hack"), schematics of the subway system, original logs, and other documents. See also: Wikipedia entry on Samson.

(Via Anarchaia.)