If you take public transit in any major city, you're likely to find yourself surrounded by fellow commuters staring intently at their phones. Some of them are using social media at any given moment to check in or check out what's going on. If you've ever wondered what exactly the people next to you on the train are talking about, Tags and the City finally fills you in.

Designed by Jug Cerovic, David Goldwich, and Tin Fischer, the program takes the most popular subway stations in a major city and renames them after the Instagram hashtag most popular within 300 meters or so (not counting the name of the neighborhood or station). Since they're sticking to Instagram, the map gives you a sense of "how the city is photographed and what is going on where – especially for traveling, shopping, drinks and food."

Map by #tagsandthecity
Map courtesy of #tagsandthecity

So far they've only done a handful of cities but one of them is San Francisco, Oakland, and the surrounding Bay Area as they rename Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations for their corresponding hashtags. There's plenty of obvious choices, such as #alcatraz at Embarcadero station or #warriors at the Oakland Coliseum stop (though that'll change with the new arena). But there's also plenty of interesting selections that help inform you about what the people in this specific spot are concerned with and curious about. The South San Francisco station gives a shout-out to the local #philzcoffee, Montgomery Street station gets #sushirrito because it's close to, well, Sushirrito. Many of the hashtags are food-based (of course), but there's also #sunset at the San Francisco Zoo station, #makerfaire at Hillsdale stop, or #dogpark at Duboce Park & Noe to help give you some further context when you're looking for activities or photo ops.

If some of the hashtags seem slightly behind the times, that's because the designers used data from 2014 "because Instagram started clustering geo tags around 2014/2015." Still, it's a fun way to get a very general sense of the neighborhoods and regions along the line. Seeing #olivegarden certainly gives you a baseline idea about what's going on nearby. It'll be interesting to see if they update the map and how the hashtags change (they say they need Instagram to make more data available). Clearly some are going to stand the test of time (#ucberkeley at Downtown Berkeley), but just like food trends and company locations, some things are always changing.


Tags and the City [TATC]

Mapping SF by its most popular Instagram hashtags [Curbed SF]