An MBTA NFT’s origin story

A GBH listener named Ian recently sent us a website that collected maps of the MBTA. It features old maps that show what lines used to look like, new maps with the possibility of what the T could become and – one advertisement that really caught our eye – a nonfungible token of the MBTA. We tracked down the creator to learn more about it.

Andrew Lynch, a transportation advocate and amateur cartographer, created the animated graphic a decade ago. It illustrates the ways the T has changed from 1897 to 2009: all the new lines, all the new stops, and all the new colors.

“I had the idea that it would be interesting to see a map showing everything that ever happened with the MBTA over its history,” he said. “And so I put together this animated map showing how it grew, how it changed and how it continues to change.”

Lynch said “Animated History of the MBTA” is one of the most popular maps he’s ever made. It seemed like the ideal map he could use to dip into the waters of NFTs.

The NFT is not the piece of digital art itself, but essentially a digital stamp of ownership. It’s a certification that exists on the blockchain – the digital business network behind cryptocurrency – that confirms this is the original artwork and identifies who has ownership of it. Artists can sell those rights to make money.

So far, though, Lynch hasn’t had any takers.

If you don’t understand what an NFT is, you’re not alone.

“Yeah, I’m not even sure what an NFT is,” MBTA Communications Director Joe Petro said. “I know I’ve heard the phrase, and I know that for some reason people pay a lot of money for some of them, but I’m not sure.”

Share your questions, stories and complaints about the T to us by tweeting @GBHNews with the hashtag #ParisandJeremy or emailing thewakeup@wgbh.org.

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