Policy by the Numbers

NYU Rudin’s Sarah Kaufman has posted on Google’s Policy by the Numbers blog about social media and transportation, and the importance of saying you’re sorry. Check out the full post here, or read this excerpt below:

…a large portion of responsiveness is accountability. In our analysis, we found a major discrepancy in the use of “thanks” and “sorry” in the Twitter feeds of private transportation providers (specifically, American Airlines and JetBlue) versus public agencies. Specifically, the airlines apologized far more than public transportation providers for delays and cancellations: in the two months studied, American Airlines wrote “sorry” and its synonyms 3,949 times; PATH, 62 times; Metro-North, 39 times; NJ Transit, 25 times; and the others, three or fewer times. Similarly, while customer engagement dominated both airlines’ Twitter accounts (85% on average), demonstrating their need to be constantly responsive to and direct with customers, public transportation providers communicated less directly with their customers (34%). These patterns indicate a universal orientation toward customer service throughout the private companies, which must earn and maintain customer loyalty. However, public transportation providers, which often have a monopoly on customers, likely do not feel the same need to focus on them.

The entire social media report is available in Part 1 (Twitter use analysis) and Part 2 (Policy recommendations).

Preparing for TRB

We’re heading to the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting next weekend in Washington, DC, and hope to see you there. Members of the NYU Rudin Center staff will participate in several sessions:

Transportation Camp 2013 (Nolan Levenson)

Superstorm Sandy: Transportation Challenges and Research Opportunities in the Aftermath of a Disaster (Sarah Kaufman)

Open Data in Transportation (Sarah Kaufman)

If any of our friends are presenting in other sessions, let us know – we’d love to hear your talk and learn from your experiences.

New Report: Transportation Social Media Policy Recommendations

We’ve just posted a new report, “How Social Media Moves New York, Part 2: Recommended Social Media Policy for Transportation Providers,” addressing necessary policies for transportation agencies looking to reach riders and drivers in the system.

View the abstract here, download the (pdf) report here, and read Part 1, “How Social Media Moves New York: Twitter Use by Transportation Providers in the New York Region,” here (pdf).

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Short Talks, Big Ideas: Recap and video

Last night’s Video of last night’s excellent Short Talks, Big Ideas session is now up:
Short Talks, Big Ideas

Thanks to the 100 or so attendees, and in particular, to all of our excellent presenters:
David Mahfouda, Weeels, brought to light the concept of taxis as public transit
Taylor Reiss, NYC Dept. of Transportation, showcased exciting plans for Select Bus Service
Jesse Friedman, Google, proposed new ideas to make bus ridership more appealing
Brian Langel, Dash, presented his new app Dash for personalized car data
Susi Wunsch, Velojoy, discussed the importance of women in bicycling efforts
- Raz Schwartz, Rutgers, showed the compelling urban data that can be gleaned from social media and neighborhood connectivity
Matt Healy, Foursquare, demonstrated the movements of New Yorkers shown through FourSquare checkins

We’ll see you in the Spring with more exciting events. If you have speaker suggestions for our next Short Talks, Big Ideas event, please get in touch!

Event Recap: Social Media and Hurricane Sandy

This morning’s panel, Social Media and Hurricane Sandy, showcased the importance of various channels of information from official, unofficial and media-based information sources during and after the storm. The panel included Robin Lester Kenton of NYC Department of Transportation; Aaron Donovan and JP Chan of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Ben Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas; and Tyson Evans of The New York Times.

Several themes emerged during the discussion:

Speed Overrides Risk: It’s often better to get information out quickly and risk its incorrectness than to wait, since customers will get (potentially incorrect) information from elsewhere. While it seems NYC DOT was more risk-averse during the hurricane, MTA posted two tweets that later had to be retracted, but, as Aaron noted, “the world didn’t stop revolving,” and the overall information sharing process was overwhelmingly positive.

Photos and Videos are Essential: Illustrations of storm damage and workers in the field are vital in public understanding, patience and support of recovery efforts. MTA posted prolifically on Flickr and YouTube, NYC DOT posted sporadically on Instagram (but will now add more posts during the next event), and those images were used widely, including on Second Avenue Sagas. Panelists agreed that “timeliness was more important than quality,” as Aaron said, since people were focused on the newsworthiness.

Behind the scenes, it’s resource-intensive: All information-dissemination efforts required extensive research, collaboration and coordination. Tyson demonstrated the New York Times’ internal working spreadsheet used to populate the website’s transportation guide, explaining that a large team simultaneously updated the document from a plethora of sources. Robin reported that with power out at DOT’s office, major efforts across teams spread across the City were needed to update the website, while Ben recalled updating SAS while conducting his day job from home.

All panelists agreed that greater transparency in the public sector leads to greater trust of the information provided. They all plan to take the lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy to the next major event to provide open, image-intensive information.

Finally, the panelists were asked to name their transportation (or not) social media role models. The list included:

- Washington State DOT

- Steve Vance

- BARTtv

- Boris Johnson

- Dana Rubinstein, Ted Mann and Matt Flegenheimer as complementary Twitter accounts

- NY Times Metro

Thanks to all who attended and participated, and we hope to see you at our next event, Short Talks, Big Ideas: Innovations in Transportation.

Photo Credit: Susi Wunsch of Velojoy

Transportation and Hurricane Sandy: Press Coverage

Franny Corry

NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation has recently been cited in the media for the new report “Transportation During and After Sandy,” which details the strengths and limits of the transportation infrastructure in New York City and the surrounding region. Press coverage has praised the report’s analysis of rider frustration levels and system preparedness, as well as the accompanying interactive timeline.

Check out the links below:

Wall Street Journal, Post-Sandy Survey Ranks Transit Rancor

Streets Blog,NYU Report: NYC’s Exclusive Busways Shouldn’t Be for Emergencies Only

Brooklyn Spoke, The Least Frustrated

   Greater Greater Washington, Breakfast Links: How to Use Public Space

Watch for more press coverage going forward as we post follow-ups to the report.

Commuting After Hurricane Sandy: Survey Results

Sarah Kaufman and Carson Qing

As part of the NYU Rudin Center’s recent report on transportation impacts from Hurricane Sandy, we conducted a survey of commuters to learn about their experiences of getting to work after the storm.

The survey was conducted online, on the site Surveymonkey.com, and was publicized via email blasts and social media. Three hundred-fifteen people in 98 zip codes responded anonymously between October 31 and November 6th, answering questions about their typical and post-Sandy commutes.

Key findings from the survey included:

Many people in the region worked after the storm, either physically reporting to an office or by telecommuting. New Jersey had the lowest rate of people who continued to work, at 56%, while 85% of Brooklyn respondents worked, at the highest percentage.

With limited transit options after the storm, New York commuters significantly altered their commute patterns. Bus ridership rose in Brooklyn (5% of respondents normally used buses, but 12% reported using buses November 1-2) after shuttle buses were put in place of subway routes disrupted due to flooding. Bike commuting rose significantly in Manhattan (15% normal to 24% Nov 1/2) and Queens (17% to 30%).

Post-hurricane commute lengths varied significantly by home region, as shown in the table below. The largest differences were in Staten Island, where commute times almost tripled, and Brooklyn, where they doubled. Variations among home locations are due to the wide range of transportation options available to each set of commuters, and the lower number of survey respondents who reported physically to work, rather than telecommuting or not working.

Post-hurricane commutes were twice or three times as long, varying by mode, as shown in the chart below.Average post-Sandy commute lengths ranged from 43 minutes (walked on Nov 1/2) to 115 minutes (drove, or took subway and bus). Frustration levels ranged from 2.3 on the lower end (walked) to 5.7 on the higher end (drove). Commuters who drove, or took a subway and bus combination, had the greatest difference, with travel times at nearly triple their typical lengths. As expected, they were also among the most frustrated commuters.

Walking and biking commuters were, on average, the least frustrated. Commuters who biked to work Nov 1/2 had the fewest delays in their commutes, as they were only 9 minutes longer than their usual commute. Telecommuters ranked their level of frustration on a similar level as transit commuters, 3.7 to 3.8, perhaps due to communications difficulties of connecting to work.

Commuters used a variety of communications channels to learn about transportation resources, as shown in the chart below. They most commonly referred to official websites and social media, and least from smartphone apps and community groups. The lack of smartphone app connectivity was likely due to the lack of schedule and outage data used for programming the apps.

These figures show the need for increased storm preparation and ever-present public information in times of crisis to ensure residents’ mobility. However, the survey results also demonstrate the resilience of New Yorkers and their workplaces; even in the face of detrimental circumstances, New Yorkers’ businesses maintained operations, showcasing the extreme adaptability of their operations, finances and creativity. The adaptations to new, longer commutes are uniquely New York, in that the population quickly adapted to alternate and substitute transportation modes, new norms of local business practices, flexible, temporary workplaces, and continuous communications.


Survey respondents’ home and workplace locations, by zip code:



Average commute times and frustration levels by home region, November 1-2, 2012

Home Region Pre-Sandy Typical Commute Time (min) Post-Sandy Commute Time (min) Percent Reporting Physically to Work* Self-Reported Frustration Level, 1 (min) – 10 (max)
Manhattan 29 52 56% 2.97
Brooklyn 42 86 58% 3.93
Queens 45 47 65% 3.00
Bronx 41 63 100% 2.14
Staten Island 84 240 25% 7.00
New Jersey 52 69 27% 5.67
Northern Suburbs 73 61 33% 2.40
Long Island 85 85 33% 2.00

* Excludes telecommuters



Commuters’ travel time by mode and self-reported frustration level:

NOV 1/2 MODE Pre-Sandytravel time (min) Post-Sandy travel time (min) Avg frustration index (1-10)
Walk only 21.1 43.3 2.3
Bike only 43.6 52.0 2.7
Drive only 47.3 114.7 5.7
Taxi only 30.0 65.0 5.5
Subway only 35.0 51.4 2.9
Bus only 42.3 100.8 4.2
Rail only 80.0 85.0 2.0
Subway + bus 46.5 115.1 4.9
Subway + bus + rail 60.0 75.0 2.0
Any transit* 41.7 86.3 3.8
Telecommuting 40.1 0.0 3.7
Did not work 42.3 0.0 5.6

*includes PATH, private buses, ferries and other miscellaneous transit options


Sources of Transportation Information

Respondents were asked to select all that apply.