Event Recap: NY Open Transportation Data Meetup


Last night, the NYU Rudin Center co-organized the kickoff meeting of the NY Open Transportation Data Meetup group, with Noel Hidalgo of Code for America and Cate Contino of Straphangers Campaign. The event was held at the great ThoughtWorks space. Presentations by Neil Freeman of NYC DOT and Mike Frumin of MTA showed the variety of data sets currently available.

The event also featured community announcements by NYU Wagner students promoting an upcoming design challenge surrounding Chinatown Bus regulations, Frank Hebbert of OpenPlans showcasing the IfWeKnew tool, and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA previewing its upcoming report on data visualizations.

The group also discussed its wishlist for future data sets and projects, which will be posted on the group’s site shortly.

Hope to see you at the next event!

Social Media in Disasters: TRB presentation


We’ve posted Sarah Kaufman’s presentation on “Social Media in Disaster Preparation, Response and Recovery” from the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting on Slideshare. View below:

We’ll have a report on the same topic coming out in the next couple of months; please let us know if you have experiences to share on this subject.
Photo: Leah Flax

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.

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

Event Recap: The Wisdom of Transportation Crowds


Last night’s panel, The Wisdom of Transportation Crowds, showed us the power of large groups in improving transportation through participation, advocacy, and funding. Our esteemed panelists taught us a few lessons:

Robin Lester Kenton, of NYC Department of Transportation, showed us that the crowds don’t always come up with the best solution; but with 10,000 bike share location requests on the web portal, plus nearly 400 community meetings, numerous key and popular locations emerged for New York’s forthcoming landmark system.

Jeff Maki, of OpenPlans, discussed the role of the “third sector” – between public and private – to create solutions, particularly their forthcoming Kickstarter-funded iPhone app, JoyRide, which uses combinations of official data and user input to create trip planners across modes.

John Raskin, of Riders Alliance, posed the notion that an alternate sector exists for communities interested in making incremental transit improvements, even when reforming the entire transit system is overwhelming.

All panelists agreed that when people were shown their direct benefit from crowdsourcing their efforts and funds, they were more likely to participate. And it seems that the third sector is emerging as the best place for innovation and collaborative wisdom for transportation improvements.

Thanks to all who attended and participated, and we hope to see you at our two upcoming events, Social Media, Transportation and Hurricane Sandy and Short Talks, Big Ideas: Innovations in Transportation.

NACTO Conference: Opening Plenary Recap


The National Association of City Transportation Officials was held October 24-26. This Opening Plenary summary was written by NYU Rudin Center Research Assistant Nolan Levenson, and delayed due to Hurricane Sandy.

“Janette Sadik-Khan has put Robert Moses in the back seat” – Mitchell Moss, Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation

Three heavy hitters in Transportation sat together on the morning of Wednesday, October 24th —Ray LaHood, USDOT secretary; Janette Sadik-Khan, NYCDOT Commissioner; and Mitchell Moss, Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation—to kick off the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Designing Cities conference. Sadik-Khan noted that cities are in a “seminal moment” in history where, due to lack of federal support and attention, they are taking the future into their own hands to “speed the pace of innovation” in transportation.

Mitchell Moss emphasized this innovation trend in transportation. “People used to be interested in housing, but there hasn’t been an innovation in housing in 20 years,” said Moss, “all of the young and talented people are interested in transportation.” He touted Sadik-Khan’s transformation of New York City saying, “Janette Sadik-Khan has put Robert Moses in the back seat.”

New York City, through the leadership of Sadik-Khan with, among others, her staff at NYCDOT, MTA, and support from the Rudin Center, has launched a wide array of innovative solutions to transportation problems such as low-cost pedestrian plazas, bicycle infrastructure, and rapid (“select bus”) bus service. These ideas have both improved transportation efficiency, safety for users of all modes, and have boosted the local economy. After the installation of a new pedestrian plaza in DUMBO, Brooklyn, the adjacent retail sales increased 172% in 3 years, noted Sadik-Khan. These temporary plazas become part of the capital program, and will eventually be built out permanently with fixed infrastructure.

Ray LaHood commended Sadik-Khan for her work and the work of all other city transportation officials attending the conference. Despite a lack of federal financial support for transportation infrastructure funding, cities and USDOT have found ways to collaborate, primarily through TIGER stimulus money, to continue building and repairing the nation’s transportation infrastructure. LaHood noted the flaws of new federal transportation bill, MAP-21, stating, “the best part of MAP-21 is that it’s only 2 years.” He encouraged mayors and city residents alike to pressure their congressional representatives to fund necessary transportation improvements to bring our country into the 21st century.

In order to create world-class cities, LaHood is committed to restoring bi-partisanship to transportation issues in order to fund another round of TIGER grants, explore new funding possibilities such as real estate value capture in relation to transportation improvements, move the federal livability partnership forward (along with EPA and HUD), and incorporate safety and design initiatives such as NACTO bikeway guidelines into USDOT guidelines.

Even with LaHood’s federal support, the message was clear: cities themselves must be the innovators to find solutions to transportation needs. These solutions do not only provide transportation benefits, but can help stimulate the local economy in a challenging time.

Transportation Geek Events


join the NYU Rudin Center on the evenings of November 7th and 14th for some fantastic transportation geekery.

Nov 7th, 6:30pm: Short Talks, Big Ideas: Innovations in Transportation: a series of lightning talks on  new work, theories and projects at the frontier of transportation innovations. Free registration is now open at: http://wagner.nyu.edu/events/rudin-11-07-2012
We’re using hashtag #BigIdeas12

Nov 14th, 6:30pm: The Wisdom of Transportation Crowds: a panel discussion about crowdsourcing, community organizing and technology to improve mobility in the New York region from the ground up. Free registration is now open at: http://wagner.nyu.edu/events/rudin-11-14-2012
We’re using hashtag #TranspoCrowds

Hope to see you in November!

How will NY move in 2040?


Our colleagues at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council are hosting a series of events to involve the public in a 2040 plan, which are open to the public. From their website:

This Plan will be the 25-year blueprint for transportation strategies and investments in the NYMTC region, which includes the five boroughs of New York City; the lower Hudson Valley counties of  Putnam, Rockland and Westchester; and Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long island.  It will cover all modes of surface transportation from a regional perspective including highways, streets, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, goods movement and special needs transportation. In addition, it will also address key transportation activities such as operations and management of the transportation system, safety, security and air quality conformity analysis.

You can learn more about the events on the website here, and let us know if you plan to attend – we’d love to hear about your experience.