The presentation made at TRB based on Sarah Kaufman and Susan Bregman’s book chapter, “What’s the worst that can happen? Developing social media protocols and policies” is now available on Slideshare. Please review and comment below if you have questions. The book is available here.
Last night’s Short Talks, Big Ideas event presented to a sold-out crowd, showcased the best in transportation innovation for nearly every NYC mode. The impressive speaker lineup was:
-Noel Hidalgo, Code for America, showcased the work of bike data hackers at Bike Hack nights.
- Lois Goldman, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, discussed pedestrian safety measures in Newark, including a crash stat map and a planned demonstration of what various car speeds can do to a 10 year-old crash test dummy.
- Emily Gallo, Taxi & Limousine Commission, showed off the new lime green Boro Taxis and taught us that 97% of yellow taxi pickups are in Manhattan or at the airports.
- Kevin Ortiz, MTA, gave a behind-the-scenes look at wireless connectivity in the subways, and assured us it will be completely installed by 2017.
- Eric Goldwyn, Columbia University, shared his research on NYC dollar vans, which carry 125,000 passengers a day, making them the 20th largest bus system in the U.S.
-Gary Roth, MTA NYC Transit, made the case for bus security cameras, and showed how they work to show false injury claims.
- Robin Lester Kenton, NYC DOT, showed the power of Instagram photography for infrastructure, with special before/after shots of DOT-enhanced roadways. Follow NYC DOT on Instagram here.
- Randy Gregory II showed off his 100 Ideas for the Subway, some of the recommendations from his popular blog.
The event was moderated by Sarah Kaufman, Research Associate at the NYU Rudin Center, who is always looking for new presenters. Contact her at sarahkaufman /at/ nyu /dot/ edu if you’d like to speak in Spring 2014.
See below for some photos and check out #BigIdeas13 for tweets around the event.
Today is International Park(ing) Day! Around the world, people are temporarily reclaiming public space from cars. The NYU Wagner Transportation Association (WTA) has a site on 6th Ave and West 3rd Street from 9am – 3pm today.
Click here to see information about where the sites are around the world.
Ever wonder which streets have the slowest car traffic? What your average driving speed is? Where you brake the most? New data may help us find that out. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that The New York City Department of Transportation recently received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to launch a program that monitors 500 cars with transponders around the city. Data will be available through apps to both car users and the city DOT. Participants in the program will receive a discount on their car insurance, and the city will have more data about car travel. Our own Sarah Kaufman was quoted talking about the potential pros and cons of the program.
Earlier today, UTRC hosted a panel discussion to ask mayoral candidates about their transportation policies. In attendance was Sal Alabanese, John Liu, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner on the Democratic panel (Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio were no shows),
and Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and George McDonald on the Republican / Independent panel.
Here were some the highlights:
- Most candidates support expanding SelectBusService and Express Bus Service in the outer boroughs to provide transit to underserved areas; however none mentioned creating exclusive busways to improve this service.
- Anthony Weiner and Paul Steely White (of Transportation Alternatives) got into a friendly debate about cycling in the city. After Weiner mocked the polls indicating support for cycling, White said that bicycles poll higher than the mayoral candidates in front of him.
- Sal Albanese and Joe Lhota both explicitly support the city investing in mass transit infrastructure. Lhota believes that the N/R trains should be extended to Staten Island.
- Joe Lhota was the only candidate to bring other transit modes into the discussion, such as Light Rail on Staten Island’s Northern and Western shores. He also supports construction Metro North Railroad stations at Co-Op City and Parkchester.
- John Catsimatidis said that another subway line would never be built in our lifetime, but supports constructing “aboveways” (monorails) throughout the city.
- The Democratic candidates disapprove of the “Taxi of the Future.”
- Bill Thompson supports a commuter tax, but almost all of the other candidates believe that it is unattainable.
- Sal Alabanese believes that New York City Transit should be under city control. Anthony Weiner said that the city needs more control of the MTA board.
- There was a lot of discussion of tolling in the city, with candidates divided about additional tolls in the city, particularly on the East River bridges.
- Anthony Weiner noted that the city pays $7000 per student that takes a school bus. While candidates disagreed about labor costs, many mentioned that inefficient routing was a large reason for the high costs of school buses.
Last week I traveled to my homeland on the Upper West Side. As a recent transplant to Brooklyn, I had forgotten the nightmare that is the intersection of 96th Street and Broadway.
In 2010, a new median station entrance opened for the 1/2/3 IRT Line 96th Street station. The entrances had previously been located on the sidewalks. While the new station is beautiful and makes sense for circulation of subway users, it has created a hazard on the street by forcing pedestrians to the median.
To rationalize traffic movements, NYCDOT installed left turn lanes on Broadway, creating new signal phasing. This change has created a lot of confusion and caused dangerous situations and conflicts between cars and pedestrians.
To mitigate these challenges, NYCDOT has placed signs such as “Wait for Walk Signal” and “No Ped. Crossing Use Crosswalk” (pictured above) to encourage better pedestrian behavior. However, in New York, pedestrians walk wherever and whenever they please. So, if they don’t see cars moving, they go, often putting their lives at risk. This not only occurs at 96th and Broadway, but many other busy intersections throughout the city with left turn signal phases.
At this intersection, after the east-west traffic stops and before the left-turn signal phase begins, people begin to cross north-south on the western and eastern crosswalks in the intersection, despite the red light and eventual on-coming traffic. In addition to the potential crashes this creates, pedestrians act outraged, as do the drivers. This prevents cars from moving through the signal with sufficient time, and creates congestion for the following phase as well. Congestion and danger is furthered by people illegally crossing between medians (see Diagram 1).
It is true that better enforcement and ticketing by the NYPD might change pedestrian behavior, but I believe the DOT should explore more creative solutions for this intersection. One possible solution (Diagram 2) could be a variation on the “Pedestrian Scramble” or “Barnes Dance,” which would stop all traffic and allow pedestrians to cross in one movement. This would decrease the amount of separate pedestrian movements and perhaps cause less confusion, while allowing pedestrians to take direct routes. This approach could reduce conflicts between pedestrians and cars, improving safety, health, and convenience for all intersection users.
We have a fantastic set of events slated for April at the NYU Rudin Center:
April 9th (morning): Local Innovations in Bus Rapid Transit: A Panel Discussion – This panel will focus on innovative bus planning in the New York Metro area, and the unique challenges it presents to both policy makers and citizens.
April 9th (evening): Short Talks, Big Ideas: Transportation Innovations – Join the NYU Rudin Center for this high-energy series of short talks about how we’re using, improving and thinking about the future of transportation.
POSTPONED UNTIL FALL April 10th: Climate-Proofing Connectivity: The Future of New York’s Links to the Northeast Corridor – This symposium will convene experts on climate change, next-generation aviation, and high-speed rail planning to explore how New York’s external transportation connections can adapt to climate change in the coming decades to provide secure, resilient and sustainable economic lifelines in the face of an uncertain future.
April 20th: Rethinking Regulation Design Challenge – This challenge is about bringing stakeholders to the table to develop innovative, realistic, and implementable solutions to help address the problems government regulators face when monitoring illegal apartment conversions in NYC, and non-compliant “Chinatown” motorcoach companies. (with NYU Wagner and OpenPlans)
All events are free and open to the public. Click on the event titles to register. See you in April!
by Nolan Levenson, photos by Marilyn Lopez
Polly Trottenberg, Under Secretary of the US Department of Transportation, visited with the NYU Rudin Center and Wagner students, faculty, transportation professionals, and representatives of the media last week to discuss timely issues in federal transportation policy. Her talk focused on financing transportation, the successes of the TIGER grant program, and the increasing role of technology and data in government.
She also addressed how the Sequester will impact USDOT. Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) composes about 75% of the USDOT’s budget, they will bear the burden of the spending cuts. Airports with less traffic may lose their funding. There will also likely be impacts to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) budget, but about half of USDOT will be unaffected.
Ms. Trottenberg also highlighted the increasing difficulty of financing transportation as the gas tax no longer covers the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. She pointed to tools such as gas sales taxes and Vehicles Miles Traveled (VMT) taxes, and emphasized tolling of highways as a potential significant revenue source. She acknowledged that while federal transportation law prevents the tolling of existing road capacity, state law and legislators have also failed to initiate policies that would change this limitation, which creates a political block on a potential new revenue source for transportation. In general, she said, she believes that state transportation policy must be pushed in a more progressive direction.
Many in the room were happy to hear Ms. Trottenberg’s support for more open data and advanced technology use at the federal government. She said that USDOT should tap into the resources of the private sector to better understand and analyze transportation issues throughout the country. She pointed to a moment when her staff was on the phone with Google employees in Stuttgart, Germany, when the USDOT staff asked about the reliability of real-time traffic data. After a pause of a few seconds, the Google employees responded, “well it’s not like it’s more than 60 seconds off,” a response met with laughter by USDOT staff considering that to be, of course, extremely reliable. The story was also received with laughter during our discussion, and the audience appreciated the example for government’s need to tap into existing technological resources.
On March 12, Anthony Townsend of the NYU Rudin Center and Aaron Naparstek of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning convened a workshop on New Data for Bicycling Research: Crowdsourcing, DIY Sensing & Apps to assess the demand and availability for a wide range of data about bicycle ownership and use in New York City. There was active participation from a broad range of stakeholders including the city’s transportation and IT agencies, leading bicycling advocates, and civic tech and hacker groups. In the coming months, the Rudin Center will be developing a research plan devoted to improving the supply and quality of data for bicycle research in New York City.
A Prezi of the workshop proceedings can be found at
Neil Bezdek, New York City Department of Transportation
Justin Brandon, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Wendy E. Brawer, Green Map System
Alison Cohen, Independent consultant
Neil Freeman, New York City Department of Transportation
Melinda Brooke Hanson, NYU Rudin Center
Frank Hebbert, OpenPlans
Noel Hidalgo, Code for America
Mike Infranco, Transportation Alternatives
Charles Komanoff, IGC
Dan LaTorre, Project for Public Spaces
Stephanie Levinsky, New York City Department of Transportation
Aaron Naparstek, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Andrew Nicklin, New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecomunications
Brian Riordan, Strava
Caroline Samponaro, Transportation Alternatives
Dani Simons, Independent consultant
Claudio Silva, NYU Center for Uurban Science and Progress
Anthony Townsend, NYU Rudin Center
Chris Whong, NYU Rudin Center
Matthew Willsee, Cyclee
Susi Wunsch, Velojoy
Carson Qing & Sarah Kaufman
Earlier this week, The U.S. Census released a report announcing the proliferation of “mega-commuters,” 600,000 Americans who travel at least 90 minutes and 50 miles each way. It’s slightly different from the “super-commuters” we at the NYU Rudin Center defined last year, who are individuals who work in one county (usually of a major metropolitan area), but live in another, usually commuting more than 90 miles each way.
The most pressing difference between the terms “mega-commuter” and “super-commuter” is that the former focuses on the individuals traveling long distances regularly to their workplaces, while the latter also includes people who make these journeys once or twice or week, at most. These long-distance, low-frequency super-commuters may travel to the office only once or twice per week at most, or maintain similarly unconventional schedules. Our definition of a super-commuter, estimated to be 3% to 10% of the workforce depending on the city, includes both “mega-commuters” and low-frequency, long-distance commuters who were not captured in the mega-commuter definition. The graphic below illustrates the differences between these two types of super-commuters in their travel behavior.
The U.S. Census Bureau provides two data sources to define origins and destinations of commuter flows. To define the mega-commuter, the Census Bureau used American Community Survey (ACS), which measures data from only 7.5% of the working population, then extrapolates the data for a larger population based from that sample. But the Census Bureau’s OnTheMap tool (OTM), used in our super-commuter report last year, extracts employment data directly from state employment insurance records and represents coverage of nearly all employees and their work locations, with the exception of self-employed individuals. Because of this difference between ACS and OTM, the “mega-commuter” figure is most likely an undercount of long-distance commuters.
Using OTM, we found nearly 650,000 long-distance commuters in the top five U.S. super-commuting metropolitan areas who commute to the core county from a county outside the metropolitan area. OTM is more successful at capturing low-frequency commuting trips than the ACS, because the ACS’s line of questioning focuses on frequent trip-making, asking respondents where did they work for the majority of the past week and how did they travel to work, and assumes that the sample data applies to a larger population. Low-frequency commuters are coded as “working from home” in the ACS, even though in reality their link to the workplace is not severed: the trips are made less frequently, due to the impediments of travel time, distance, and cost.
The rise of “tele-commuters,” who now represent 10% of the total workforce (or in the case of Aetna, 47% of its workforce, up from 9% in 2005), and low-frequency, long-distance commuting has created a fundamental shift in the way people travel between home and work. The traditional “Journey to Work” survey methodology used in the ACS does not fully capture new patterns of commuting or the growing distances between home and work locations in metropolitan regions. It neglects the large and growing number of Americans who do not travel exclusively between home and work on a regular basis. Thus, transportation planners and researchers should not overly rely on the “Journey to Work” methodology to analyze and understand transportation flows: a more nuanced data source that captures a greater variety of trip purposes is increasingly necessary to analyze travel behavior in this new era of commuting.
 Spear, Bruce. “Improving Employment Data for Transportation Planning.” Cambridge Systematics. September 2011. http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP08-36(98)_FR.pdf
 Miller, C. & Rampbell, C. “Yahoo Orders Home Workers Back to the Office.” The New York Times. 25 February 2013.