Rudin Research Associate Sarah Kaufman spoke at yesterday’s Transportation Equity Conference in Albany to discuss the role of smart transportation in environmental sustainability. The topic is more complex than it seems: as driving becomes easier with tools like autonomous cars, traffic sensing and self-aware parking spots, how can we continue to reduce car use, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions? In the United States, commutes are growing ever-longer, as the NYU Rudin Center showed with our Super-Commuter report last year: fast-growing numbers of Americans are traveling more than 90 minutes or 90 miles each way, usually by car.
We can use technology to make transit more enticing:
- Open data lets travelers see schedules before they reach a station
- Social media informs them of delays, so they can re-route
- Open source planning tools, like NYC DOT’s Fourth Avenue project, give travelers a say in future developments
- Advanced fare payment systems, like MBTA’s mobile payments, make it easy to board even when the right fare is unavailable
- Walkability measures, like those provided by Walkscore, allow us to choose our housing locations by the ability to run errands on foot or use transit for a commute, saving money and waistlines.
These are just some basic tools to make transit a more pleasurable and efficient experience (several, like augmented reality, are on the horizon, and will shift our mobility patterns even further). For environmental and economic needs, these foundational technologies must be in place to bring riders over to transit and mitigate automobile dependence.