Short Talks, Big Ideas: Event Recap

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.

Innovations in Bus Rapid Transit: Event Recap

By Carson Qing

This week, the NYU Rudin Center and the Wagner Transportation Association (WTA) hosted a panel discussion of recent innovations in bus rapid transit (BRT) in the New York City metropolitan area. The panel’s presenters included Ted Orosz from MTA New York City Transit, Eric Beaton from the New York City Department of Transportation, and Tom Marchwinski from New Jersey Transit.

The discussion highlighted how transportation providers were able to find innovative solutions to implement BRT under the unique context of the New York City metropolitan region, where street widths, curbside usage, land use characteristics, and competing transit options often pose challenges for developing a BRT system similar to those built in Latin America and Asia. The panel’s speakers highlighted how implementation of Select Bus Service in New York City and bus rapid transit in high-volume, medium-density, and suburban settings in New Jersey have succeed in reducing travel times, improving level-of-service, and attracting new riders by adapting BRT characteristics to better fit the context of the corridors and communities they serve.

The presentations are available for download here: Ted Orosz, Eric Beaton, Tom Marchwinski



Short Talks, Big Ideas: Recap

Last night’s Short Talks, Big Ideas event showed us how people are using data, how agencies can absorb public input, and how we should be approaching various modes of transport in the future.

Thanks to the numerous attendees, and our fantastic presenters:
Guillaume Charny-Brunet, FaberNovel, 1.6 Billion Rides: A story of NYC subways, big data and YOU!
Jeff Ferzoco, Owner, Jeff Ferzoco Design and Senior Fellow, RPA, Mapping innovation: The line is the journey
Stephanie Camay, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Public involvement in transportation projects
Bob Leonard, EarthGarage, Standardizing sustainable personal vehicles
Adam Zaranko, NYC Economic Development Corporation, East River Ferry Service
Chris Whong, NYU Wagner, Baltimore Circulatorbuddy
Alexis Perrotta, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Can social fares improve NYCT?
Anthony Townsend, NYU Wagner, New Data for Bicycling Research

Check out the event video here and the pics below:

We’ll see you in the Fall with our next iteration of Short Talks, Big Ideas. If you have speaker suggestions for our next Short Talks, Big Ideas event, please get in touch.

Until then, please join us on April 20th for the Rethinking Regulation Design Challenge on April 20th.

Smart Transportation and Sustainability

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.

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!

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.