Sarah Kaufman

Sarah Kaufman
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Planning

Sarah M. Kaufman is Digital Manager at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, where she researches, advocates for and educates about cutting-edge technologies in transportation. She focuses on crowdsourcing, open data and social media in urban transportation systems. Ms. Kaufman created the popular Short Talks, Big Ideas event series, an exchange of innovative projects and ideas between transportation thinkers and practitioners, and manages the Rudin Center's web presence at

Ms. Kaufman joined NYU Wagner after nearly five years at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where she led the open data program, created a conference and online exchange between the MTA and software developers, and assisted in developing the agency's social media program. While at the NYU Rudin Center, she was awarded a Vanguard Fellowship by Next American City in 2012 and a Google Fellowship for the Personal Democracy Forum in 2014.

Ms. Kaufman earned a Master of Urban Planning from NYU’s Wagner School in 2005, specializing in infrastructure, transportation and telecommunications, and wrote an award-winning thesis designing a bus arrival time signage system. She earned her BA from Washington University in St. Louis, majoring in science writing and concentrating in computer science. She is a font of useless NYC transit trivia.

Date Publication/Paper

Kaufman, Sarah 2014. Co-Monitoring for Transit Management NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, February 2014.
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Emerging technologies offer transit agencies an opportunity to transform fundamental aspects of their operations and the way they communicate with their riders.  With nearly ubiquitous smartphones and social media tools among growing ridership patterns, transit providers can use aggregate mobile phone data and social media posts to improve system management.

Data-based reports can reach the operations center faster than field personnel, with mobile phone networks indicating station crowding or a passenger posting a photo of another pulling the emergency brake. Exceeding traditional reporting mechanisms (exclusive information from personnel) would save time and lower the costs of field monitoring while raising the trust between transit agencies and their customers.

By employing “co-monitoring” - the monitoring of field conditions through a combination of staff reports, data analysis and public observations – transit agencies will save time and costs for information gathering, improve their responsiveness, and establish working partnerships between the agencies and their customers. This report proposes a framework for a co-monitoring system, and discusses the expected benefits and challenges, as well as policy recommendations for agencies pursuing co-monitoring systems. Keys to successful co-monitoring systems are agency openness to new streams of data and respectful dialogue from both management and riders. Well-designed co-monitoring tools will put transit on track to manage smarter, more versatile transit systems for the twenty-first century.


Sarah M. Kaufman and Susan Bregman 2013. What’s the Worst That Can Happen? Social Media Protocols and Policies In Best Practices for Transportation Agency Use of Social Media, CRC Press, October 2, 2013.
Book website

Timely updates, increased citizen engagement, and more effective marketing are just a few of the reasons transportation agencies have already started to adopt social media networking tools. Best Practices for Transportation Agency Use of Social Media offers real-world advice for planning and implementing social media from leading government practitioners, academic researchers, and industry experts.

The book provides an overview of the various social media platforms and tools, with examples of how transportation organizations use each platform. It contains a series of interviews that illustrate what creative agencies are doing to improve service, provide real-time updates, garner valuable information from their customers, and better serve their communities. It reveals powerful lessons learned from various transportation agencies, including a regional airport, city and state departments of transportation, and municipal transit agencies. 

Filled with examples from transportation organizations, the text provides ideas that can apply to all modes of transportation including mass transit, highways, aviation, ferries, bicycling, and walking. It describes how to measure the impact of your social media presence and also examines advanced uses of social media for obtaining information by involving customers and analyzing their social media use. 

The book outlines all the resources you will need to maintain a social media presence and describes how to use social media analytical tools to assess service strengths and weaknesses and customer sentiment. Explaining how to overcome the digital divide, language barriers, and accessibility challenges for patrons with disabilities, it provides you with the understanding of the various social media technologies along with the knowhow to determine which one is best for a specific situation and purpose.


Sarah M. Kaufman 2013. Social Media in Disaster Preparation, Response, and Recovery TR News July-August 2013: Logistics of Disaster Response
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Social media have become an essential source of information before, during, and after disasters. Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr—instantaneous, far-reaching, and interactive— have become the convergence point for a range of information sources, dialogues, and dynamic content. A survey conducted by the New York University (NYU) Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management found that during Superstorm Sandy, social media were the second-highest-rated source of information, ranking higher than other popular sources such as television and radio news, news websites, and community groups.


Kaufman, Sarah. 2012. How Social Media Moves New York, Part 2: Recommended Social Media Policy for Transportation Providers NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, December 2012
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Social media networks allow transportation providers to reach large numbers of people simultaneously and without a fee, essential factors for the millions of commuters and leisure travelers moving through the New York region every day. This report, based on earlier findings (from Part 1), which analyzed local transportation providers’ use of social media, and a seminar on the subject in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, recommends social media policies for transportation providers seeking to inform, engage and motivate their customers.

The goals of social media in transportation are to inform (alert riders of a situation), motivate (to opt for an alternate route), and engage (amplify the message to their friends and neighbors). To accomplish these goals, transportation providers should be:

- Accessible: Easily discovered through multiple channels and targeted information campaigns

- Informative: Disseminating service information at rush hour and with longer-form discussions on blogs as needed

- Engaging: Responding directly to customers, marketing new services, and building community

- Responsive: Soliciting and internalizing feedback and self-evaluating in a continuous cycle

Kaufman, Sarah, Carson Qing, Nolan Levenson and Melinda Hanson 2012. Transportation During and After Hurricane Sandy Rudin Center for Transportation, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, November 2012
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Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the strengths and limits of the transportation infrastructure in New York City and the surrounding region. As a result of the timely and thorough preparations by New York City and the MTA, along with the actions of city residents and emergency workers to evacuate and adapt, the storm wrought far fewer casualties than might have occurred otherwise.

This report evaluates storm preparation and response by New York City and the MTA, discusses New Yorkers' ingenuity in work continuity, and recommends infrastructure and policy improvements.

Kaufman, Sarah M. 2012. How Social Media Moves New York: Twitter Use by Transportation Providers in the New York Region October 2012
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Social media networks are valuable tools for the public outreach needs of transportation providers: they are free, instantaneous, reach large numbers of people simultaneously, and allow for sideline discussions. When transportation providers are trying to notify large numbers of passengers about delays, drivers about construction work, or bus riders about re-routes, they can “blast” messages through social media channels to reach their intended audience immediately (the audience accesses these networks far more frequently than the websites of their local transportation agencies). The goals of social media in transportation are to inform (alert riders of a situation), motivate (to opt for an alternate route), and engage (amplify the message to their friends and neighbors). Ideally, these actions would occur within minutes of an incident.

This report analyzes the use of social media tools by the New York region’s major transportation providers. It is focused on the effectiveness of their Twitter feeds, which were chosen for their immediacy and simplicity in messaging, and provided a common denominator for comparison between the various transportation providers considered, both public and private. Based on this analysis, recommendations are outlined for improving social media outreach. A subsequent report will propose policies and recommendations for enhanced information and engagement with users.

Kaufman, Sarah M. 2012. Augmented Reality and Urban Exploration July 2012

Augmented Reality is beginning to shift the landscape of urban exploration, making the experience ever-more informative, from language translation applications to cultural enrichment tools. It will lead people to be more informed, advertised to, and assisted on every urban excursion, removing the traditional happenstance from urban exploration. It is unclear whether Augmented Reality (AR) will truly enhance experiences, lead to over-saturation of information and advertising, or a combination of the two. This paper will discuss the current and near-future uses of AR for city dwellers and the projected implications of ubiquitous information.

Kaufman, Sarah M. 2012. Getting Started with Open Data, A Guide for Transportation Agencies May, 2012
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Getting Started with Open Data is a guide for transportation agencies that would like to release their schedule data and administrative records to the public, and need an introduction to the practice. This guide is intended to result in streamlined use of transportation services and promote a productive dialogue between agencies and their constituents. It is being released as a living document, intended for input from both transportation data owners and users, to result in the most complete open transportation data guide possible.

Moss, Mitchell L., Carson Y. Qing, and Sarah Kaufman. 2012. Commuting to Manhattan, A study of residence location trends for Manhattan workers from 2002 to 2009 March 2012
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Manhattan, a global center of  finance, culture, fashion and media, harnesses a workforce of 2 million people. Regionally, Manhattan is the business hub for the New York metropolitan area, with commuters entering the city every morning from the other four boroughs,  suburban counties in New Jersey, the Hudson Valley, western Connecticut, and Long Island, and distant locations, such as eastern Pennsylvania. The workforce of Manhattan is both growing and changing. There is a growing set of high-income, service-related occupations, and an increasing number of workers are residing in the outer boroughs or to the west, across the Hudson River in New Jersey. In fact, Manhattan now has 59,000 “super-commuters” who do not live within the metropolitan region. This report examines key trends in the residential location of Manhattan workers and will also discuss the travel, occupation, and income characteristics of Manhattan workers living in the surrounding metropolitan region. Finally, we explore the strength, resilience and vitality of Manhattan as a global economic and cultural hub in the 21st century.

In the Press

Social Media Keeps Transit Agencies Informed About its Riders
Government Technology
Transit apps that aim to improve the MTA experience
Tardy Transit? Tweet About It
Government Technology
The Year of the Bike Commuter
Next City
Uber launching uberPOOL for carpooling
AM New York
Meet the startups trying to stop pedestrian deaths
The Verge
How Big Data Makes Roadways and Cities Smarter
‘Big Ideas’ for transit: subway beacons, data stories, smart helmets
Capital New York
Schöne Aussicht statt volle U-Bahn
North Hempstead councilwoman proposes ride-sharing app for Port Washington
The Totally Serious Plan to Connect Brooklyn and Manhattan by Gondola
A System to Cut City Traffic That Just Might Work
Gondolas over NYC
Fox NY News
Transportation Nation Moving Stories
WNYC Transportation Nation
The Busiest Bike in New York (and More Interesting Citi Bike Data)
Next City
Citi Bikes Are a Wild Success, But Will They Survive?
Announcing the #PDF14 Google Fellows!
Citi Bike shows huge gender divide
Black Business Now
Weekend round-up
The Transit Wire
Why Do So Few Women Use Citi Bike?
Men Are From Midtown, Women Are From Brooklyn
WNYC Transportation Nation
Citi Bike fixes: Experts offer suggestions for ailing system
48 Madcap Hours in the Life of Citi Bike
The Atlantic Cities
New York's Citi Bike Program Releases Historical Trip Data
We're Citibiking to Work, Not Play
WNYC Transportation Nation
Subway riders offer their tips for subway travel
AM New York
#MTA to keep track of riders who use social media
AM New York
More subway stations to get wireless, cell service
AM New York
Solving a Deadly Traffic Puzzle
West Side Spirit
TN MOVING STORIES: Transpo News Links from Around the Web
Transportation Nation
MTA’s Bus Time program arrives in Manhattan
Washington Square News
Data Driven: New Program to Fix New York City's Streets
The Wall Street Journal
East Coast prepares for the next superstorm
Metro New York
City-wide bikeshare program coming in May
Washington Square News
How Data Is Helping Riders To Make Sense Of Their Transit System
Gotham Gazette
Hurricane Sandy: Apple’s bobbing
Roads and Bridges Magazine
Social Media Recommendations for Public Transit Providers
Google Policy By the Numbers
Subway's App Future Arrives for Some
The Wall Street Journal
Using social media to inform and engage transportation customers
The Transit Wire
G train catch-22
The Brooklyn Paper
Why New York's Transit System Fared So Well During Sandy
The Atlantic Cities
Adaptive Transportation: Bicycling Through Sandy’s Aftermath
Project for Public Spaces
Survey Says: After Hurricane Sandy, Cyclists Were NYC's Commuter Kings
Sandy Data Shows NYC Commuters Are Transpo-Adaptable: Report
WNYC Transportation Nation
NY commuters still struggling through post-storm transit mess
Mapping Mobility: The Importance of Information in Transportation [Commentary]
The City Fix
Infographic: How Far Can You Travel on a Single Subway Fare?
WNYC Transportation Nation
Twitter's Importance to Transportation
Google Policy By the Numbers
The 2012 Next American Vanguard Class
Next American City