Assistant Director for Technology Programming
Sarah M. Kaufman is Assistant Director for Technology Programming 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 NYURudinCenter.com.
She leads several projects related to improving transportation through technology: Intelligent Paratransit, to rethink how we transport seniors and the disabled; Emerging Leaders in Transportation Fellowship, a program to enhance innovation at all levels of transportation planning and policymaking; and Job Access, a comparative study of how livelihoods are affected by level of access to mass transit in New York City.
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.
In 2011, the New York State Legislature approved and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the New York State Infrastructure Investment Act. The new law authorized five state agencies – the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the New York State Thruway Authority, and the New York State Bridge Authority – to manage the delivery of construction projects using a method known in the industry as “Design-Build.”
Design-Build is a form of project delivery in which a public agency or private sector owner enters into a single contract with a single entity (usually a construction firm) that takes full responsibility for both design and construction of the project. The 2011 law also authorized the five agencies to hire firms based on qualifications and innovation, not just the lowest bid.
When used appropriately, Design-Build can effectively reduce the time required to complete a project, reduce the cost of a project, provide clearer accountability for a project, and encourage more innovation in design and construction.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.