Category Archives: smart cities

A Primer on Hyperloop Travel: How far off is the Future?

By Joanna Simon

Supersonic travel in pods through frictionless tubes may sound like the basis for the next George Lucas creation, but it may be a reality in the near future. Planning for high-speed travel via a Hyperloop system is underway and could drastically reduce travel times between major cities.

Hyperloop One Desert Tube
Hyperloop One Desert Tube

What is Hyperloop?

The Hyperloop is a proposal for high-speed inter-city travel through steel tubes, in pod-like vehicles, for both passengers and cargo. This technology is estimated to reduce travel time from Los Angeles to San Francisco to a mere 35 minutes, a trip that takes even the fastest of drivers 5 hours to complete.

How does it work?

Hyperloop infrastructure consists of steel tubes, either underground in tunnels or elevated, which serve as a mechanism to transport pods. The tubes create a near-vacuum environment and utilize air and friction resistance technologies to transport pods at speeds faster than airplane travel. The technology is energy efficient: it requires relatively low power, and some companies suggest that the entire system can be powered via solar panels (however, some experts are skeptical).

What’s in a travel pod?

            Several versions of passenger travel pods will exist, including a standard coach pod resembling economy airplane seating, a meeting pod with tables and angled chairs and a sleek and comfortable lounge cabin.

Hyperloop Pod Rendering

How will a Hyperloop ride feel?

The idea of riding in a small and windowless capsule may raise concern for some passengers; engineers are working to consider comfort factors. They are also considering how to minimize pod vibration, as even the slightest tectonic movement could cause a jolt that would be felt while traveling at near-sonic speeds.

Where will Hyperloop be built?

Several companies are currently working to perfect the technology and have developed route proposals around the world. Many of these proposals are in development stage and have completion forecasted for 10-20 years from now:

Cities Travel Time by Car Travel Time by Plane Travel Time by Hyperloop Company
LA-San Francisco 5.5 hours 1.5 hours 35 minutes Hyperloop One
Stockholm-Helsinki 12 hours *includes ferry 1 hour 30 minutes Hyperloop One
Paris-Amsterdam 5.5 hours 1.5 hours 30 minutes Delft Hyperloop
Kracow-Gdansk, Poland 6 hours 1.3 hours 35 minutes Hyper Poland
Toronto-Montreal 5.5 hours 1 hour 30 minutes Transpod
Vienna-Budapest 3 hours 45 minutes 20 minutes HTTP


How much will it cost to build?

Hyperloop One, the company spearheading the California project, is privately funded. Their estimates show that the project will cost $5.4 billion and gross $300 million in annual revenue.

How much will it cost to ride?

With route and pod design still underway there have been few estimates to how much a single ticket to ride the Hyperloop will cost. Some design teams claim that it will cost the price of a bus ticket, but few actual figures are currently available.

What challenges exist?

Cost: Concerns are widespread about Hyperloop’s feasibility and success, particularly considering construction and testing costs. Much of this work relies on unproven technology; it is not yet known how much it will cost to bring it to reality.

Safety: Hyperloop travel is arguably safer than other transportation options: the system is enclosed, protected from the elements and controlled by pressure and internal dynamics, making it immune to human error. However, experts are concerned about the availability of oxygen in the chamber should an unexpected event result in a loss of pressure. Additionally, emergency braking and power outage scenarios are currently being tested.

Policy: Hyperloop infrastructure, whether above or below ground, will pass through towns, other cities and will disrupt public and private resources. A feasibility study of land use issues and potential human impact is needed to move forward.

Connectivity: One of the biggest concerns with the Hyperloop system is its’ potential connection to other modes of transportation. A 35-minute trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco could be doubled if the destination is downtown, but the docking stations are 30 minutes outside.

Demand: As driverless cars become more of a reality, they will make highway driving safer and more pleasant. Driverless cars may become more appealing to travelers, as they will provide door-to-door transport, rather than the less convenient and Hyperloop.

 

Information sources:

Hyperloop One

Business Insider

 

 

 

A Scooter Share Primer

In the NYU Rudin Center’s August 2016 report on the “L Train Closure and Mitigation,” we suggested creative measures, including gondolas and scooter shares, to diversify commute and travel options. Today, we set out to explore the scooter share market around the world.
So, what is a scooter share?
Think bike share, but with electric scooters.
We looked at 10 scooter shares around the globe to see how they operated, including Cityscoot (Paris, France), Coup (Berlin, Germany), eBike (Chiayi, Taiwan), Enjoy (Milan, Italy), LoopShare (Vancouver, Canada), Scoot (San Francisco, US), Scooty (Brussels, Belgium), WeMo (Taipei, Taiwan), Yugo (Barcelona, Spain) and 2Hire (Rome, Italy).


How does it work?
For starters, all but one of the scooter shares (eBike in Chiayi, Taiwan) are privately operated. Some require a membership or registration fee (monthly, annual or one time) in addition to base charges per ride, but many are free to join. With the exception of Vancouver’s LoopShare, every system charges on a minute basis; LoopShare charges per kilometer traveled. Similar to bike share systems, most of the scooter shares we observed charge a flat rate for a set trip time, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes, and tack on a per-minute charge once the trip has surpassed that limit. Unlike bike shares, however, many of the scooter shares allow you to park anywhere within a zone. Users then pick up a scooter where it’s been parked (sometimes a designated charging spot). Because most scooter sharing programs have rolled out in the last year, most cities currently only have pilot zones (usually in the central business district), with the aim of expanding in the near future. Users tap into the network by locating and reserving scooters in a proprietary app.

Graphic of the Yugo System
Graphic of the Yugo System

What is the scooter riding experience?
Nearly all of the scooter shares employ electric scooters though each scooter seems as unique as the city its found in. Perhaps the most eye-catching, is the Taiwanese-developed Gogoro scooter, which hit the market only last year in Taiwan and is currently being utilized in both Taipei WeMo and Berlin Coup scooter sharing systems. The Gogoro features a “smart” mode, that tunes the scooter’s performance to optimize battery life. Paris’s Cityscoot is employing the German-based Govec scooter, featuring a fold-out wind and waterproof blanket to cover the rider’s legs on cold or rainy days. Barcelona’s Yugo scooter fleet is nearly indistinguishable from a vintage Vespa, save for it’s silent, emission-free electric motor. San Francisco’s Scoot launched with the a Govec scooter similar to Cityscoot in Paris, but is now transitioning to a lighter weight option that tops out around 30 miles per hour. Vancouver’s Loop scooters are perhaps the least traditional scooter of the bunch, with a very light-weight, minimal design and topping out at a speed of 25 miles per hour. The only non-electric scooters are from Milan’s Enjoy fleet of robust, three-wheeled Piaggio scooters, which are operated in tandem with a car-sharing service by Italian gas company Eni.

gogoro-family-shot1
Gogoro Scooter pictured with Battery Station

How are the scooters and network powered?
Because most of the scooters used in these programs are electric and require recharging, it can be challenging to keep them juiced-up. At least two of the ten scooter systems incentive riders to return the scooter to a charging dock; for instance, Cityscoot in Paris offers a two euro credit for docked scooters. Taipei’s WeMo system relies on a battery exchange system; when the scooters are running low on power, the batteries can easily be swapped by the rider for a fully charged one using one of the many battery charging kiosks around the city.  Only the publicly operated eBike system in Chiayi and Rome’s 2Hire for university students have assigned parking docks.

Opportunities for Future Study
Through this exploration of scooter shares, we’ve identified additional questions and opportunities for future study. These topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Where do scooter shares currently exist? Given that only one of the scooter shares, Scoot SF, was located in the United States, we wanted to know more about the makeup of cities with scooter shares. Do they share commonalities in terms of population density and mode share split?
  • What modes of transit do scooter shares naturally complement? How do other systems integrate with transit?
  • What are the challenges inherent to a scooter share?
  • What are the operational differences between the scooters currently used by sharing systems? Which systems require drivers’ licenses or motorcycle licenses?

Event: Cities, Data, And Mobility: The NYC Experience

Date: 11/15/2016
Time: 8:45am – 10:00am
Location: The Puck Building, The Rudin Family Forum for Civic Dialogue, 2nd Fl., 295 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012-9604
RSVPhttps://wagner.nyu.edu/events/rudin-11-15-2016

The  growth of NYC’s for-hire vehicle market means that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is gathering unprecedented amounts of trip data, yielding  a far more comprehensive view of how New Yorkers travel. The TLC uses this data to enforce consumer protections and safety requirements and to gain insight into emerging transportation models, accessibility and driver income. How can the public and private sectors use this data to inform policymaking?

Join us for a lively discussion.

Opening remarks: Meera Joshi, Commissioner and Chair, New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission

Panelists:
Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President
Cordell Schachter, Chief Technology Officer, New York City Department of Transportation
Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer, City of New York
Anthony Townsend, Founder, Bits and Atoms

Moderated by Mitchell L. Moss, Director, NYU Rudin Center

RSVP here.

Photo: Michael Greenberg

Talking Traffic on Popular Mechanics

NYU Rudin Center Assistant Director Sarah Kaufman spoke with Popular Mechanics on Facebook Live yesterday. The conversation covered gridlock, bikes and driverless cars while sitting in traffic. Check out the video here:

Current research: Intelligent Paratransit

The NYU Rudin Center’s current work surrounds “Intelligent Paratransit,” a project to re-frame mobility for the elderly and disabled using modern ridesharing technologies.

Through this work, the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation aims to find technological solutions to making paratransit across the country more cost- and time-efficient, and a better experience for its customers. We are analyzing paratransit systems worldwide, evaluating potential improvements for reservations, dispatch and routing, and recommending strategies for incorporating new technology into existing systems.

The NYU Rudin Center hosted advisory group sessions to discuss the implications of changes and advances in policy, technology, and operations as they apply to paratransit in the US and collaborate on potential solutions. The project advisory group consists of stakeholders from the public, private, non-profit and advocacy sectors.

The Intelligent Paratransit report will be released in the summer of 2016.

Intelligent Paratransit is led by Sarah M. Kaufman, NYU Rudin Center Assistant Director, and is funded by grants from TransitCenter and The New York Community Trust.

 

2015-2016 Rudin Center Highlights

The Rudin Center has had a busy academic year so far producing events, original research, and engaging activities.

Events:
In the past year, the Rudin Center hosted a wide-variety of events, including speeches by:

To see more recent Rudin events, click here.

Research:
The Rudin Center analyzes transportation policy and management in New York City and beyond. The results of our analysis is often published as a report or publication on the Rudin Center site.

Recent Reports:

Activities:
Just last month, the Rudin Center hosted the first ever NYC Bus Hackathon in partnership with the MTA and supported by TransitCenter. A full review of the event can be read here.

Press:
Rudin Center reports and publications are often cited in news articles. Additionally, Rudin Center staff are frequently asked for comment on transportation issues. Included below are some examples of press coverage:

  • Sarah Kaufman in Wired, “Google and the Feds Team Up to Build the City of the Future” (Link)
  • Mitchell Moss in AMNY, “L train could face Manhattan-Brooklyn shutdowns in 2017” (Link)
  • NYU Rudin Report in Politico New York, “NYU urban planners counter pope-visit gridlock predictions” (Link)

For more Rudin Center in the news click here.

What We’re Reading This Week

School is out for spring break this week, but we’re busy preparing for NYU Wagner’s Admitted Students Day on April 1st and reading up on this week’s transportation news. Take a look:

A Groundbreaking Hackathon

The Staten Island Bus Hackathon, organized by the NYU Rudin Center, TransitCenter and the MTA was a resounding success and an unprecedented event. Held on Saturday, March 5th, It was highly attended and produced many implementable solutions.

Approximately 150 participants – coders, planners and other interested attendees – joined the event held at LMHQ in Lower Manhattan. Fifteen proposals for reforming Staten Island Bus service were submitted and presented.

Three prizes were awarded:

  • Grand Prize: “How to Optimize Express Bus Routes in Staten Island,” by Sri Kanajan (link)
  • Best Solution for Express Bus Service: “Better Than The Subway,” by Colin Foley, Maria Carey, Raymond Cha, Larry Gould and David McCreery (link)
  • Best Solution for Local Bus Service: “Buses in SI,” by Austin Krauza, Jenny Ye, Adam Davidson, Sunny Zheng and Steve Bauman (link)

All submissions can be viewed in the gallery.

The event was hosted by NYU Rudin Center Assistant Director Sarah Kaufman and TransitCenter Program Manager Tabitha Decker. The program featured several prominent presenters:

  • TransitCenter’s Executive Director, David Bragdon, welcomed the attendees.
  • Staten Island Borough President James Oddo discussed key transportation concerns and his high hopes for the hackathon’s outcomes.
  • The data and Staten Island Bus Study were introduced by MTA NYCT planners Jonathan Hawkins and Chris Pangalinan.
  • Key tools to be used by hackers were introduced by Felipe Hoffa (Google) and Jeff Ferzoco (CartoDB).
  • Chris Whong of CartoDB delivered the lunchtime keynote, hitting on several key ingredients necessary for successful civic hacking.

The hackathon submissions were judged by:

  • John Gaul, Vice President, 21st Century Service Delivery, MTA New York City Transit
  • Manasvi Menon, Senior Strategic Consultant, Intersection
  • Shin-pei Tsay, Deputy Executive Director, TransitCenter
  • Sarah Wyss, Senior Director, Bus Service Planning, MTA New York City Transit

The hackathon was a highly successful event showcasing the importance and value of public participation in planning and the power of data-based solutions.

Photos below and at our photo gallery.

What We’re Reading This Week

Tomorrow the Rudin Center, in partnership with TransitCenter and  the MTA, with support from Carto DB and Google, will host the Staten Island Bus Hackathon. This hackathon, the first of its kind in NYC, is an opportunity for civic-minded technologists and planners to produce proposals for faster, more effective bus transit for Staten Island, where the bus network is being updated for the first time in decades. We are proud to say that the Hackathon is at capacity, so we hope you’ll stay tuned for a recap of the event and highlighted solutions!

In the meantime, here’s our weekly round-up of transportation news: