Category Archives: technology

flickr // momentcaptured1

Map: Subway Stations with Wireless Service

Where can you use your cell phone underground? Here’s a map to show you which 37 subway stations are wired for access. According to MTA and Transit Wireless, the consortium responsible for building out the access, the 241 remaining underground stations will come online  within four years.


// Map by NYU Rudin Center intern Andrew Poeppel – data from Transit Wireless

Top image: flickr // momentcaptured1

Members of the Google PDF 2014 Fellowship and Google Staff

Personal Democracy and Transportation

By Sarah Kaufman

Last week I attended the Personal Democracy Forum, an annual two-day symposium on the intersection of technology and politics, and often the source of much rabble-rousing in online rights. This year’s theme was “Save the Internet / The Internet Saves,” referring to the massive data-gathering of online records by government contrasted with the frequent positive interactions and movements only made possible by the internet’s connectivity.

I had the pleasure of participating in the conference as one of fifteen Google PDF Fellows who, like me, believe in the power of the internet and open data to make our cities and countries better places to live, work and get around. That Microsoft and Google were major sponsors of a conference on individualized web rights speaks volumes about the current push-pull relationship between simultaneous calls for personal privacy and government transparency.

That push-pull exists widely in transportation as well: We do not want our movements tracked, but we want Uber cars on demand. We want real-time information about how many people are in a station, but don’t want our own MetroCard swipes made public. We want traffic data, but don’t want our phones constantly being pinged for motion detection.

When it comes to transportation, we are often being tracked more than it seems, and up to this point, it has worked out to our benefit. Significant sets of transportation data, including procurement practices and taxi trips, should still be opened quickly and in digestible formats to take us to the next level of smart mobility.

However, privatized modes constitute a growing sector of transportation, including Uber, ZipCar and corporate shuttle buses. None of those modes are legally required to disclose data, but imagine if they did: perhaps cities would be more amenable to the working e-hail model, residents of congested cities could be incentivized to car-share rather than own, and road use fees could be charged appropriately to private buses to help pay for public ones. In a disaster, such as after a storm that knocks out a city’s subway system, data on all of these modes would help mobilize the city to ensure that residents can get to home, work and safe spaces.

It’s time to embrace these private transportation providers as important transportation networks while also requiring them to provide open data, for the greater good of urban mobility.

Members of the Google PDF 2014 Fellowship and Google Staff
Members of the Google PDF 2014 Fellowship and Google Staff (photo courtesy of Google)
Dani Simons (Citi Bike) presenting at the Citi Bike Data Showcase on May 28, 2014

Recap and Photos: Citi Bike Data Showcase

Last night’s Citi Bike Data Showcase brought a full, fun crowd to talk about visualizations, apps and nuances of Citi Bike use and analysis. Hosted by the Rudin Center and emceed by Noel Hidalgo of BetaNYC, the event featured several brief talks:

  • Dani Simons, Director of Marketing at NYC Bike Share, showed how the organization uses its data to manage bike fleets and where the system expansion may occur going forward.
  • Jeff Ferzoco (linepointpath) and Alex Chohlas-Wood (NYU CUSP) discussed their upcoming project of calculating bike salmoning.
  • Aaron Fraint (Hunter College) showed his favorite coding tools for analysis and visualization, including some processes that can take three days to complete.  (link)
  • Ben Wellington (I Quant NY/Pratt) demonstrated the process of map creation using Citi Bike and NYC data with free coding tools.
  • Sarah Kaufman (NYU Rudin Center) discussed gender, Citi Bike, and the modern freedoms reflective of women’s discovery of pantaloons.
  • Amy Wu and Luke Stern (SVA) redesigning Citi Bike’s checkout and kiosk process

Frank Hebbert (Open Plans) closed out the event by showcasing his new #bikestoday tool, which automatically counts bikes riding past.

See event photos below (by Jeff Ferzoco).

Noel Hidalgo presents at Short Talks, Big Ideas, Fall 2013

New Event: Short Talks, Big Ideas

Join the NYU Rudin Center on Monday, April 7th at 6:30pm to learn about new projects and thinking on the frontiers of transportation. Speakers will deliver lightning presentations about their work and ideas, followed by networking, refreshments. We guarantee the audience will learn something new.

 

Speakers confirmed for this fifth edition of the event include:

Malinda Foy, MTA: The Access-A-Ride MetroCard
Lily Gordon-Koven, NYU Rudin Center: Citi Bike Trends
Nina Harvey, ARUP: Tech-Enhanced Urban Experiences
Stacey Hodge, NYC DOT: NYC Freight Mobility
Jacqueline Klopp, Columbia University: Open Transit Data for Nairobi
Stewart Mader, Subway NY NJ, Putting PATH on the Map
Jen Petersen, Revolution Rickshaws, Put Your [   ] on a Trike
Kate Rube, Project for Public Spaces: Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper – and Healthier
Andrew Salzberg, Uber: Uber in New York
Dani Simons, Citi Bike: Mainstreaming Biking
Moderated by Sarah Kaufman, NYU Rudin Center for Transportation

Join the discussion on Twitter at #BigIdeas14

This event is co-sponsored by the University Transportation Research Center.

Peak Driving: Do Fertility Rates, Better Logistics, and GPS Navigation Play A Role?

Ever since transportation analysts started to notice that the leveling off of vehicle miles travelled (VMT) by U.S. drivers that started around 2005 had actually turned into a steady decline, any number of theories have been put forward to explain why Americans are driving less. The most hype has been around the decline in driving by teens and young adults – most of whom, the argument goes, have given up on their parents’ cul de sac suburbs to move to transit-served urban cores. I’ll certainly accept some of that is going on (I was one of those myself, if a bit ahead of the trend in the mid-1990s). But I don’t for a minute buy the popular explanation in the tech world – that “Millennials” (god I hate that term) are shunning car purchases and cruising for smart phones and social media. They aren’t getting licenses partly because states have made it harder and raised eligibility ages, and they aren’t buying cars because they have no jobs to go to, and student debt of epic proportions. If auto manufacturers want someone to blame for the drop in teen driving, they should blame universities, not Facebook.

Some more recent plausible explanations point out that aging Boomers drive less as they get older, and that 2005 was around the time that the U.S. economy entered a new era of higher and volatile gas prices. (The rise actually starts in 2002, but it keeps rising up until 2012 with a brief dip in 2009). Gasoline is now about three times as expensive as it was in the 1990s.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and have come up with three other hypotheses I’ve not seen discussed yet:

First, fertility – more young people are growing up in areas served by transit. Foreign-born women (who tend to be younger) have significantly more children than native-born women (see the Pew Research data). And immigrants are far more likely to live in urban and suburban areas served by transit, and to use it to get to work. (At least in California according to UCTC, and probably everywhere else). Therefore, young Americans today are more likely to grow up in a community where transit is a realistic mode choice. I’ve yet to do a thorough analysis of this, but my bet is that this would be a significant contribution to the VMT trendline.

Second, logistics. Despite the exploding volumes of e-commerce, a decade of steady improvements in route planning in the logistics sector is leading to significant reductions in wasted travel. UPS claims that technology solutions for improved routing have saved millions of miles since 2004. This is a drop in the bucket considering that Americans drove nearly 3 TRILLION miles each year over the last decade. But it brings me to my main point – which is that the machine intelligence that has allowed UPS to route its trucks more directly and efficiently has diffused throughout the entire population.

And so my third hypothesis, is that the mass adoption of personal GPS navigation – first through bundled manufacturer installed systems, then aftermarket personal navigation devices like Tom Tom, and now through smart phone apps like Google Maps, could be contributing significantly to the decline in VMT. Instead of taking habitual routes, more and more drivers are letting their GPS send them on a beeline that might include some unfamiliar twists and turns. Eventually people learn these better routes and start to incorporate them even into their own unassisted wayfinding.

After this occurred to me, I took a look at historic sales data for various segments of the GPS market, using data from Statista, a statistics reference service available through the university library. The numbers are pretty stunning – reporting doesn’t even begin until 2005, because the market was quite small before then. But between 2005 and 2010, there were nearly 80.5 million “GPS equipment units sold in the automobile segment” in the United States, according to Statista (I’m still trying to verify exactly what this covers – but I’m pretty sure it is manufacturer-installed in-dash units only). The number of devices sold annually increased ten-fold from 2005 to 2010.

Is it a coincidence that the era of falling VMT and the mass diffusion of personal navigation services coincide almost precisely? It’s too early to tell.

But if this is true, its good news for both the US and the world. According to Garmin, only 25 percent of the world’s 700 million cars currently have GPS installed. As this technology continues to spread throughout the market, we could see additional gains in travel efficiency.

(This essay is part of the Rudin Center’s ongoing research project Re-Programming Mobility made possible by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.)

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New Work: Co-Monitoring for Transit

A new report and accompanying website have just been posted, in which author Sarah Kaufman aims to bridge the communications gap between transit agencies and their riders.

Check out the advocacy site for open transit monitoring, or go straight to the report. As always, share your comments with us here or on social media.