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Unprecedented Action, Typical Storm

This afternoon, New Yorkers looking out their windows may wonder if the meteorologists who predicted last week’s Snowstorm Juno would be the “biggest snowstorm in the history of this city” simply got their dates wrong.  While the storm didn’t break weather records, it did prompt the breaking of another record. For the first time in its 110-year history, the MTA subway system was shut down because of snow.

After the snow settled on Tuesday afternoon, The New York Times, illustrated the multifaceted nature behind this historic decision:

“I would much rather be in a situation where we say we got lucky than one where we didn’t get lucky and somebody died,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

All subway service halted from 11pm Monday evening until 9am Tuesday morning. Travelers had virtually no options of getting around the city as cars were banned from driving city roads and bus and ferry service stopped.

Of the unprecedented precautions our Director Mitchell L. Moss said, “They were able to conjure a snowstorm that didn’t occur, we won a battle without an enemy.”

Big Data, Big Picture

Next City talks to two of our researchers, Anthony Townsend and Sarah Kaufman, about patterns in big data and challenges cities face in using it. And they ask, would you share your private data for the good of city planning planning? Well, would you?

“As the data accumulates, these traffic schemas acquire a third dimension: They show a city changing not just from day to night, but from year to year.

They show a city changing not just from day to night, but from year to year. Using cellphone data, for example, “you can really see the story of how a metropolitan area has evolved, over the last decade,” says Anthony Townsend, the author of Smart Cities.

Many of these ideas are hypothetical, for the moment, because so-called “granular” data is so hard to come by…Corporate entities, like Uber’s pending data offering to Boston, don’t always meet researchers’ standards. “It’s going to be a lot of superficial data, and it’s not clear how usable it’ll be at this point,” explains Sarah Kaufman.”

Mobility, Economic Opportunity and New York City Neighborhoods

In January 2015 The NYU Rudin Center for Transportation released a new report: “Mobility, Economic Opportunity and New York City Neighborhoods,” focusing on the variations of job access by transit throughout New York City.

Although public transit provides access to jobs throughout the New York City region, there are actually substantial inequalities in mobility. By focusing on the neighborhood level, the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation has identified communities that are substantially underserved by the public transportation system.

“In New York, mass transit is the path to economic mobility, not education,” Mitchell Moss, Rudin’s director, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s far more important to have a MetroCard than a college degree.” (Gothamist)

In New York City neighborhoods where people are heavily dependent on transit but access to jobs via train or bus is mediocre, 67 percent of workers commute by transit. In these areas the average income is lower than the city average, at $46,773, and the unemployment rate is 11.7, the highest in the city.

“It’s exactly these commuters, who live just beyond the reach of convenient transit but lack the resources to own a private car, who could benefit most from improvements to the city’s transit network.” (Streetsblog)

The report recommends that policymakers increase the number of transportation modal options across the city, maximize use of existing transportation infrastructure, and foster the ability to work remotely. These solutions will benefit all New Yorkers’ access to job opportunities and economic improvement.

“We need to link transit to areas that aren’t likely to get a new subway system — using … a variety of buses, more customized buses to link people to the mass transit system,” [Moss] says. “In some cases it’s getting people to mass transit that’s the challenge.” (Vox)

 

This research was supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and Google.