NYU Rudin Center at TRB

If you’re heading to the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board next week, don’t miss the NYU Rudin Center’s appearances:

– “Citi Bike Takes New York,” presented by Mitchell Moss (NYU Rudin Director), Lily Gordon-Koven and Nolan Levenson (NYU Rudin Research Assistants) in Session 672, “Striving to Build Consensus Across Transportation Modes,” Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 3:45pm- 5:30pm.

– “What’s the Worst That Can Happen? Developing Social Media Protocols and Policies,” written by Sarah Kaufman (NYU Rudin Digital Director) and Susan Bregman, presented by Susan Bregman in Session 559, “Using Social Media to Improve Urban Transportation,” Tuesday, January 14, 2014 10:15AM – 12:00PM.

This presentation is based on the book chapter by the same name written by Sarah Kaufman and Susan Bregman.

Hope to see you there!

WalkNYC comes to Crown Heights


WalkNYC Wayfinding Map at Frank;lin Ave and Park Place

NYCDOT has begun installing pedestrian wayfinding maps throughout the city. These maps feature clear graphics about multimodal information, including nearby destinations. Yesterday, the WalkNYC program came to Crown Heights in partnership with the Heart of Brooklyn and the Brooklyn’s Children Museum. WalkNYC maps can also be seen in Chinatown, Long Island City, Herald Square, the Garment District, and at CitiBike stations.


Taxis, Taxes, and Monorail. The NYC Mayoral Transportation Forum

Earlier today, UTRC hosted a panel discussion to ask mayoral candidates about their transportation policies. In attendance was Sal Alabanese, John Liu, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner on the Democratic panel (Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio were no shows),

Democratic Mayoral Candidates: Sal Albanese, John Liu, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner (left to right)

and Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and George McDonald on the Republican / Independent panel.

Republican and Independent Mayoral Candidates: Adolfo Carrión, John Catsimatidis, Joe Lhota, and George McDonald (left to right)

Here were some the highlights:

  1. Most candidates support expanding SelectBusService and Express Bus Service in the outer boroughs to provide transit to underserved areas; however none mentioned creating exclusive busways to improve this service.
  2. Anthony Weiner and Paul Steely White (of Transportation Alternatives) got into a friendly debate about cycling in the city. After Weiner mocked the polls indicating support for cycling, White said that bicycles poll higher than the mayoral candidates in front of him.  
  3. Sal Albanese and Joe Lhota both explicitly support the city investing in mass transit infrastructure. Lhota believes that the N/R trains should be extended to Staten Island.
  4. Joe Lhota was the only candidate to bring other transit modes into the discussion, such as Light Rail on Staten Island’s Northern and Western shores. He also supports construction Metro North Railroad stations at Co-Op City and Parkchester.
  5. John Catsimatidis said that another subway line would never be built in our lifetime, but supports constructing “aboveways” (monorails) throughout the city.
  6. The Democratic candidates disapprove of the “Taxi of the Future.”
  7. Bill Thompson supports a commuter tax, but almost all of the other candidates believe that it is unattainable.
  8. Sal Alabanese believes that New York City Transit should be under city control. Anthony Weiner said that the city needs more control of the MTA board.
  9. There was a lot of discussion of tolling in the city, with candidates divided about additional tolls in the city, particularly on the East River bridges.
  10. Anthony Weiner noted that the city pays $7000 per student that takes a school bus. While candidates disagreed about labor costs, many mentioned that inefficient routing was a large reason for the high costs of school buses.

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Anthony Weiner fields questions from the press after the panel.

How You Know You’re A CitiBike Pro

By raw numbers, New York City’s new bike share system, CitiBike, has been a runaway success. In the first 10 days of operation – some 35,000+ riders have logged 100,000 rides and travelled more than 270,000 miles – enough to get to the moon (and partway back).

The research staff at the Rudin Center – transportation nerds that we are – all signed up the day CitiBike registration opened, and have been actively using the system since Day 1. As an East Village resident from 2000 to 2010, I was an avid biker on the streets of Manhattan. But when I moved across the river to Hoboken in 2010, I lost touch with New York’s bike culture. Dragging a bike on the PATH is a major headache. Taking one on the ferry, a major expense. So my new acquantanice with Citbike has also become a re-acquaintance with how utterly wonderful and simultaneously awful New York City is as a place to ride a bike.


Log of my first 10 days of CitiBike trips.

Nonetheless, according to my CitiBike account logs, I’ve taken a total of 15 trips in the last 10 days – some as short as 3 minutes. And it occurred to me today how quicky I’ve integrated the system into my daily movements around the city. I feel like I’ve already become a Citibike Pro User.

And in honor of that realization, I’ve come up with the Rudin Center’s Top 10 List “You Know You’re A CitiBike Pro When….”


#10 -You’ve Worked CitiBike Into Your Commute, Deliberately to Deprive the MTA of Subway or Bus Fare

Bikeshare at the Christopher St & Hudson St corner = happy PATH commuters!

For me, getting to my office at the Puck Building used to mean a 25-minute walk across SoHo from the Christopher Street PATH Station, or a transfer to the F train somewhere along Sixth Avenue. Now, as long as the skies are dry, I’m keeping the $2.50 the MTA wants to take me 10 blocks. The MTA has been sticking it to us for decades. Time to stick it back! Thanks Citibike!

While we’re on the MTA…




#9 – You’ve Jumped Off A Crawling Crosstown Bus to Make the Trip to the [insert: East/West Side] By Bike Instead

Just yesterday I tried getting from Grand Central Terminal to the 39th Street Ferry Terminal on the M42. What a cruel joke. 20 minutes later, barely past Bryant Park, I hopped off and grabbed a bike on W. 43rd street. Five minutes and 36 seconds later, I arrive on the banks of the Hudson. Straight onto the boat, having purchased my ticket at a red light on the NY Waterway app, I’m out of the city – it was like some kind of postmodern urban escape rocket.

#8 - You’ve Scared the Daylights Out of at Least One Pedestrian

This is New York. We are mean people. Size matters. Speed matters. Get out of my way.

#7 – You’ve Realized The Stunning Number of Things Other Than Bikes That Inhabit New York City’s Bike Lanes

Postal trucks, pedestrians, construction barriers, UPS trucks, taxis loading/offloading, food carts, food trucks, dead pigeons, etc. etc. etc. Sometimes I think they should call them “Bikes and Stuff”  lanes.

#6 – Despite Your Best Intentions to Obey Traffic Laws, You’ve Riden the Wrong Way Down A Bike Lane or A One-Way Street

I told myself from Day 1 I’d obey the rules, but sometimes the detours needed to stay legal can double the length of a short trip between two CitiBike stations (for instance, the contortions needed to get to the station in front of the Puck Building when coming from the northwest add 4-5 minutes). And so, I’ve just given in and started (like everyone else on a bike) riding south on the Lafayette Street bike lane.

New Yorkers are jaywalkers, and everyone accepts that, right? This is just New York’s timeless mobility culture expressing itself in a new medium. Or at least that’s what I tell myself at night.

#5 – You’ve Figured Out That If A Dock Is Full or Empty at Either End of Your Journey, There’s Almost Always One Available 2-3 Minutes Away

Proceed to the next station, then. No big deal. Quit whining.


#4 – You’ve Dropped Your Coffee and Broken Into A Sprint When You See This

Or this.

‘Nuff said.

(p.s. Unlock bonus points if you’ve zoomed in far enough to see the cool 3-d building detail in the CitiBike app’s maps.)

#3 – You’ve Figured Out What the F—ing Inscrutable Light System Means

Oh you mean the one that isn’t documented -anywhere-? Not on the stations, not in the app, not on the CitiBike website?

Yeah that one. Sure to get the “Worst UX” award this year.

(And BTW, its “Green = please steal me, the guy trying to rent me got bored waiting for the yellow light and walked away but I’ll unlock anyway after he’s gone”, “Yellow = please wait, my crappy wireless Internet is slow/not working”, and “Red = I’m broken…. again”)


#2 – You Have Reconciled In Your Mind the Irony of Those Who Would Criticize CitiBike (What Is Essentially A Giant Roving Bank Advertisement Pushed By a Billionaire Mayor)… as “Socialism”

(thanks to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang @askpang in Silicon Valley for that detached observation)

and the winner…

#1 – You’ve Figured Out How to Unlock the Bike and Simultaneously Adjust the Seat Height With A Single Well-Timed Yank

It’s like learning how to snap your fingers for the first time. Look me up in SoHo, I’m happy to show you how it’s done.


Workshop on New Data for Bicycling Research: Crowdsourcing, DIY Sensing & Apps

On March 12, Anthony Townsend of the NYU Rudin Center and Aaron Naparstek of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning convened a workshop on New Data for Bicycling Research: Crowdsourcing, DIY Sensing & Apps to assess the demand and availability for a wide range of data about bicycle ownership and use in New York City. There was active participation from a broad range of stakeholders including the city’s transportation and IT agencies, leading bicycling advocates, and civic tech and hacker groups. In the coming months, the Rudin Center will be developing a research plan devoted to improving the supply and quality of data for bicycle research in New York City.

A Prezi of the workshop proceedings can be found at
Workshop Participants

Neil Bezdek, New York City Department of Transportation
Justin Brandon, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Wendy E. Brawer, Green Map System
Alison Cohen, Independent consultant
Neil Freeman, New York City Department of Transportation
Melinda Brooke Hanson, NYU Rudin Center
Frank Hebbert, OpenPlans
Noel Hidalgo, Code for America
Mike Infranco, Transportation Alternatives
Charles Komanoff, IGC
Dan LaTorre, Project for Public Spaces
Stephanie Levinsky, New York City Department of Transportation
Aaron Naparstek, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Andrew Nicklin, New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecomunications
Brian Riordan, Strava
Caroline Samponaro, Transportation Alternatives
Dani Simons, Independent consultant
Claudio Silva, NYU Center for Uurban Science and Progress
Anthony Townsend, NYU Rudin Center
Chris Whong, NYU Rudin Center
Matthew Willsee, Cyclee
Susi Wunsch, Velojoy

From Transport to Mobility


Waiting and stopping.

For public transportation users across the world, it is what defines their daily journey: waiting for the next bus or train, and then stopping several times before reaching the chosen destination. Waiting and stopping is so intrinsic to the public transportation experience that it is not often recognized, much less challenged.   Imagine a world in which waiting and stopping were eliminated altogether, where the choice of when and how to get to a destination was chosen not by a transit system but by each individual user.

Such is the world envisioned by Georges Amar. Amar is the Director of Prospective and Innovative Design at Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), operator of the Paris subway and bus systems. In a recent lunch discussion hosted by the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, Amar highlighted the potential for transit agencies to reinvent the way transportation is offered and utilized. At the center of his presentation was a distinction between two interacting (and often competing) concepts: transport and mobility.

Transport, Amar stresses, is a rather outdated concept. Transport is the steel and the pavement and the bus and the physical elements that comprise the traditional role of transportation. Mobility, however, is a distinctly separate idea. Mobility is the ability to move about independently, without restrictions or barriers. Amar points out that our mobility is a function of the transport options available to us. More often than not, our desire for mobility transcends the physical restraints of transport. This concept is hardly surprising to anyone who has suffered through rush hour traffic. The gap between our demands for mobility and the restraints put on us by transport are immense, and can be measured in the minutes one sits idle at a station or the hours one wastes in highway congestion each year.

Amar envisions a world in which transit agencies focus on mobility instead of just transport. Offering new tools and services that allow users to embrace their own mobility is the next greatest challenge for transit agencies. In the old paradigm of transport, the one which most of us still interact today, we have a choice between two or three methods of transport. Shifting the paradigm from transport to mobility means offering a broad menu of options – “trans-modality” – which can mean up to 20 or 30 choices of modes.

So, how well are the world’s transit agencies doing at shifting the paradigm? Amar admits that even his own agency has a long way to go, but ideas and innovations are sprouting up. Amar points to the rise of carpooling, car sharing, bus rapid transit and bike sharing as early examples of a move towards “trans-modality.” Moving beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to transport will require planners to start by asking, “what would the user want?” Responding to those wants, Amar believes, is the very heart of the paradigm shift from simple transport to mobility.