Developing Social Media Protocols and Policies


The presentation made at TRB based on Sarah Kaufman and Susan Bregman’s book chapter, “What’s the worst that can happen? Developing social media protocols and policies” is now available on Slideshare. Please review and comment below if you have questions. The book is available here.


Developing Social Media Protocols and Policies for Transportation Agencies from Susan Bregman

On train and car drivers, and their robotic successors


I, for one, welcome our robotic driver overlords.

Positive Train Control, which kicks in to control when human error puts travelers in a dangerous situation, sets the train on a safer course. As federal authorities, politicians and the public call for its implementation on commuter rail, in the wake of last week’s Metro-North train derailment that killed four and injured twenty passengers, I wonder why they don’t demand the same for cars.

Two million drivers in the U.S. fall asleep behind the wheel every week, as WNYC pointed out yesterday, and Ben Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas summarized other startling statistics: “…since 1993, for every 1 billion train passengers, seven have died. In 2012 alone, 33,561 Americans died in traffic incidents. The comparable motor vehicle death rate is 108,000 for every 1 billion drivers.” Clearly, despite the recent tragedy, human error makes trains the safer bet than cars.

Positive Train Control is being planned or implemented by train operators across the United States, by federal mandate. PTC monitors a train’s movement and speed through a combination of on-board computers and wireless communications to assess the train’s speed, location and proximity to other equipment and personnel, and often imposes a speed limit on the train. Hypothetically, if the Metro-North train that derailed had been using PTC, even if the driver “was in a daze situation,” the system would have reduced the train’s speed at that dangerous location, avoiding the derailment. The technology, despite its cost (up to $22.5 billion) and limitations (it only protects against human error, and not, for example, a broken rail), seems like a no-brainer for Metro-North, one of the busiest commuter railroads in the U.S. (and likewise Long Island Rail Road, the busiest in the country).

But where are similar safety measures for cars? There, the human error factor is extremely high, particularly when it comes to driving under the influence and distracted driving; according to the National Safety Council, “21 percent of crashes or 1.1 million crashes in 2011 involve talking on handheld and hands-free cell phones.” As we approach an era of driverless cars, it is time to establish a system that controls cars’ speeds, monitors their proximity to other vehicles and pedestrians, ensures they stop at red lights, de-activates drivers’ texting capabilities, and checks their blood alcohol levels before ignition. While accidents will still occur, the milliseconds of reactive speeds required by an on-board computer will almost always beat out the human computation needs, especially with a cell phone or drink in hand. Many of these safety measures are imminent, if not already possible. Those calling for improved train safety using PTC technologies should be demanding the same tools for personal cars, and sooner. In other words, despite last week’s accident, cars should be operated more like trains, and both should reduce their reliance on unreliable humans.

- Sarah Kaufman

Short Talks, Big Ideas: Event Recap


Last night’s Short Talks, Big Ideas event presented to a sold-out crowd, showcased the best in transportation innovation for nearly every NYC mode. The impressive speaker lineup was:

-Noel Hidalgo, Code for America, showcased the work of bike data hackers at Bike Hack nights.
- Lois Goldman, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, discussed pedestrian safety measures in Newark, including a crash stat map and a planned demonstration of what various car speeds can do to a 10 year-old crash test dummy.
- Emily Gallo, Taxi & Limousine Commission, showed off the new lime green Boro Taxis and taught us that 97% of yellow taxi pickups are in Manhattan or at the airports.
- Kevin Ortiz, MTA, gave a behind-the-scenes look at wireless connectivity in the subways, and assured us it will be completely installed by 2017.
- Eric Goldwyn, Columbia University, shared his research on NYC dollar vans, which carry 125,000 passengers a day, making them the 20th largest bus system in the U.S.
-Gary Roth, MTA NYC Transit, made the case for bus security cameras, and showed how they work to show false injury claims.
- Robin Lester Kenton, NYC DOT, showed the power of Instagram photography for infrastructure, with special before/after shots of DOT-enhanced roadways. Follow NYC DOT on Instagram here.
- Randy Gregory II showed off his 100 Ideas for the Subway, some of the recommendations from his popular blog.

The event was moderated by Sarah Kaufman, Research Associate at the NYU Rudin Center, who is always looking for new presenters. Contact her at sarahkaufman /at/ nyu /dot/ edu if you’d like to speak in Spring 2014.

See below for some photos and check out #BigIdeas13 for tweets around the event.


Upcoming events at the NYU Rudin Center


Please join the NYU Rudin Center on the evening of November 4th for our next edition of Short Talks, Big Ideas, showcasing innovative work and ideas at the frontier of transportation innovation. Free registration is now open: http://wagner.nyu.edu/events/rudin-11-04-2013

We’ll cover streets, bikes, transit, dollar vans, data, wi-fi, photography, and more. #BigIdeas13
Also, we’re co-hosting the November 19th event “Closing the Enforcement Gap to Save Lives on NYC Streets” with Transportation Alternatives. Register here:

https://secure3.convio.net/ta/site/SSurvey;jsessionid=99462DC93AA291251B5950A7105F2B2D.app365b?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=6420&pw_id=2441&autologin=true

 

Hope to see you in November!

‘Smart Cities’ Book Talk


The new book ‘Smart Cities,’ by NYU Rudin Center’s Senior Research Fellow Anthony Townsend, takes an urbanist’s approach to the growth of big data. He spoke at the Rudin Center last night about this labor of love, and his desire “to bring a new perspective to the Jetsons vision of the smart city.” Anthony recalled his budding passion for this topic when creating rogue wi-fi networks with NYC Wireless a decade ago, leading him to study cities and technology, which is he thrilled to have led him to this point.

Check out the book’s website here, and read an excerpt on Boing Boing.

Smart Cities Cover

Tracking Your Car Travel Patterns?


Ever wonder which streets have the slowest car traffic? What your average driving speed is? Where you brake the most? New data may help us find that out. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that The New York City Department of Transportation recently received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to launch a program that monitors 500 cars with transponders around the city. Data will be available through apps to both car users and the city DOT. Participants in the program will receive a discount on their car insurance, and the city will have more data about car travel. Our own Sarah Kaufman was quoted talking about the potential pros and cons of the program.

Will pay phones become charging electric vehicle stations?


Photo via Flickr.com user Susan Sermoneta

Over the last decade, cell phones have become ubiquitous in cities across the world, creating less and less of a demand for the public pay phone. According to the Department of Technology and Telecommunications, there are still a little over 10,000 public pay phones on New York City sidewalks. The operational contracts for these kiosks expires in October 2014 and the city has the opportunity to transform the remaining kiosks to meet 21st century needs.

Earlier this year, the city sponsored a design contest to re-imagine these 20th century relics for the mobile 21st century. Several contest winners included electric vehicle charging stations as part of their design.

The electric vehicle is on the rise in the United States, electric vehicle sales are the fastest growing sector of the automotive industry and the number of E.V. models on the market has quadrupled in the last year. One challenge facing E.V. owners is the number and location of charging stations, especially in urban areas.

Converting kiosks into charging stations with two to three parking spaces each would be one potentially creative way to reuse the kiosks, which already have electric power. Finding charging stations can be a challenge for E.V. owners: Jay Friedland, legislative director for Plug in America, said that in one California town, E.V. owners use municipal owned Christmas tree light wiring to recharge.

Conflicting jurisdiction and interests of city agencies could complicate the process, which would involve formal applications and approval from the city. Earlier this year, New York Governor Cuomo announced plans to bring 3,000 charging stations to the state over the next five years and put 40,000 E.V.s on the road in that same period. Converting even a percentage of New York City’s pay phones to charging stations would meet statewide goals and increase access to charging for eager owners.

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.

Short Talks, Big Ideas: Recap


Last night’s Short Talks, Big Ideas event showed us how people are using data, how agencies can absorb public input, and how we should be approaching various modes of transport in the future.

Thanks to the numerous attendees, and our fantastic presenters:
- Guillaume Charny-Brunet, FaberNovel, 1.6 Billion Rides: A story of NYC subways, big data and YOU!
- Jeff Ferzoco, Owner, Jeff Ferzoco Design and Senior Fellow, RPA, Mapping innovation: The line is the journey
- Stephanie Camay, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Public involvement in transportation projects
- Bob Leonard, EarthGarage, Standardizing sustainable personal vehicles
- Adam Zaranko, NYC Economic Development Corporation, East River Ferry Service
- Chris Whong, NYU Wagner, Baltimore Circulatorbuddy
- Alexis Perrotta, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Can social fares improve NYCT?
- Anthony Townsend, NYU Wagner, New Data for Bicycling Research

Check out the event video here and the pics below: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/31217383

We’ll see you in the Fall with our next iteration of Short Talks, Big Ideas. If you have speaker suggestions for our next Short Talks, Big Ideas event, please get in touch.

Until then, please join us on April 20th for the Rethinking Regulation Design Challenge on April 20th.

Don’t-Miss Events in April


We have a fantastic set of events slated for April at the NYU Rudin Center:

April 9th (morning): Local Innovations in Bus Rapid Transit: A Panel Discussion – This panel will focus on innovative bus planning in the New York Metro area, and the unique challenges it presents to both policy makers and citizens.

April 9th (evening): Short Talks, Big Ideas: Transportation Innovations - Join the NYU Rudin Center for this high-energy series of short talks about how we’re using, improving and thinking about the future of transportation.

POSTPONED UNTIL FALL April 10th: Climate-Proofing Connectivity: The Future of New York’s Links to the Northeast Corridor – This symposium will convene experts on climate change, next-generation aviation, and high-speed rail planning to explore how New York’s external transportation connections can adapt to climate change in the coming decades to provide secure, resilient and sustainable economic lifelines in the face of an uncertain future.

April 20th: Rethinking Regulation Design ChallengeThis challenge is about bringing stakeholders to the table to develop innovative, realistic, and implementable solutions to help address the problems government regulators face when monitoring illegal apartment conversions in NYC, and non-compliant “Chinatown” motorcoach companies. (with NYU Wagner and OpenPlans)

All events are free and open to the public. Click on the event titles to register. See you in April!