Event Recap: Peripheral Proposals
Equity. Achieving greater equity in NYC's transportation systems is a challenge that each presenter explored at Monday night's Peripheral Proposals event at the Van Alen Institute. This event was part of the Van Alen Institute's fall festival, Periphery!, which seeks to explore the ever-evolving edges of cities.
Peripheral Proposals re-capped:
- Sarah Kaufman, our assistant director for technology programming here at the Rudin Center, announced the Rudin Center's latest project, "Intelligent Paratransit," funded by a grant from TransitCenter. The project, beginning with a close look at current paratransit practices and system updates, will explore ways tech can be applied to improve service and simultaneously reduce costs--especially important given the context of an increasingly large aging population.
- Eric Goldwyn, doctoral candidate at Columbia University, presented snippets of his explorations of Brooklyn's dollar vans. His research follows changes to dollar van routes along Flatbush Avenue and the population/demographic changes that they mirror. Discussing the overlap of dollar-van routes and bus routes, he argued that there are no "transit deserts" in NYC, saying instead that many New Yorkers "have adequate access to inadequate services." Whether a complement to the bus system or a detractor, Goldwyn points to the apparent void that dollar-vans fill for so many commuters and that their very existence along bus routes is evidence of inadequate service. Conclusion? Bus service is in need of a re-design.
- David R. Jones, President & CEO of the Community Service Society, brought the audience's attention to the financial periphery with a discussion of the affordability of NYC's transit system from the perspective of the poorest of New Yorkers. His take-away? Given the current state of transportation funding in NYC, in order to provide reduced or free fares to those who need them most, a revenue stream must be identified to provide the funds to fill that gap.
- Joanne Rausen, Assistant Commissioner of Data & Technology at the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, described the TLC's efforts to make their data available to innovators and their own use of data to improve service. But, she also took the time to acknowledge that these innovations come with some difficulty as both users and providers have concerns about privacy and how the data is used. The nugget I pulled from Joanne's presentation is that infrastructure is not just about physical structures anymore, but also about IT.
- Lastly, Douglas Adams of the Waterfront Alliance concluded the presentations with an overview of NYC's plans for an expanded ferry system. Adams mentioned several important frontiers needing innovation, including better connections to other modes of transit, which may come naturally with increased density along NYC's waterfront, and the deployment of ferry service as a critical transit alternative should one of the Hudson River tunnels come offline.
- One brief proposal was mentioned by Adrian Untermyer selected from the Rudin Center Emerging Leaders program to respond to the panelists. In his capacity as Deputy Director of the Historic Districts Council, he hopes to bring new life, through the arts, into the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
In summary, many New Yorkers find themselves at the periphery, where reliable transportation options may not be available or may not come in an officially recognized form. It is at this periphery that innovation and leadership are most needed.
Pro-tip of the night: The question of how to successfully push for policy change was floated to the panel, in an answer slightly reminiscent of the godfather's offer, Sarah Kaufman responded, "Present a solution that's too good to be ignored."
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Photos by Kait Ebinger.