Social Transit Research Lab

The Social Transit Research Lab (stArlab) is an open source effort to gather ideas about the socially-connected, socially-conscious transportation of the future. We produce Weeels, the free cab-sharing smartphone app for NYC.

Our blog is where we collect discoveries from the world of new transit, social and not, high tech and low.

May 4, 2010 at 11:33pm
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Reblogged from smartercities
smartercities:

As he introduced Ecobici, a bike sharing service modelled on Vélib in Paris, Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who attended the failed Copenhagen Climate Conference at the end of last year, said people didn’t need to wait for a global commitment to care for the environment This spring Mexico City launched Ecobici, installing 1,100 bikes at 85 pick-up points throughout the centre of the city. The mayor said during the first few weeks some 4,000 people had paid $24 for user cards, which swipe at a rack to release a bicycle for 30 minutes, and that some 50,000 trips had been made. Organisers hope to have signed up 24,000 people by the end of this year. As one of the world’s most polluted and congested cities, Mexico City is determined to green itself. Ecobici is just part of a massive programme. The Mexican government, World Bank and the United Nations are funding a 15-year, $1 billion per year Plan Verde. The plan focuses on transportation issues. In addition to Ecobici, BRT (bus rapid transport) is being introduced, the underground railway will be improved and once a week cars will be banned from the roads. The mayor’s office said that the plan is already working. The number of days with health-threatening pollution levels has dropped from 333 to 180 and areas with BRT had seen traffic accidents drop by 30 per cent.

smartercities:

As he introduced Ecobici, a bike sharing service modelled on Vélib in Paris, Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who attended the failed Copenhagen Climate Conference at the end of last year, said people didn’t need to wait for a global commitment to care for the environment This spring Mexico City launched Ecobici, installing 1,100 bikes at 85 pick-up points throughout the centre of the city.

The mayor said during the first few weeks some 4,000 people had paid $24 for user cards, which swipe at a rack to release a bicycle for 30 minutes, and that some 50,000 trips had been made. Organisers hope to have signed up 24,000 people by the end of this year.

As one of the world’s most polluted and congested cities, Mexico City is determined to green itself. Ecobici is just part of a massive programme. The Mexican government, World Bank and the United Nations are funding a 15-year, $1 billion per year Plan Verde. The plan focuses on transportation issues. In addition to Ecobici, BRT (bus rapid transport) is being introduced, the underground railway will be improved and once a week cars will be banned from the roads.

The mayor’s office said that the plan is already working. The number of days with health-threatening pollution levels has dropped from 333 to 180 and areas with BRT had seen traffic accidents drop by 30 per cent.

11:26pm
33 notes
Reblogged from smarterplanet
smartercities:

smarterplanet:

IBM  Plans ‘Serious’ Sim City — InformationWeek
IBM said Monday that it plans to offer a SimCity-style online game that urban planners, students, academics, and others can use to learn more about urban sprawl and how to combat its negative effects on the environment. IBM called its CityOne simulation a “serious game” that can help users “discover how to make their cities and their industries smarter by solving real-world business, environmental, and logistical problems.” 

smartercities:

smarterplanet:

IBM Plans ‘Serious’ Sim City — InformationWeek

IBM said Monday that it plans to offer a SimCity-style online game that urban planners, students, academics, and others can use to learn more about urban sprawl and how to combat its negative effects on the environment. IBM called its CityOne simulation a “serious game” that can help users “discover how to make their cities and their industries smarter by solving real-world business, environmental, and logistical problems.” 

April 27, 2010 at 10:50am
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The Future of the City: A Review of the RPA’s 20th Annual Conference

George Orwell was wrong. Although he said advanced technology would create authoritarianism, it actually creates decentralization and democratization.

That was the message of Julia Vitullo-Martin, the director of the Center for Urban Innovation of the Regional Planning Association (RPA) at the RPA’s annual conference, “Innovation and the American Metropolis,” held in New York City on Friday, April 16th. And it was an idea that animated everyone who came for the event, from policy makers to technologists: populations are expanding, but through creative technological innovation, society can compensate. Read on for a recap and video of William McDonough’s keynote…

Population expansion in the metropolis

The critical questions of how to grow towards smart urbanization and how to implement these technological innovations were addressed at the RPA. The majority of population growth will occur in urban and industrial places: Adolfo Carrion, the keynote speaker, and the director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, said that the American city is the nexus of necessity and innovation: 85% of jobs are in urban areas, 90% of productivity happens in metropolitan areas, and by 2050, 75% of Americans will live in metropolitan areas (in other words, American cities will have to compensate for 120 million more people).

That seems daunting when getting on the subway at rush hour is already a superhuman feat due to of the dense throngs of commuters. How will New York City sustainably support even more people, as we rapidly approach a population of nine million? How can urban planning lead to increased affordable sustainability and stronger, opportunistic, wealthy cities?

Architect William A. McDonough, speaking at the RPA assembly, April 16, 2010 at the Waldorf-Astoria, NYC.

Catch-up ball

America already has many systems that need work: healthcare, education, the financial sector, housing and urban development patterns, and possibly the political system. Furthermore, with regards to the transportation system, “America needs to play catch-up ball”, said Robert Yaro, the President of the RPA. He pointed out that America still lacks even the high-speed rails found in Europe, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, and even Morocco.

Gerard Mooney of IBM believes that New York City can be the number one green city, and transportation is the building block to economic viability. But in order to achieve this status, New York needs to make some changes. Change is critical to US urbanization, and this must be fueled by the production of green technology, sustainable infrastructure / transportation, and affordable alternative energy.

Open-source data
One way the NYC transportation lags behind many cities, including Boston, Portland, Chicago, Berlin, Tokyo, and London, is that there is not real-time, digitalized transit information. In order to achieve this, we need open data.

Chris Dempsey of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MDOT) explained that after Boston opened MBTA data to the public in November 2009, people unconnected to the DOT jumped on the data — within weeks, they produced real-time data feed interfaces, for example, transportation updates for phones and desktop, and digital displays for subway and bus stations.

Open source data increases the efficiency of city travel and transit, and the collection of transportation data can be used to study what works well with regards to congestion pricing, healthcare systems, and Information Technology systems.

Additionally, public data collection and monitoring, including GPS information in people’s cars, and the implementation of security cameras in places such as stop lights, toll booths, and building entrances, could also allow for transit efficiency and better use of public space in urban areas. The sharing of information will also help coordinate industry, research, and educational institutions.

New York City needs to catch up to other cities in these regards, but Yaro acknowledged that people are trepidatious of open data collection domains, fearing an intrusion of privacy and privileges.

Interagency Integration
Yaro stressed the importance of information sharing and communication between small companies (such as start-ups of smartphone apps), between federal agencies, and between cities. At the moment, open source applications are inefficient — there is not enough sharing of code, leading to redundancy.

We need to think of communication in a whole new way, and the government must be involved in developing common applications. He said that the Internet is a command post in the global economy, and human intelligence must be used to implement communication in tactile ways, and to integrate all modes of transportation.

New York City also needs better pricing mechanisms, including using web based technology to connect all transit systems, for example, with mobile and single pass payment methods (already used in cities in Japan and Korea). Similar to integration of transit systems, Thomas Prendergast, President of New York City Transit, emphasized that shared infrastructure ( taxi and car sharing, for example) is necessary to improve surface transportation efficiency.

In order for sharing of information and communication to improve, private sectors and small companies must take advantage of opportunities for federal partnership and funding. Many RPA members emphasized the need for decentralization and integration of funding. Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City DOT, emphasized that there is federal money for transportation technology start-ups, and Belcher stated that “Government’s work is God’s work”. However, Belcher also stated that unfortunately, critical change will require big tax increases.

Change we can believe in
The emergence of technology and transportation innovations are crucial to sustainable growth of US metropolitan areas. American urban regions must keep the existing systems in place, but the US is facing a crisis as we move towards lagging behind the rest of the world (technologically, economically, politically, and in areas of education and healthcare). Change is critical to US urbanization, but as Sadik-Khan said, “Authentic signs of hope are on the horizon.”

Read more and attend the conference virtually at RPA.org

April 19, 2010 at 2:57pm
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MTA Flood Mitigation Streetscape Design wins Urban Design Merit AIA annual award

MTA has a new flood mitigation policy for New York City. Rogers Marvel Architects, with di Domenico & Partners and Stantec have implemented a new project to protect the subway from excessive water in times of flooding. Most of the New York City’s excess floodwater pours through sidewalk grates, often directly into the subway system, leading to delays and electrical damage, for example, during the flood of August 8, 2007, which shut down the F train altogether during rush hour. This led to traveler’s mayhem and public criticism of the unprepared MTA.

In response, Rogers Marvel Architects and Engineers designed a new ventilation system that meshes functionality with aesthetics – it is composed of elevated grates of different heights, the tallest one about knee level, and each is equipped with a sidewalk bench at one side. The varying heights of the grates drain 98 percent of running water.  This is much more efficient than the typical New York City grates that are only raised a few inches above the ground, which allow for excess water to run over the surface without draining, entering the subway system.  The grates are about five feet long, and of varying widths, depending on the size of the particular sidewalk. They have been installed in 2400 spots along Hillside Avenue in Queens, a particularly flood-prone area, and more are being installed along Northern Boulevard, Queens Plaza, and Long Island City.

Since the August flooding event of 2007, which impeded NYC transportation, the MTA, the NYC Transportation and Environmental Protection commissioners, and the NY DOT commissioner have worked together to improve preparedness and response time to extreme weather events. They are also hoping to increase communication to the public, including real-time information regarding trains and buses (an area of technology in which NYC lags behind most other major cities). The bigger picture of flooding damage stems from poor infrastructure and soil permeability, but Rogers Marvel Architects and collaborators provide a temporary solution to the perpetual but intermittent problem.

Rogers Marvel Architects, with di Domenico & Partners, and Stantec have earned an Urban Design Merit award from the AIA annual Design Awards Program, for the MTA Floot Mitigation Streetscape Design.

The 2010 AIA Design Awards are on display until July 3, 2010 at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, New York, (212) 683-0023.

April 12, 2010 at 3:11pm
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NYC Taxi: Out From Behind the Weeel

Yassky: The drivers are our customers. The first complaint from the Taxi drivers is illegal street hails.

Taxes on Yellow taxis go to the MTA. Black cars don’t collect these taxes.

April 6, 2010 at 9:10pm
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Reblogged from digitalurbanisms

Digital Urbanisms: CFP for "Designing the Hybrid City" @ the World Expo in Shanghai, Aug. 2010 →

Organized by the folks at The Mobile City and The Virtueel Platform, Designing the Hybrid City is a conferenceon the role of digital media and technologies in urban design.” The conference is taking place at the Dutch Cultural Centre located at the World Expo in Shanghai from August 16-17…

April 5, 2010 at 12:44pm
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A smartphone app to locate parking spaces


Imagine not having to circle the block ceaselessly, searching for a legal parking spot. Soon this might be a reality.

San Francisco is testing out the “bump”, a four square inch battery-operated wireless sensing device, attached to the pavement adjacent to parking spots. The bumps will form a sensor network that will alert drivers of empty parking spaces either by street sign displays or by looking at a map on a smartphone. This will have a profound effect on the efficiency of urban automobile transit.

A study released in June by Transportation Alternatives, a public transit advocacy group, reported that 28 percent to 45 percent of traffic on some streets in New York City is generated by people circling the blocks.

The study also said that drivers searching for metered parking in just a 15-block area of Columbus Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side drove 366,000 miles a year.

NY Times article, “Can’t Find a Parking Spot? Check Smartphone”

San Francisco will test out the bump on 6,000 of its 240,000 metered parking spaces, and a handful of other cities are talking about implementing “smart parking” methods. New York, however, is not among them.

March 29, 2010 at 5:54pm
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An open-source platform for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication

Co-operative Vehicle-Infrastructure Systems (CVIS), an integrated project financed in part by the EU’s Sixth Framework Program for Research and Technological Development, presented extensive demonstrations in and around Amsterdam March 23-26 at the Cooperative Mobility Showcase. Over 60 leading industrial, governmental, and research organizations from across Europe have been collaborating on new applications and services to improve safety, efficiency, and environmental impacts of transportation by developing and implementing new methods of intelligent communication between and amongst vehicles, roadside systems, and infrastructures.

Multiple test sites in six European countries utilize and assess selected CVIS applications for urban and inter-urban environments for freight, fleet, and public transportation.

The CVIS Integrated Project will develop and integrate the essential basic and enabling technologies such as a multi-channel communications and network platform readily adaptable for both vehicle and roadside, a highly accurate positioning and local map module, and an open software environment for applications.

European Information Society Technology, CVIS project abstract

CVIS is an open source project, allowing collaboration and flexibility. Last week, CVIS showcased over 25 ITS Apps aimed at drivers, road operators, and traffic managers. Examples of the CVIS implementations will be readily available real-time traffic information, better intersection controllers, and vehicle ability to share urgent information with nearby vehicles. Soon drivers will be able to see virtual traffic signals on their dashboard; notification of driving the wrong-way on a one-way road; driving speed advice taking into account road conditions up ahead; parking space availability; and information about social networking and ride-share passengers.

Technological advances like these implemented by CVIS will lead to a more sustainable future of transportation through vehicle-infrastructure communication and cooperation.

March 23, 2010 at 12:55am
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Poke My Ride: Our Future Cars Will Talk To Traffic Lights, Each Other

At SXSW Interactive, I listened to Peter Stone talk about a future of autonomous cars that would be able to navigate through traffic and fly through stop lights with little more than the push of a button. You’d just need to climb into the backseat, press “opaque” on your liquid crystal smart glass, turn on your hologoggles, hang on tight, and let the computer take care of the rest. A robot car sounds more efficient (and more comforting) than, say the solution that some European cities have landed on: removing traffic lights altogether.

But the next step towards our near future of smart cars lies in building up a mobile “smart grid” of car networks. If cars could talk to traffic lights – and to each other – traffic and emissions could be more intelligently managed, meaning safer, faster and less polluting rides. Idling at red lights isn’t just annoying, especially when there’s no cross traffic: it’s largely why fuel economy is 25 percent worse in the city than on the highway.

Every major car company (and computer companies like IBM) is working on networked transportation. Treehugger reports on one recent project:

BMW and Siemens unveiled a system of networked traffic lights that can communicate with nearby cars to warn them about road conditions, help them better use anti-idling features, but that can also learn about traffic patterns from those cars and adjust cycling times to optimize traffic flow, saving time and fuel.

Such a system could also be expended to have cars talk directly to each other (“Car2Car” instead of “Car2Infrastructure”). This could mean that a car slipping on black ice could warn cars behind it about the traction conditions so they could know to slow down and be careful.

There’s always the risk that having more data streaming into a driver’s face via augmented reality windshields could be distracting, and that smart cars could make drivers more complacent. It’s also still unclear how smart traffic systems will incorporate “non-intelligent” transportation, like bicycles or feet.

But if cars can communicate with each other, we’d be able to use them better, more cleanly, and perhaps less than we do now. And by networking cars, we’d be letting drivers and passengers passing each other on the highway or driving to the same destination, communicate with each other too. That could make it possible for cars to start trading not just road data but tips on nearby restaurants, driving mix tapes, and even riders. (Inevitably, the possibilities for inter-car dating will proliferate.)

Of course, cars can be a pretty dumb mode of urban transportation. But they’re not likely to go away anytime soon. If we can network them together, we’ll be making them a little bit smarter, and further proving that social networking isn’t just for sharing what kind of burrito you had for lunch.

See a graphic on networked transportation at the Washington Post.

Reblogged from Motherboard.

March 21, 2010 at 2:17pm
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Wuhan Traffic Jam - Some Remarkable Statistics in the evolution of mobility

During the opening panel of the Electrosmog Festival for Sustainable Immotility, Sasahivi media in Nairobi admit it takes them two to three hours to commute a meager distance of less than 3 km every day to go from home to work.

From the Panel:

"Architect Daan Roggeveen then connected with us from Xi’an international airport and explained that in their recent studies of Wuhan more than 500 new cars hit the streets in China. We asked him how many cities of comparable size exist now in China, and het thought about 30. Simple calculation then tells us that about 15.000 new cars hit the road every single day in China.

"Then we talked to filmmaker Aarti Sethi in Delhi, and she explained that in Delhi similar things are going on, especially since the introduction of the Tata, The Indian equivalent of the Volkswagen. In Delhi the estimate is thatn about a thousand new cars hit the road each day.

"We can be brief – this is not sustainable.”

Electrosmog Festival News, International Festival for Sustainable Immotility