Small Planet

Blog Post

What If NYC Commuters…

Updating New York City’s subway system is the subject of much discussion these days, which got us thinking about other potential tech upgrades to the city’s transportation grid.

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Could Access a Real-Time Subway App?

Let’s get deeper than something that tells us when trains arrive at stations. How about an app that tells you which subway car to get on? Something that alleviates crowding in particular parts of the car, depending on train or time of day?

This app could be community-supported — Waze for subways — and commuters could flag certain cars/trains (weird smell in car 11, delays on the 2/3, excessive heat at York Street station, seats available on car 14).

While we’re at it, let’s throw in a real-time monitor of the number of people waiting on subway platforms. On the systems level, perhaps a system of responsive lighting and temperature control on subway cars to allocate energy properly and create an optimal passenger experience.

 

Were Offered an All-In-One Payment Option?

The MetroCard’s days are numbered. For years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (and the mayor, and the governor, and everybody) have longed for a comprehensive mobile payment tool. Progress has come in fits and starts. While commuter trains like Metro North already have an e-ticketing app that allows transferring onto subways, target dates for bigger, broader solutions have come and gone.

Commuters need an option to scan a phone or RFID card and board any form of public transit: bus, subway, ferry, commuter train, airport connector, or city bike access.

A secure payment option along the lines of ApplePay would come in particularly handy for visitors venturing deeper into the boroughs. Few bus stops have a kiosk to buy a MetroCard. A phone app dramatically frees up confusion and is far cheaper than installing a card machine at every bus stop. An app or universal card would dramatically reduce the time and resources required to maintain the current fare card system.

 

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Received Directions via Augmented Reality?

Small Planet’s studio is in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, which offers dramatic views of Wall Street and the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The neighborhood is INSANELY popular for photographers…you’ll see a dozen or so wedding parties doing photo shoots on any given Saturday.

It’s also popular for tourists. Lots and lots of tourists. Dumbo’s unique location can present challenges for first-time visitors trying to find the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway and other points of interest.

AR directions for tourist attractions would be so easy. The city could advertise the free download of the directional app over subway wifi (in all languages!) so by the time they arrive, they could just hop out and start seeing the virtual signs directing them to the promised land. If the city can’t fund it, perhaps a camera company could see the opportunities…?

 

Found Street Art Via an App?

Here’s a fun one. New York City has some of the most vibrant, original, and recognizable street art in the world. How about an app that took you on a walking tour of graffiti, community-based folk art, subway station installations, and works by artists like Keith Haring and Banksy?

A street art app could also send push notifications if you’re wandering through neighborhoods with interesting works, or if there are festivals and public performances happening in your area.

 

Relied on a Parking Assistant?

If you’re fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to own a car in NYC, you know that it doesn’t take long for parking to become a major part of your life. An app that would ping your location in real time, connect with map or satellite data, and show available parking spots in the area…now we’re talking.

While we’re at it, maybe this app could send you a reminder to move your car for street cleaning, and let you know if you can park in certain spots without having to decipher New York’s cryptic street signs.

 

Toll Plaza

 

Had an App for EZ-Pass®?

The E-ZPass® electronic toll collection system is actually pretty painless: you set up an auto-replenishing account, get the transponder device, fix it on the windshield, and head for the purple lanes on the BQE.

However, there is no app to manage your E-ZPass® account. All credit card updates, changes to personal info, balance statements, and help requests go through a bare-bones browser experience or through an automated telephone system. That has to change.

 

Drove Cars with a Universal Toll Device That Comes Standard?

Car manufacturers could just build a universal transponder into every car, which could connect to an app and facilitate payments for any toll in any state (or country).

Or, we eliminate the toll device in your car altogether. The cameras at each toll station could snap a shot of your plate numbers, or use sensors to look for a smart tag on your plates, then send the bill to your state DMV. At the end of every month you get a statement payable via smartphone.