NYC: A Smart City Case Study

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By 2025, an estimated 58% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas and 26 cities around the world are expected to be smart cities.[1] 2025 is not the distant future; smart cities are a function of the present.

Smart cities—those that use technology to improve efficiency for, and connection between, its inhabitants— display their technical prowess by incorporating sensing, management, and forecasting mechanisms into the flow of the moving parts of the city. While they are still a newly developed idea, the quantitative and computational approach to urban studies, the social experimentation, and the problem solving that contribute to the smart city model have been refined for the past 50 years.[2]

One of the most prominent and significant markers of a smart city is efficient public transportation that uses an intelligent management strategy. Providing and innovating basic infrastructure is fundamental for the smart city built on mobility, connection, and networks.[3] Travel is a cost to urban citizens, but networks can reduce these costs by improving reliability and cost efficiency. The rapid expansion of social networks has facilitated the connection of cyberspace, but mobility across physical space is still imperative to empowering the citizens of a smart city.[4] To better manage city transportation systems, smart cities are integrating various new technologies, from the Internet of Things (connecting computing devices over the internet) to automated fare collection (AFC) and vehicular location (AVL) systems to data mining technologies.[5] Transportation has always been an integral part of urban centers, but smart cities have enhanced this necessary service by making mobility a forefront priority for serving its citizens.

New York City was ranked as the second best smart city globally in 2015 by Juniper Research. New York leads in its extensive public transport system, which has the highest transit ridership of any city in the United States and 4th highest in the world (with 1.56 billion annual riders in 2007.[6][7]) 54.2% of commutes in New York are made on public transit, which is the highest percentage in the nation.[8]

Various innovations have been added to support, improve, and extend existing transportation infrastructure. New York’s bikeshare system, Citi Bike, was implemented in July 2012 and has greatly expanded since its inception. As of November 2015, Citi Bike operated 475 bikes across the 3 boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, had 150,000 subscribers, and nearly a million trips per month.[9] Many of the bikeshare docks are near subway stations, which increases use of the bikeshare as many of the riders complete their trip by subway.[10] Another innovation is being developed by Sidewalk Labs: a connected streets platform. The platform will gather real-time data to understand street activity—such as parking— and use it to improve efficiency by helping people find a parking spot faster and reducing traffic congestion.[11]

Two larger projects that are transforming New York into a smart city are PlaNYC 2030 and C2SMART. PlaNYC 2030 is an initiative by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to promote sustainability. Many of the provisions called for in the plan develop transportation through smart technologies and address the challenges that come with rising population and declining infrastructure.[12] 

The city plans to partner with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to establish the Select Bus Service (a bus rapid transit system). They also plan to expand the existing bikesharing network and have introduced a pilot for Park Smart, which promotes parking turnover in busy areas.[13]

Connected Cities for Smart Mobility toward Accessible and Resilient Transportation (C2SMART) is a proposal by Kaan Ozbay of the NYU Tandon Department of Civil and Urban Engineering. C2SMART seeks to use autonomous vehicles, shared mobility, and the Internet of Things to disrupt current transportation trends and be a leader in innovation. They are also an educational organization, training workers about problems not currently covered in the transportation curricula, and an activist organization, partnering with city stakeholders to discuss how to break down barriers to innovation.[14] They have already been granted $10.5 million in funds.[15]

New York has been a leader in its progression towards becoming a smart city. Their efforts to improve their efficiency in transportation are a model that other cities should aspire to follow.  By 2025, 26 cities around the world are expected to be smart cities. Who's to say that it shouldn’t be yours?


[1] Glasmeier, Amy, and Susan Christopherson. “Thinking about Smart Cities.” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 8, no. 1 (March 1, 2015): 3–12. doi:10.1093/cjres/rsu034.
[2] Shelton, Taylor, Matthew Zook, and Alan Wiig. “The ‘actually Existing Smart City.’” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 8, no. 1 (March 1, 2015): 13–25. doi:10.1093/cjres/rsu026.
[3] Ramaswami, Anu, Armistead G. Russell, Patricia J. Culligan, Karnamadakala Rahul Sharma, and Emani Kumar. “Meta-Principles for Developing Smart, Sustainable, and Healthy Cities.” Science 352, no. 6288 (May 20, 2016): 940–43. doi:10.1126/science.aaf7160.
[4] Batty, M., K. W. Axhausen, F. Giannotti, A. Pozdnoukhov, A. Bazzani, M. Wachowicz, G. Ouzounis, and Y. Portugali. “Smart Cities of the Future.” The European Physical Journal Special Topics 214, no. 1 (November 1, 2012): 481–518. doi:10.1140/epjst/e2012-01703-3.
[5] Liu, Y., X. Weng, J. Wan, X. Yue, H. Song, and A. V. Vasilakos. “Exploring Data Validity in Transportation Systems for Smart Cities.” IEEE Communications Magazine 55, no. 5 (May 2017): 26–33. doi:10.1109/MCOM.2017.1600240.
[6] Cohen, Nevin. Green Cities : An A-to-Z Guide. The Sage Reference Series on Green Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc, 2011. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e000xna&AN=986777&site=ehost-live.
[7] Loo, Becky P. Y., Cynthia Chen, and Eric T. H. Chan. “Rail-Based Transit-Oriented Development: Lessons from New York City and Hong Kong.” Landscape and Urban Planning 97, no. 3 (September 15, 2010): 202–12. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2010.06.002.
[8] Loo
[9] Noland, Robert B., Michael J. Smart, and Ziye Guo. “Bikeshare Trip Generation in New York City.” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 94 (December 1, 2016): 164–81. doi:10.1016/j.tra.2016.08.030.
[10] Noland
[11] Koroluk, Korky. “Journal Of Commerce - Construction Corner: New York the next ‘smart City’?” Accessed June 30, 2017. http://journalofcommerce.com/Technology/News/2016/5/Construction-Corner-New-York-the-next-smart-city-1015929W/.
[12] Cohen
[13] “planyc_2011_planyc_full_report.pdf.” Accessed June 30, 2017. http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc/downloads/pdf/publications/planyc_2011_planyc_full_report.pdf.
[14] Engineering
[15] Engineering, NYU Tandon School of. “New University Research Center to Test Boundaries of Smart Transportation in New York City and Beyond.” Accessed July 10, 2017. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-university-research-center-to-test-boundaries-of-smart-transportation-in-new-york-city-and-beyond-300385962.html.

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