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BigIdea: StreetIQ by Downtown Alliance

 |  NYCEDC

This is the first post in NYCEDC's BigIdea series, which highlights efforts by participants in the NYC BigApps competition to solve some of New York City's biggest issues.

NYC BigApps is a civic innovation competition that empowers the sharpest minds in tech, design, and business to solve NYC's toughest challenges. By calling attention to community organizations and leaders who are working daily to improve the city, the program asks: How can we use technology to make a better New York City? What does New York City's future look like?

NYC Streetscape

The BigIdea

Make The Smartest Street In NYC

Downtown Alliance's BigIdea is called StreetIQ and the challenge they pose is to create an application to help better use data collected from Water Street for real-time insight for strategic decision making.

Water Street is a premier commercial corridor in Lower Manhattan. With more than 19 million square feet of Class A and Class B+ office space, Water Street is home to some of Lower Manhattan’s largest companies, including AIG, Standard & Poor’s, and EmblemHealth, as well as countless small and mid-sized firms which collectively employ over 70,000 people.

Many people probably don't know that a wealth of data is being collected as they walk this half-mile from Whitehall Street to Fulton Street, from land use patterns to garbage buildup. The Downtown Alliance believes there is extraordinary potential in harnessing and integrating the data streams collected under a single application. Their big idea is to use this data to make Water Street the smartest and most responsive street in New York City, thereby improving the ways we live, work, and play on our city streets.

The BigIdea Explained

Interview with Daria Siegel from Downtown Alliance

Daria Siegel, Assistant Vice President of Economic Development Programs at the Downtown Alliance, shared her vision of a better New York, Downtown Alliance's Big Idea, and ideas on how you can help make the smartest street in New York.

What is Downtown Alliance's BigIdea?

Daria Siegel headshotThrough technology we have the opportunity to make the built environment smarter and more responsive than ever before. Our big idea is to use that technology to make Water Street in Lower Manhattan the smartest street in NYC.

Why is solving this problem important for NYC's future?

We can use Water Street as a pilot street to figure out how to make the rest of the streets in Lower Manhattan—and potentially the city at large—even better and more efficient.

What have been some of your organization's major accomplishments towards solving this problem?

Ensuring that Water Street remains a premier commercial corridor has been a major priority of our organization. Water Street already has its own free Wifi network and bus route (the Downtown Connection) to help connect the street to the district, but we know that there is more that can be done to improve both the efficiency of the street and the pedestrian experience. We're working with the city to make lots more improvements to the street and we are launching exciting programming in the public spaces this summer.

What are some of the main challenges currently holding you back?

We collect so much data along Water Street, but we've never looked at the information in a holistic way. We know that if we were to integrate this data with a tool or device, we would be able to make better and more strategic decisions.

How will NYC look different in the future if your big idea is launched?

If our big idea is launched, these concepts could be rolled out across the entire city to help identify patterns and help us make better decisions about how people interact at the street level.

street iq

Downtown Alliance's BigIdea is called StreetIQ. With so much data being collected from Water Street every second of the day, there is still no single application to offer real-time insight for strategic decision making. Click the image to the left to visit StreetIQ's BigIdea page for more information.

What are some specific data sets that you are currently collecting from Water Street?

We track transportation ridership for subways and ferrys, hotel developments, land use data, pedestrian counts, and have geocoded all the infrastructure lining the street like light poles and bike parking, plus we manage the free WiFi corridor and see WiFi connections and length of connections. We even have smart trashcans that collect data and inform us when to empty them. 

What is the most surprising thing you've noticed about how people are using the street so far?

People tend to cross the street in an east-west direction. We want to better connect them to the waterfront [to the east] and encourage them to explore the street from north to south.

Can the Water Street model be replicated to other corridors or parts of NYC?

smart plazaMost definitely! We would love for Water Street to serve as a pilot for new technologies, a place for things to be tested and improved upon for a broader rollout. Lower Manhattan is the city's most historic neighborhood and a place where innovation was born, so the idea of making the area one of the smartest central business districts is really exciting to me and hopefully can serve as a model for other neighborhoods throughout the city.

What other examples of 'smart streets' can Water Street look to as a model?

We aren't aware of any implemented smart streets around the world, but there are bits and pieces and ideas from all over that we can look to. For example, Chicago has set the goal of enabling a “Digital Public Way” that has set some ambitious goals related to infrastructure. We can also look to innovations in transportation as a major element of this as well as wayfinding.

We welcome ideas on how to invite the people that live, work, play, and visit the district to participate and contribute. Our free wifi corridor on Water Street might be a good way to do that.

For More Information

Check out Downtown Alliance's call to action on their BigApps page, play with Water Street data, or reach out to Daria, Fred, or Jeremy of the Downtown Alliance.

And we want to hear from you! Where else in New York City would you like to see a smart street? What information should we gather to make NYC streets more efficient and pedestrian-friendly?

Leave a comment below, or let us know on Twitter (reply to @nycedc with #BigApps).

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