Sunday, December 12, 2004

Third and final installment: wrap up, drawbacks and other factors to concider

This proposal project is a collaborative effort of Shiho Kawashima, Melissa Mendoza, and Lyneve Quiles.

Change within an organization can have an effect on the attitude of those involved, some will be interested in the new events, and others will have an unenthusiastic outlook. The organization that makes up New York City's transit community can be divided into two groups, the formal network (bosses, workers, officials) and the informal networks (customers and commuters). For this improvement or change to take place within the organization, MTA employees along with commuters all must participate and comprehend how to use the plan. This way our goal is reached to make the innovation of mobile technology underground, a reality.

Both parties must contribute something to allow it to function properly, but it is truly dependent on the informal to prove to the formal network of the
MTA that their money, time and effort have gone towards a public service that is beneficial and imperative for an overall change. The public (informal network) is highly influential on whether the change in the organization is viewed as successful or not. Our plan will now take into account the organizations informal networks.

With the launch of our plan, MTA employees, especially those who commute via subway will be taught and required to learn the new forms of obtaining information. This has a few benefits, they might one day be asked to explain an aspect of the plan to a customer, and with the complete knowledge of how it works, they will be able to help a fellow straphanger. As riders too, they can promote the act of using mobile technology. Take Lyneve's father Raul, for example, he is a part of the hierarchy that makes up the MTA's structure, this is his primary group. Raul also is a part of the informal network of people which frequent the trains, his family and friends all ride the train as well. With his direct communication to both groups he has ties to each network, he, and other employees act as a bridge between groups. Raul, along with all the other individuals, which make up the percentage of employees that ride the subway have the advantage to persuade the other groups in a positive manner, that the change in service is worthwhile. "Bridges are important persons in the change process because of their communication connections and influence in the primary group and with other groups or persons," state Richmond and McCroskey in Organizational Communication for Survival.

Another role within the informal communication network are the
gatekeepers, who control the message flow through the organization. The MTA officials who send out notices to registered commuters and the straphangers who choose to send text messages throughout the network, become gatekeepers. These people decide what info passes through to the receivers end. In the same respect anyone who provides positive feedback towards the new plan becomes an opinion leader. This is someone who willingly communicates information or advice in a way which influences others attitudes to become excited and accepting towards the new idea. The MTA exclusively becomes the cosmopolite which regard to their high level of communication with the systems environment. They declare the new ideas which enter into the system. As for those individuals with no access to technology, they will feel isolated from the rest of the organization. The role as an isolate with holds any knowledge that is helpful when functioning in the system . These people will have to rely on the people which receive the warnings and updates concerning service. Each role plays a significant part in the transition process of change.

Out of "Six Conditions Necessary for Successful Change", here are three which our proposal takes into account:

  • Persons implementing the change should be involved in the change process. Key roles such as opinion leaders and bridges are involved in the change and try to have it succeed. The chances of the plan becoming popular are better when, the people who have the ability to diffuse the project, offer good opinion towards the project.
  • The change must show obvious, positive results soon. Once the plan is in effect and being used by the masses, immediate change should result. The effects will be positive and customers should be satisfied with the quick outcome.
  • The change must be implemented in a carefully organized and gradual manner. Our proposal tries to avoid chaos while commuting, so the last thing we want is for the plan to cause a feeling of confusion. Through the media of print, the MTA can organize a campaign to advertise the introduction of the new innovations. Posters and train advertisements will begin informing the public before the connection is available. Pamphlets, which will sit next to the subway maps, will also be available. The public will be aware, prepared and thus excited for the new commuter experience.


The ability to communicate via text messages in New York City subways will mark a great progress in the daily lives of city commuters. Information, whether necessary or not, can now be easily communicated from one person to another. In addition, SMS capabilities underground and the commuter friendly MTA website can also improve a person's ability to communicate to the masses, all while having a smoother morning ride to work.

No longer do commuters need to depend on insufficient and inaudible announcements from the intercom system. While
Ryan writes that "by repeating ourselves we further reduce the chances of being misinterpreted," this is simply not the case with the current announcement system. No matter how many times an announcement is made, the excessive noise in subway stations (from people, trains, and most of the time, static) will always find a way to prevent commuters from ever understanding the message. Our SMS plan will be able to reduce redundancy in announcement making. As Danielle writes, "Why say or do something twice, when you can do it well that first time?" Text messaging capabilities will enable the MTA to do just that.

In the current MTA information sharing system, information is passed through many nodes before information can reach the commuters. The current system is a potential problem. As
Elizabeth argues, "when you transmit a message across additional means, you are adding complexity to the communication process." This is generally true, when a message goes through a large number of people, the chances are higher that the message will get mixed up. The SMS plan will cut through the different nodes and enable the MTA to get information and then inform commuters right away. By doing so, commuters are able to get information- current information- as it happens.

Like other proposals, our plan does not come without drawbacks. These drawbacks include:

  • Cost. The cost of having wireless signal routed underground, to enable the use of text messages in subway tunnels will most likely discourage some commuters. Since a project like this will run about $300 million (to provide all subway tunnels/areas with service), we are quite sure that there will be a big group of New Yorkers who may feel that the money can be used elsewhere. In addition, providers themselves might be too hesitant to invest in such a project.
  • Anti-cell phone sentiments. In an informal poll conducted by Straphangers Campaign, 54.8 percent of New Yorkers opposed installing wireless signals in the subway tunnels. People are generally not receptive to cell phones for many reasons. First, no one enjoys overhearing another person's conversation. Second, those ring tones can be quite annoying. And last, some are concerned about possible health risks related to cell phones.
  • Alienation. Not everyone has access to technology, whether it is a cell phone or a computer. As a result, there may be some who will resent the fact that they are not "in the know." However, this can be solved if a) technology becomes more affordable, and b) those with information are willing to share the information they acquire.
  • Vice-versa factor. What may be good for the general public can also be good for a specific group of people who may want to abuse the benefits of this plan to do horrible things. By increasing communication capabilities, we inherently increase the communication capabilites of not only commuters, but robbers, criminals, and possibly terrorists. They too can now have the means to coordinate a crime or attack.

There are also other factors to consider, factors which depends on one's own personal views. These factors include:

  • Smart/Flash mobs. Smart and flash mobs depend on the ability to communicate with one another. Giving them the capability to communicate via text messages in the subway, is another way for them to coordinate future events/activities. As a result, New York City may see a growth in smart and flash mobs. Some may enjoy them while others may view them as an inconvenience.
  • Privacy. Commuter profiles and weblogs will no doubt help establish friendships or, at least, acquaintances. By sharing private information about one's self, different situations can take place. As written, some may be open to meeting new people or getting to know "familiar strangers." Others may be more hesitant, worried about invasion of privacy or stalking.
  • Time. For this plan to be successful, it will require the effort, involvement, and participation of commuters. Just how much time a commuter will give this plan is unknown.

This the third and final installment. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Details of our proposal

This proposal project is a collaborative effort of Shiho Kawashima, Melissa Mendoza, and Lyneve Quiles.

We propose that the MTA make it possible for cell phones to receive information via text messages.

As of today, cell phones are pretty much useless underground. This presents a variety of problems, which we outlined in our first installment. Having the ability to communicate underground is important, especially during emergencies. While being able to talk using a cell phone is the ideal circumstance, it will face opposition from commuters who prefer that people practice some cell phone courtesy in public spaces. Thus, SMS is a great compromise. It enables communication to take place, but in a more silent (and tolerable) manner.

Commuters will definitely take advantage of this capability, and it is useful for train conductors as well. If a train gets into an accident, if the radio/phone does not work, or if at any time there is no power, the conductor has the ability to text to the MTA information regarding accidents or delays. In doing so, the MTA is able to get information to its commuters immediately.

We propose that the MTA establish code numbers to which commuters can send via text message, to learn about possible train delays or schedule disruptions. There would be different codes for each train line.

Here is a scenario that can take place today: Lyneve is on Fulton Street waiting to board the 4/5 train in order to get to school. She has been waiting for the train for 10 minutes and is getting very impatient. An announcement is made through the intercom, but Lyneve is unable to hear it because of static and commuter chatter. So she continues to wait, not knowing that service has been delayed due to derailment on Bowling Green. As a result, she is late for our class.

Here is the same scenario with the implementation of our plan: Lyneve is on Fulton waiting to board the 4/5 train in order to get to school. She has been waiting for the train for 10 minutes and is getting very impatient. An announcement is made through the intercom, but Lyneve is unable to hear it because of static and because of commuter chatter. Feeling hopeless and cranky, she takes out her cell phone and sends a message that reads “info” to 334 and 335, which are code numbers for the 4 and 5 trains. In a matter of seconds, she gets a text message from both 334 and 335 that reads “Service delayed due to derailment on Bowling Green.” With that, Lyneve rushes out of the station, and takes the bus instead. Due to the great new system of information transfer, she makes it to organizational communication class on time.

This is just one way this system can improve the quality of our daily commute. Imagine waking up on a stormy day. The rain is unrelentless and the streets are flooded. Then imagine being able to text the MTA and find out whether or not the C train is working. One would no longer have to walk through the storm and into a crowded train station only to find that service was halted due to flooded tunnels. Basic inconvenience such as these would be solved instantly through mobile capabilities.

We propose that a number (or code) be established specifically for security/safety reasons. If a commuter witnesses a crime, suspects devious behavior, or is involved in an accident, he or she has the capability of contacting the police/hospital immediately.

In these situations, it is best for people to have the capability of dialing 911 in their cell phone (since more people place emergency calls using cell phones than land lines) and directly tell the operator what is wrong or what happened. Unfortunately, in subways, the best thing a person can do today is to call the conductor or if the emergency is very serious, pull the emergency brake handle. With text messaging, at least commuters have a chance to contact help on their own.

Let’s say that Shiho got on the downtown 6 train. On the way to Spring Street, a commuter faints. Today, a person would have to call the conductor to inform him or her of the situation or wait to get off at the next station, run into the street, and dial 911 to get help. Instead, Shiho takes out her phone and sends the text “commuter faints on 6-Spring” to the code number 911. Having this capability will give EMT the chance to go to the Spring station immediately to help the passenger.

Also, text messaging capabilities can also be used to alert the MTA or commuters of suspected terrorism or any major accidents that might take place. In London, there is a system where people can pay a fee in order to receive information if a terrorist attack ever took place within the area. The MTA can develop a similar system, but of course, it ought to be free. If an emergency, such as a station fire, took place, the MTA should be able to contact commuters as soon as possible, especially those nearby the scene of the accident.

In order for this system to be more efficient, the MTA should develop a short handed language for certain words (like “emergency” or “accident”) so that typing a message would not have to take a such a long time to do. They should distribute this information through mailings, through posters/advertisements, or through posts online so that passengers will know how to properly- and quickly- text a message when an accident occurs.

We propose that the MTA develop a system in which commuters can go online, register their phone number, and determine what information they would like to have sent to them via text messages. The plan calls for giving commuters the ability to customize the information they receive, as to make sure that messages sent to them are specifically about the trains they or their loved ones take.

This is probably one of the more ambitious aspects of our proposal, even more ambitious than having wireless signal installed in the subway tunnels. This is because this aspect of our plan will require a good amount of commuter participation, and since nothing like this has ever been done before (in New York), we are unsure of just how involved the commuters will be.

Basically, in the “Lyneve Stranded on Fulton” scenario, Lyneve was able to take out her phone and send a text message by using a code number in order to receive information about her train. Here, we want the MTA to take it a step further by actually having the ability to send out information via text message to commuters as soon as an accident, derailment, or delay takes place. We believe that this can be done if the MTA creates an online commuter database, where commuters can register and have information sent to them about the train line of their choice.

Here is how it would go: Lyneve, frustrated from the delayed service, goes home and goes online. She decides that instead of texting the MTA to get information about train delays, she would rather have that information texted to her as soon as it happens. So, she finds the MTA Commuter Database Registration page and registers. Lyneve types in her name, her email address, and her mobile number. She presses “enter” and is then directed to a checklist, which included a directory of train lines from which she can choose. She checks the A, 4, 5, and 6 trains because these are the trains that she uses on a daily basis. Lyneve then confirms the selection. She is now part of the commuter database and can customize/update her profile depending on how private she wants it to be. If possible, the MTA can go even further than commuter profiles by enabling commuters to have their own commuter blog. Here, commuters can write down anything MTA related or it could simply be a location where commuters can go and let off some steam.

Since Lyneve is now a registered commuter, she should able to receive information via text messages if at any time one of her trains become delayed or involved in an accident. Therefore, she will be kept up to date regarding the status of her trains wherever she is.

We propose that MTA create a system in which foreign tourists can register their number online so that the text messages they receive are customized into their national language.

Tourists from foreign countries should also be able to receive the same information regarding train delays. However, information in a language they cannot understand is pretty useless so we want the MTA to create a way for tourists to receive text messages in their national language. Like Sunny's Korea Infogate Company, the MTA should strive to make it more convenient for tourists to retrieve information specifically about train service. For this to work, a tourist can basically follow the steps that Lyneve took when registering. Upon their arrival to New York City, a tourist can go online, go the MTA registration page specifically for tourists and register their number. Then, they can check off what language in which the text message they receive is written. This will allow tourists to travel more efficiantly while on vacation, they can now spend time seeing the sights, rather than trying to find their way in a confusing mess of subway lines.

We propose that MTA develop a website where customers can go and post/retrieve information regarding: train delays/problems and neighborhood events specific to the subway stops.

This proposal is also an ambitious plan since it too requires commuter involvement and participation. Here, we propose that the MTA create a website for commuters- who may or may not have registered for the database- to be able to obtain information regarding train delays and neighborhood events. This website can be modeled after internet forums, tag boards, or message boards, so that commuters have the chance to post down messages or information. This site should be organized by having different directories for each train line (1,2,3, A,C,E, N, R, 4, 5,6, ect) and then sub categories such as problems/delays, and different stations/stops (6- 42nd, 6- 51st, 6-59th, ect). That way, one could navigate his or her way to information regarding a specific train line and also a specific station/neighborhood/area.

Since we want to allow commuters to post, we want to model it after wikis, which Rosalyn describes as reliable and an "easier way to exchange ideas," or Eric’s idea of an instant blogger, where a number commuters, not just one person, can post ideas in one blog. These tools are helpful and better suited for our plan because they allow for current information to be displayed and limits the length or cluster that develops tag boards or message boards. By enabling commuters to write and post their own messages, a commuter, like Gage, can go on a specific directory and post about a new bar that is opening up so that other commuters around the area can go for a visit.

Let’s say that Shiho, an unregistered commuter, wants to know if there the 6 train was running behind schedule today. She goes online, finds this website, and clicks on the 6 train directory. She read current information that the MTA posts on the site (unless a commuter beats the MTA to it) regarding a slight delay in service. Shiho browses through the site and reads a post on “6-59th” which is about a major sale in Bloomingdales that is happening this week. Shiho also goes to “6-Bleecker” and reads about an open mike night that will be taking place on Friday in one of the cafes a few blocks away from the station. Shiho thinks this site is fantastic and bookmarks the 6 train directory for future reference. Or, if she wants to, Shiho can add this website to her aggregator, so that she can always check her aggregator of any updates regarding the 6 train.

The London Tube Guru is basically a website that the MTA can use as a model for this plan. In this website, a commuter can click on a station and find points of interests around the area. The information that the Tube Guru provides include: restaurants, bars, cinema, tourist locations, hotels, etc. This kind of information is not only useful for commuters, but for tourists or those new to the area as well. Another site that the MTA can look over is the London's National Rail Enquiries. This website lists the location of places where service may be delayed because of construction, as well as a time table of possible engineer work in the future.

And one last suggestion if we may...

Since commuters will be receiving/sending information via text messages, it is imperative that the cell phones work at all times. Thus, trains and train stations should have outlets that commuters can use to charge cell phones. The plan calls for chargers in main subway stations. In Japan, service carriers provide chargers in the metro. It is free and every body can use this system. When Shiho's brother went took a trip to northern Japan, he forgot to bring his charger. At that time, the weather conditions were so bad that he changed his trip plans. He needed to talk and tell his family to pick up him at the train station, but his cell phone did not have any battery. Finally, he found the free charger in the train station and used it.

This system is not only great for commuters, but for tourists and for people who work and need to be in constant communication with their coworkers at all times. In New York City, such service is nonexistent since there no cell phone charger system, even in big stations like Grand Central, Times Square and Penn station. These three stations are always visited by many tourists and visitors. Since many tourists are here, they have an added need to be able to charge their cell phones to make it less of a problem for them to make contact with family and friends in a strange city.

Possible drawbacks to be discussed in our third and last installment, as well as a final wrap up of our project.

Mobile Signal in New York City Subway: Current Status and Group Proposal

This proposal project is a collaborative effort of Shiho Kawashima, Melissa Mendoza, and Lyneve Quiles.

It is no secret that the success of an organization lies in how well its members can communicate with each other. That is why mobile technology is so convenient. A mobile phone has the ability to replace two forms of communication tools- the telephone (land-line) and computers (internet). Unlike land-lines, a person can use his or her cell phone from different locations. And unlike heavy and bulky computers, a cell phone is much easier to carry around. In simple terms, cell phones, as Gage writes, are very accessible considering that everyone has a mobile with them at all times.

However, just like the beauty of telephones and computers, a person can use his or her cell phone to share information with others in just a matter of moments. While the information being shared can range from daily gossips, to office-related topics, or from details about last night's date to serious information about an accident that just happened, what matters is that the ability to share information with others- quickly I might add- which is the most appealing feature that cell phones offer. In fact, the appeal of cell phones are so great that Courtney, Suzanne, and Rosalyn suggest offering cell phones to Universal employees in order to improve the company's communication capabilities.

One place that information transfer via cell phones is virtually impossible is in New York City's underground subway system. In 2000, New York was ranked 16th (last amongst the nation's major cities) in terms of mobile convenience. Basically, once a person enters the subway station, cell phone signals disappear, thus cutting connection. Reasons for the lack of mobile connection in the subway are plenty: cell phones are annoying, signals costs too much (try $300 million) to install and overall New York City is just a very difficult place for signals to reach (too much steel, concrete, mortar, bricks).

As a result, the four to five million people that ride the subway each day are being deprived of tremendous benefits. The inability to communicate underground poses many different problems that could easily be solved by just a mere push of a few buttons. In this first installment, we aim to present current difficulties that the MTA and its customers experience and how mobile signals can overcome these difficulties. Through our ideas to further improve the transfer of communication, our propsal states a basic plan of action that could work with the cities transportation system. Our following installment will then discuss further details that support our plan.

The New York City subway system has some problems now. There are public pay phones, but most do not work at all. If there is an emergency, you really need to contact someone as soon as possible. When I (Shiho) once took a Greyhound bus, one girl had a parnoxysm. The driver was able to make an emergency phone call from his cell phone. However, subway tunnels have no signal. That means people are not able to make urgent phone calls when there is an emergency.

This situation is a big problem, considering that many people own cell phones specifically just in case there is an emergency. We never know when someone can have a heart attack or convulsion. In times when we are constantly reminded about the threat of terrorism, we never know when another terrorist attack can happen. Someone could shoot a gun or molest people in a crowded train. Mobiles can be used as a tool for stopping these crimes. That is why we need to have a technology communication system in the subway.

Other problems that commuters face are incoherent subway announcements. People are not able to listen and understand what is said because of noise (static, people chatter, trains rushing through). Having text messaging capabilities where a person is able to get a text message with train related announcements should erase a lot of these noises. NYC train stations are fast paced, ever changing environments and getting up-to-date information is very important, especially since many people depend on the subway to get from one place to another. Commuters need to get accurate information in order to have a problem-free commute.

This plan will also benefit many people who are tourists that do not have a clue on how to ride the trains. Since train announcements are inaudible and in English, foreign tourists who may not understand English will be completely helpless in the subway. Can you imagine? If you go to another country (e,g Spain, Greece, France, China .. etc), an American will never understand their subway announcement. As a tourist, it is a very scary and terrifying thought. In Japan, there are two kinds of announcements for a passenger in the subway- one in Japanese (which is helpful for a blind person) and another in English (for tourists). (These intercom announcements are effective in Japan because Japanese commuters and transportation systems are not as loud).

Therefore, the MTA can take Japan's bilingual announcement idea and use text messages to customize their messages for each tourists. The MTA should develop a website where foreign tourists can visit, register their cell phone numbers, and retrieve information via text messages in their national language. That way, if a tourist was in Grand Central Station and needed to know where the 6 train stopped, he would just have text the proper MTA department/agency and then the info he would receive would be in French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, etc.

We urge that the NYC subway system should replace or renew its communication system by improving mobile capabilities (via text messages) in order to improve the commute. The ability to make emergency calls/notification and the ability to receive important information about the trains, as well as stay connected to the above world is imperative in todays technological society.

Our Proposal:

  • We propose that the MTA make it possible for cell phones to receive information via text messages. SMS is a more favorable option over giving commuters the ability to chat while commuting because SMS messages are generally silent (thus avoiding the risk of aggravating ones fellow commuter, as Imbar writes).
  • We propose that the MTA establish code numbers to which commuters can send text messages about possible train delays or schedule disruptions. There would be different code numbers for each train line.
  • We propose that a number (or code) be established specifically for security/safety reason. If a commuter witnesses a crime, suspects devious behavior, or is involved in an accident, he or she has the capability of contacting the police immediately.
  • We propose that MTA develop a system in which commuters can go on line, register their phone number, and determine what information they would like to have sent to them via text messages. The plan calls for giving the commuter the ability to customize the information they receive, as to making sure that messages sent to them are specifically about the trains they take.
  • We also propose that MTA develop a website where customers can go and retrieve/post information regarding: train delays/problems, neighborhood events specific to the subway stops (for example: "Happenings on 6-77st," "Happenings on C,E-Spring St."), commuter observations (about booth operators, street performers, subway station art like mosaic tiles). Each train line would have its own directory and each directory will list different subway stops. These pages should enable commuters to update information to keep what's listed as current as possible. For this, wikis are favored. If not, perhaps the MTA can take Eric's idea of an "Instant Blogger," which is basically a chat room with a modern twist (and accessible through mobile devices).
  • We propose that MTA create a system in which foreign tourists can register their number online so that the text messages they receive are customized into their national language.

Further details and considerations will be presented next week.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Experience Psy Trance

this is an audio post - click to play

Stop the Dancing!!!

Are you aware that dancing in New York City is a crime? Really! The NYC cabaret law states, if you are in a given space with a number of people moving rythemicly to a steady beat, and do not have a cabaret licence (which can cost thousands of $$)- you are breaking the law. Read more about the effects on our city's economy, community and culture at Legalize Dancing If you are interested in what you learn, make a difference and sign the Petition to make Dance Legal

Monday, September 13, 2004

Check out this pop cultured photographer!

If you are in the mood for some eye candy of the "Y"generation veiw David Lachapelle's photo gallery at David Lachapelle


Originally uploaded by seb1.

project: test