PROJECT: Transportation Improvements in the City.

A. Problem Statement

Being commuters or city residents, the problems and expenses of "getting around" in New York City cannot have escaped you.

The city transportation system involving an infrastructure of roads, rails, bridges, tunnels, harbors, rivers, helipads and their assorted vehicles: cars, taxis, buses, trains, ferries, helicopters, etc. together with the various agencies and authorities having some sort of control, regulatory power and economic or security interest over this system, form a web of extraordinary complexity.

Any attempt to fix or improve one area has not only repercussions in another area of the system, but has also consequences outside the system affecting the physical, the economic and the social fabric of the city it serves. Problems of air, noise and hea t pollution, costs of development and repair, costs of transportation, taxes, quality of life, land value, etc., cut across the spectrum of life in the city.

One cannot therefore hope to solve the transportation problem in the city at the waving of a wand.

Part of the problem in the city is that the problem itself is not even defined or rather that its definition very much depends on who is doing the definition. Members of the city council, managers of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or the Port Authority, residents of Manhattan, Staten Island, and other boroughs, commuters from other areas who work or visit the city, tax collectors, politicians, health officials, city planners, the homeless population, etc., etc. will see the so-called problem from different angles and may perceive it as different problems.

Things are not simplified by the fact that the same person can and indeed is several of those at the same time - jumble of viewpoints, conflicts of interest, even within the same persons - The stuff of politics and of psychiatry.

To zero in on something more specific we look at a problem that affects many subway riders in the vicinity of Cooper Union, namely the Bleecker Street/Broadway-Lafayette station. Accommodating transfers to the uptown #6 is not as convenient as it possibl y could be.

Time, delays, inconveniences, frayed nerves and whatnot else - take a ride and transfer to the uptown #6 yourself for a start - take a toll that need not be.

You have just formed Altech Inc., a new company of bright young entrepreneurs who are ready to tackle the impossible for profit. A friend of yours advises you that the Transit Authority is interested in working on this and would welcome your cooperation. You are therefore to prepare a proposal to make the situation at Bleecker Street somewhat less bleak.

B. Defining the Problem

The first step obviously is to understand what the problem is, or in fact whether there is a problem at all. As you will recall from "The business of Paradigms", changing the framework may radically change the outcome. The worst is to try to fit a preco nceived solution to an undefined problem. You simply end up with a greater mess.

The process of design entails a close connection, a feedback loop or iterative process between analysis and synthesis. You first need to analyze the situation, the needs and requirements of the various constituencies, then synthesize them, make them into a coherent set, map out the areas of the problem to recognize their specific nature.

There will be of course technical problems pertaining to all traditional areas of engineering: civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical, but also architectural and artistic questions will have to be solved. Economics, politics, and sociology will naturall y come into play. In a way it is for you to determine how far you want to go here. But on the other hand, if your proposal is to have any value at all it cannot ignore these factors: the proposed West-Side Highway was never built because it did not addr ess serious environmental concerns which at the time appeared to the engineers proposing the project somewhat irrelevant, not to say frivolous.

So be alert and aware of what is in the air, so to speak.

Bold and original technical solutions may be appealing but they must be politically acceptable in the city and economically sound. They will have to conform to the environmental norms set by carious governmental agencies (which?) And other such constrain ts.

Other factors influencing our analysis and out proposals will also depend on whom we see as the ultimate beneficiaries of such projects should they come to fruition, who we understand will eventually carry out the various aspects and phases of our proposa ls in that case, and naturally the time and conditions under which we expect there proposals to be eventually implemented, etc.

Once we have begun to map out the areas of our problem and to recognize their specific natures, it may be appropriate for us to form groups that will address themselves to the study of these areas in greater detail so that a synthesis can eventually be ac hieved and a proposal developed. In so doing we must clearly keep in mind:

1. The necessity of coordinating the work of the class as a whole. A group will therefore be needed in addition to those concerned with the specific problem areas, whose function will be to manage and coordinate the whole project from the ve ry beginning.

2. The necessity of establishing a strict time table to ensure that essential deadlines are respected.

3. That our work is a collaborative effort which depends on the cooperation of the individuals within each group and of the groups themselves.

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Jose A. Betancourt