The Social Network of Traffic and Transit

Dylan Goelz (right) and Brian Bush of Radify

You’ve probably seen them at bus stops all over Park Slope — young men in bright green T-shirts giving out information about a new phone-based service. Perhaps you’ve noticed them helping out at the Fall Civic Sweep or other events in the community. But what are they promoting?

So what is Roadify?

“Roadify is an easy way to improve public transit and parking using your cell phones,” said Dylan Goelz, who’s in charge of marketing and community outreach for the company. The service relies on people giving and getting info. It gathers updates from users on where there’s parking currently, or where the subway or bus is, mostly via text messages; other people can then get the details that their bus, say, is actually arriving in five minutes rather the posted schedule’s two.

“It’s something that’s never been done, whether here in New York or anywhere,” Goelz said. “It’s particularly exciting for New Yorkers because we have a great transit system, but we don’t have a great information system for that transit.”

The service launched in November 2009 as a text-based parking system that only covered a square mile of Park Slope notoriously bad for finding spaces. Since then, Roadify has expanded to include bus and subway information, first in this community and then in all five boroughs. The texting service is free (except for your cell-phone company’s usual text charges). In early October, the company released a well-received app for iPhones and iPads that includes color maps.

Park Slope resident Nick Nyhan founded Roadify, after trying in vain to find a parking spot late one night. He had just finished working for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, which had used various online tools to get people involved with $5 contributions. Nyhan wanted to take that idea and put it into a solution to parking in the neighborhood.

According to Goelz, Nyhan had heard that nurses at New York Methodist Hospital would text each other that they were leaving spots. Nyhan wanted to bring that sort of system for people looking for parking throughout the Slope.

Nyhan invited Goelz, a friend and fellow Obama campaign member in Florida, to work on the idea together. (“Hey, it’s not superhard to get a 23-year-old guy to move from Jacksonville, Fla., to New York,” Goelz commented.) They, along with colleagues Brian Bush and Dan Robinson, have been making Roadify better for all users.

People in Park Slope and beyond “are clamoring for this ability to utilize technology, social networks, and location-based services in order to create a solution,” he said. “We’re kind of at the forefront of that. FourSquare is another example; you check in at a place and let your friends know [using the service]. We take that technology and make it applicable to smarter cities, better traffic, better transit.”

(CNN Money recently named Roadify one of the five most promising startups at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York City earlier this month.)

The Roadify guys are also very active in community events. “It’s good to get our name out there, but the way I like to think about it is it’s what we stand for,” said Goelz. Wearing a company T-shirt with the motto “Bringing Community to Commuting,” he says that they take part in the community — Civic Council events, subway and transportation hearings — in part to understand what commuters want and in part to give back to the community.

“You have to get involved,” he added. “[We’re] a free service that benefits from community participation. Therefore we have to participate in our communities, and we’re happy to do it.”

For more information about Roadify, head to www.roadify.com.

— David Herman

from the October 2010 Civic News

 

 

 

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