DO School's Community Mobility Challenge at PrattFour Pratt undergraduate and graduate students worked on the DO School’s Community Mobility Challenge this summer to create a low-cost, environmentally friendly citywide ride-sharing solution to enable Brooklyn Navy Yard employees to get to work. The students were selected to participate in the project as part of the Innovate NYC program, which gives students the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills and tackle real-life challenges. Innovate NYC is one of the signature programs of the DO School, an organization that creates distinctive experiential learning programs. Pratt was one of 11 New York City higher education institutions to join forces with the DO School and participate in the 2017 Innovate NYC program.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard work force is expected to grow from 7,000 today to 20,000 in the next few years. While the Yard has 1,800 parking spots along with Citi Bike stations and a shuttle system, there is a need for innovative commuting solutions beyond traditional transportation options. The challenge was to create a shared economy mobility program that would reduce drivers and cars parked at the Yard in a way that fosters connections between Brooklyn Navy Yard employees, reduces environmental impact, and is financially beneficial for users traveling to and from the Yard.

Teamed with 12 students from other participating schools, Aamir Ansari (M.S. Urban Placemaking and Management ’18), Vania Arevalo (M.P.S. Design Management ’17), Isidora Concha (M.Arch. ’18), and Jonathan Marable (M.S. City and Regional Planning ’17) focused on ride-sharing as an ideal solution that would be sustainable and efficient, and lower the cost of commuting. Because its scope would be limited to Brooklyn Navy Yard employees, their ride-sharing service would also foster networking and build community—with the added potential to incubate business partnerships among tenants.

“It was immersive, experiential, and valuable in building my skills in innovation, strategy, and design,” Concha said about the project. “The program has helped me in taking on leadership roles, being able to make strategic decisions, and learning as I go,” she added.

Marable reflected on the importance of the collaborative aspect of the challenge. “In the world beyond Pratt, I will likely be working with team members possessing vastly different experiences, perspectives, and skill sets,” he said. “The Innovate NYC experience, guided by the DO School process, brought out the best in each of us.”

A series of DO School workshops helped the students develop ideation and leadership skills that they put to work in the Community Mobility Challenge. The group worked intensively on the project for several weeks, moving from research to idea testing and iteration, and on to pilot testing and feedback. The team created a marketing plan for the service and developed features for “Yard-Ease,” their proposed ride-sharing app for Navy Yard employees.

“Convenient transportation is essential to connect the business and idea hubs at the Navy Yard with the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, DUMBO, and other nearby centers for innovation as well as with the academic community,” said Mark Parsons, executive director of The Consortium for Research and Robotics, which is located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and is a research center of Pratt Institute. “It’s terrific to see Pratt students involved in working to develop alternative solutions that are a necessity for the growth that is happening at the Navy Yard.”

At the end of the program, the students delivered their ride-sharing plan to the City of New York to be considered for implementation. Pratt will participate in a DO School program again next year. The Institute’s involvement with the DO School is coordinated through the Provost’s office. Questions may be directed to Peg Fox, Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs.