Sandy Systems

Hurricane Sandy hit in the middle of a semester studying systems design. We took the event as a prompt to identify structural failings laid bare in the wake of the storm. Much of my family living in Central New Jersey was deeply affected by the storm, as well as by the power failures and fuel shortages in the weeks that followed.

After speaking with multiple drivers forced to navigate the compromised roads and broken systems that they had formerly relied on for basic transit needs, I identified three major failures in the region's traffic systems and offered solutions to each.

New Jersey transit systems were devastated and rendered nearly unusable by Hurricane Sandy. I identified three major failures within the construct of drivers, cars, and roads that exacerbated the problem: drivers licenses, gas stations, and traffic signals
The Drivers License, essentially a pact between drivers and authorities about the agreed-upon rules of the road, quickly showed its current failings. Many drivers, when presented with unusual road conditions, demonstrated little to no knowledge of emergency policies and laws. Requiring drivers to repass some part of the test upon each license renewal could keep this knowledge from being forgotten.
Much of the region lost power during the storm, though gas stations presented a particularly frustrating situation as they often had fuel to sell but without electricity no way to pump it to customer's cars. While too inefficient for normal operating conditions, keeping gasoline-powered generators on hand could have helped prevent the widespread and terrifying gasoline shortages experienced after the storm.
Traffic signals and other active roadway management infrastructure were rendered useless after the storm due to power failures. Though it supposed to be considered a stop sign, a powerless traffic light is not a signal at all, just a blank slate. If a traffic control system is subject to failure, it should not fail into an ambiguous state.
This quick sketch of a stop sign unfurling from a powerless traffic signal is an attempt to mitigate some of that ambiguity.

Completed December, 2012 for SVA IxD MFA.

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