Member Profiles

Member Profile: Daniel Wood

Daniel Wood
MTA – New York City Transit
Manager, Ridership Modeling Development

I grew up on Cape Cod, Mass, where I eventually got tired of living in a completely car-dominated place, and went off to college in Philly, where I first became interested in transportation professionally. After a couple of transportation-related internships, I went to grad school for transportation at MIT, where I did research for the Hong Kong metro system as a member of MIT’s Transit Lab. After graduating, I landed a job in the data analysis and research group at New York City Transit’s planning department, where I’ve worked for the last six years analyzing bus and subway data and helping to create data-driven applications like new subway performance metrics, real-time applications for subway train dispatchers and customer communication staff, and ridership models. Outside of work, some of my favorite things are runs around Prospect Park, long walks through the city, museums, board games, and (when it’s not a pandemic) exploring cities in other countries, nerding out about the local trains and buses.

1. What is your favorite YPT-NYC event and why?  
Transportation Trivia! I love trivia in general, so a transportation-themed trivia night is right up my alley.
2. If you could snap your fingers and make one change to regional transportation, what would it be?
Remove all single-family zoning in the NYC area. Technically this isn’t transportation, but since higher density is correlated with higher transit use, this change could pave the way for increasing transit use and lower car use in the NYC region.
3. What sparked your passion to work in the transportation industry?  

I took a city planning class as an elective in college, and really liked it, especially the parts relating to planning transportation systems. I was a mechanical engineering major, but starting to doubt I’d like working in the “traditional” fields recruiting mechanical engineers—fossil fuel energy, defense, HVAC, widget manufacturers, etc. After the class, it occurred to me that transportation was a field where I could apply both my quantitative skills, and my interest in urbanism and social sciences, and generally “doing good”.
4. What are you working on that you’re most excited by? 

Right now, I am working on developing an integrated bus and subway ridership model that will be able to trace the paths of NYCT customers across the network, including their transfers between the bus and subway systems. Up until now, my group has had separate bus and subway models that don’t “talk” to each other at all.
5. What career advice would you give to other YPT’ers interested in your career path?

First, don’t be afraid to jump into the transportation world from another industry if your degree isn’t in one of the fields people typically associate with transportation—civil engineering, city planning, etc. A lot of people I know who have succeeded in this field come from “non-traditional” backgrounds. Second, don’t feel you need to commit to the public sector or private sector for your career; moving between the two is very common. Finally, if you’re aiming for work that involves a lot of data analysis and coding, having some coding knowledge is useful for getting your foot in the door, but once you’re there a bigger determinant of success is being able to research and reason your way through problems, and understand the context of the task in the overall “big picture” of the transportation system. “Muddling your way through” and “sanity checking” are really important skills!
6. What famous celebrity do you think should be given the opportunity to voice a NYCT Subway Announcement?

Bill Hader as Vincent Price.

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