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Abandoned, demolished, or remodeled as public libraries, the pay phone has become a symbol of obsolescence. That is until Hurricane Sandy rolled around and knocked out cellular service in lower Manhattan, leaving New Yorkers no choice but to resort to those old sidewalk fixtures to get in touch with friends or family. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for one, believes pay phones are the public phone of the future -- or can be with a bit of revamping. The mayor has announced the Reinvent Payphones Challenge, asking urban designers, planners, techies, and policymakers to find ways to integrate the antediluvian device into the modern urban landscape.
Bloomberg envisions these new, sleek phone kiosks with wifi, plug-in chargers for mobile devices, and touch-screen maps and information services. He also wants the ability to make free phone calls via the Internet, subsidized by sponsors, as well as good ol'-fashioned telephone service (either through traditional copper wiring or solar-powered ingenuity) in the event of an emergency or power outage.
Not only should designs provide improved services; they also need to accomodate pedestrian space, appeal to the community and shop owners, and not fall victim to informal bathrooms or risqué advertisements.
With that in mind, how would you redesign a 21st century pay phone?
An open information session for ideas will be held on January 23, 2013, with a Q&A by City Employees who manage payphone infrastructure. Proposal submissions are due February 18, 2013, and selected finalists will be invited for a demo day March 5, 2013.