MTA launches ‘transit tech lab,’ seeking solutions for NYC’s subway and bus crisis

Posted On Wed, October 10, 2018 By

Posted On Wed, October 10, 2018 By In Transportation

Via rhythmicdiaspora on Flickr

To find innovative solutions for New York City’s crumbling subway and bus system, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is turning to tech companies. The MTA launched on Wednesday the nation’s first “transit tech lab,” an accelerator designed to find and test new transit technology, as first reported by the Verge. The agency is seeking answers to two major challenges: How can we better predict subway incident impacts and how can we make buses run faster and more efficient?

“The MTA is committed to exploring every avenue to ensure that we modernize our system for the next generation of riders,” MTA President Pat Foye, said in a statement. The Transit Innovation Partnership (TIP), a working group formed by the Partnership for New York City and the MTA, came up with the idea for the lab.

As part of the application process to the lab, companies must have a working version of their technology and a track record of integrating customers. The MTA will then select companies to participate in an 8-week accelerator, which will allow the customers to learn about the MTA and modify their technology.

To deal with the more than 2,500 delays happening across the subway system per weekday, the MTA is looking for companies to develop a way to better predict subway incident impacts. For the second challenge, companies will have to come up with ways to make buses travel faster. (In Midtown, the current average bus speed of 3.4 miles per hour, a similar rate to an average walker’s speed).

The MTA believes this challenge will open up a world of new, transit-improving tech possibilities, including cameras, sensors, and new software. The tech could potentially identify any bus lane obstructions, improve coordination of routes, and create more streamlined ticketing.

At the end of the 8-week program, the MTA will select companies to run a 12-month pilot with the transit system. The pilot program and the lab will not provide any compensation to the companies chosen.

Last year, the MTA and Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a “Genius Challenge” as a way to find nuanced ideas to fix the subway. The winners, selected in March, presented ideas that included ultra-wideband wireless technology, onboard sensors and cameras, rolling out longer trains, and even a robotic installation system to control systems in subway tunnels.

Applications to join the first lab cohort are due November 30, with the 8-week accelerator to begin in late February. The MTA expects to launch the pilots in June of 2019. More on the transit tech lab here.

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