MTA Transit Tech Lab Seeks Submissions

Written by Andrew Corselli, Managing Editor
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The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Partnership for New York City announced the second round of the Transit Tech Lab, described as “an accelerator program that allows the MTA and other public transportation agencies to explore innovative, private sector solutions to problems they face in operating the region’s subway, bus and commuter rail services.”

Entrepreneurs with products that “improve accessibility, enhance traffic coordination or create new sources of revenues” are invited to submit applications for the second year of the Transit Tech Lab by Nov. 30, 2019. So-called “growth-stage companies with market-ready technology” are encouraged to learn more and apply at transitinnovation.org.

Last year, the program received almost 100 applications. Six companies were selected for the eight-week accelerator program, which is held in the spring, and four have proceeded to piloting their products with the MTA. The program “proved so successful that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New York City Department of Transportation, New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, NJ Transit and Amtrak are participating alongside the MTA this year.”

Experts from public agencies, academia and business will evaluate submissions and select “the most compelling companies” to participate in an eight-week accelerator to achieve proof of concept—meaning their product demonstrates potential to solve one of the problems targeted by the MTA or another agency. Where this milestone is achieved, companies will move on to a formal pilot project that deploys their product for testing in a participating transit system.

After companies apply, transit agency specialists and private sector experts will review Lab proposals. Venture capital evaluators include:   

  • Reilly Brennan, General Partner, Trucks Venture Capital. 
  • Hilary Gosher, Managing Director, Insight Venture Partners.
  • Maria Gotsch, President and CEO, Partnership Fund for New York City. 
  • Nick Grossman, Partner, Union Square Ventures. 
  • Dylan Hixon, Principal, Arden Road Investments. 
  • Linda Kirkpatrick, Executive Vice President, U.S. Market Development, Mastercard. 
  • Brian Yormak, Partner, Story Ventures.

2020 Transit Tech Lab Challenges

• Accessibility: How can we make New York’s public transit system more accessible?  

“Today, New York’s transit system can be challenging for disabled customers: Only 25% of subway stations are wheelchair accessible and information is often communicated exclusively via visual signage or audio announcements. As reflected by the 2020-2024 Capital Program, the MTA is committed to improving accessibility for all. With this Transit Tech Lab challenge, the MTA is seeking technology that can enhance accessibility to better serve customers with special needs, including those with auditory, visual, mobility and mental impairments, the elderly and child caregivers. Potential technology includes wayfinding, mapping and Augmented Reality tools.”

• Entrepreneurial Revenue Generation: How can public transit generate more revenue outside the farebox?  

“Increasing recurring entrepreneurial revenue for public transit would make transportation agencies less dependent on fares, taxes and bonds and enable transit agencies to invest more in maintenance, operations and service. This Transit Tech Lab challenge seeks solutions that will enable the transit operators to capitalize on entrepreneurial opportunities, deriving more value from their expansive assets. Opportunities include digital marketplaces for assets, customer loyalty programs and digital retail.”     

• Traffic Coordination: How can transit agencies reduce traffic by increasing coordination at the curb?  

“Record traffic in New York City costs $20 billion annually in lost productivity and excess costs. The Transit Tech Lab seeks solutions to coordinating traffic at the curb among passenger cars, for-hire vehicles, public buses, commercial trucks, tour buses, bicycles and pedestrians. Potential opportunities include dynamic pricing for parking, real-time mapping and reservations and last-mile freight distribution networks.”

“As we look to make unprecedented investments in service modernization, it is imperative that we utilize every avenue possible to open the MTA to the most creative technologists in mobility,” said Chairman and CEO Patrick J.  Foye. “The Transit Tech Lab is a proven partner for evaluating and introducing technologies that address some of our most critical challenges and it has generated millions of dollars in value at no cost to the MTA.”

“NJ Transit is excited for this opportunity to join the Transit Tech Lab,” said President and CEO Kevin Corbett, “especially considering the pilot program’s highly-successful first year. With our Capital Plan set to be released this spring, NJ Transit must be more strategic and more aggressive in harnessing innovations from the private sector to improve our organization and the service we provide. That’s exactly what the Transit Tech Lab will help us do.”

“DOT is excited to be a part of this year’s Transit Tech Lab,” said New York City DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “In the rapidly evolving transportation field, we are seeing extraordinary technological advancements in transportation. With growing demands for street space from multiple road users on New York City’s streets, we look forward to seeing the creative and innovative ways in which participants can help DOT improve curb management and keep New Yorkers moving.”

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