World Trade Center Cortlandt Station. Photo: NY MTA

World Trade Center Cortlandt Station. Photo: NY MTA

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's executive leadership team and the city’s business community, represented by the Partnership for New York City, announced the launch of the nation’s first Transit Tech Lab. The lab’s purpose is to identify and test promising new technology and other products that will accelerate modernization of New York’s public transportation network and contribute to improved services and a better customer experience.  

Tech entrepreneurs who are developing products that could be useful to the MTA’s modernization plans find it difficult to navigate large public agencies. The Transit Tech Lab is one example of how the MTA is changing its internal processes to be more open to innovation. The lab will provide a faster and less expensive way for the MTA to review new products and carry out pilot projects with the best transit innovators from around the world.

The idea for the lab came from a working group that the Partnership for New York City and the MTA established earlier this year, the Transit Innovation Partnership (TIP). This is a privately funded, nonprofit initiative that was developed in response to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s challenge to the business community to help address the needs of the regional transit system. It is led by Rachel Haot, executive director and the former chief digital officer for both New York City and New York State, and an advisory board of civic and business leaders, chaired by Alan Fishman, chairman of Ladder Capital Finance.

Focus areas include technology and process innovation in infrastructure, data, operations, customer service and revenue generation.

The first lab projects will be to identify technologies that can move buses faster and reduce the impact of subway delays. Submissions are being requested from teams that have products that are ready for beta testing with the MTA. Companies can learn more about the opportunity and how to apply before the Nov. 30 deadline at  

For the subway challenge, the Transit Tech Lab seeks technologies to better predict how long a subway delay will last and how it will affect trains and lines across the system, information that will be communicated to customers. Potential technologies to solve this challenge include analyzing historical subway data to find patterns that can be used to predict future disruptions, exploring tools for immediately communicating with customers, and using entirely new data sources such as social media that may provide fresh insights into subway incident impacts.  

The bus challenge seeks technologies to help public buses move faster and more efficiently. The challenge welcomes a range of potential technologies, including sensors, cameras, and software that can help identify obstructions and patterns, improve coordination of routes and transfers, alert enforcement agencies about vehicles located in bus lanes, and adjust bus activity to changing customer demand.  

After companies apply, MTA specialists and private sector experts will review Lab proposals. Evaluators from the business community include:  

  •     Reilly Brennan, general partner, Trucks Venture Capital
  •     Shana Fisher, managing director, Third Kind Venture Capital
  •     Maria Gotsch, president/CEO, Partnership Fund for New York City
  •     Nick Grossman, GM, Union Square Ventures
  •     Dylan Hixon, principal, Arden Road Investments
  •     Brian Keil, managing director, NYS Innovation VC Fund, Empire State Development Corp.
  •     Linda Kirkpatrick, executive VP, U.S. Market Development, Mastercard
  •     Kevin Ryan, chairman/founder, Zola, Workframe, Nomad Health, Mongo DB

The most promising companies will be selected to participate in an eight-week accelerator program starting in February where they will be able to refine their products to more directly meet the needs of public transit. At the end of the program, the MTA will select successful companies for a 12-month pilot with the transit system. The pilot is unpaid, but offers companies a unique opportunity to demonstrate their technology in the nation’s largest transit system and positively contribute to the future of New York City


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