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Transit Tech Lab Launches Latest Technology Challenge

New York City’s Transit Tech Lab has opened the application period for its fifth technology challenge to focus on areas like operational efficiency and human capital. Applications will be accepted until March 2.

Closeup of a sign on the side of a blue bus that reads “New York City Bus.”
The Transit Tech Lab in New York City has opened the application period for its fifth technology challenge to focus on areas like operational efficiency and human capital.

The Transit Tech Lab is a public-private initiative developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Partnership for New York City to advance technology to solve the challenges faced by transit organizations in the New York City metro region. Improving operations and addressing staffing shortages are the two focus areas the initiative has identified as it launches its next technology challenge.

“We really try to focus on the challenges that the transit agencies have. And that, of course, means focusing on leadership’s priorities,” explained Stacey Matlen, vice president of innovation at the Partnership for New York City. “But we also meet with staff at various departments, at various levels of the transit agencies to understand what the core challenges are, and also to get a bit more context as to the specific issues.”

Some of the focus areas to improve operational efficiencies could include technology to help prevent fare evasion or better manage data. Improving or automating operations around internal communications, locating buses in a depot or automating track inspections have all been identified as areas ripe for technology.

When thinking of technology related to human resources, it could focus on up-skilling workers, recruitment and retention, or speeding up the onboarding process.

Transit agencies in the New York City metro are not unlike “the 96 percent of agencies across the U.S. which are facing talent shortages,” said Matlen.

“And that also gets to the operational efficiency, because people are trying to do more with less,” she added.

The Transit Tech Lab “has already heard positive response” from companies responding to the challenge announcement, released Jan. 5, said Matlen. Applications will be accepted until March 2. Companies interested in learning more are encouraged to check out the project’s info session on Jan. 19 at 1 p.m. EST. The event will include transit agency representatives on hand to share contacts, resources and other information about the program and answer questions.

The project has not set any limits on how many companies will be selected. After the applications are received, evaluators will review each one. Later, companies will present a “pitch presentation.”

“And from there, each of the transit agencies can select companies to move forward with a proof of concept,” said Matlen. “And there’s no limit to the total number of companies. It’s really just up to the agencies, and whether they have capacity, and they’re interested in the solutions that are presented.”

Last year, 10 companies were selected as proof of concept finalists to explore technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and video data analysis to better understand the dynamic nature of transit and how to improve its efficiencies.