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Transit Tech Lab Selects Six Companies for 2022 Challenge Pilot

The Transit Tech Lab, an initiative focused on bolstering transit recovery and sustainability, has selected six technology companies to conduct yearlong pilots across the New York City metro region.

Riders of the New York City Subway swipe their MetroCards at turnstiles.
Transit agencies in the New York City metro region will test-drive new technologies in areas to reduce carbon emissions and increase operational efficiencies.

Six companies have been selected by the Transit Tech Lab, a public-private initiative to make New York City a global leader in public transit, to begin one-year pilot projects to explore sustainability and continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic through its 2022 Challenge Pilot.

“Really what we provide is a low-risk way for the largest transportation agency in North America to try new technologies that can solve their challenges,” said Stacey Matlen, vice president for innovation at the Partnership for New York City, the parent organization for the Transit Tech Lab.

Six companies were selected for the one-year pilots following a process that identified 10 companies to conduct eight-week proof-of-concept trials. Two of the six companies — Blyncsy and Quanergy — will apply technology to improve transit operations, while the remaining four will launch pilots to address sustainability.

GridMatrix will use camera technology at the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel to better understand traffic congestion and auto emissions. StormSensor uses sensors and predictive analytics to better understand flooding, maintenance and operations at Port Authority and New Jersey Transit facilities. The Mobility House will install electric bus charging technology to reduce charging times and cut costs. Runwise will install its wireless, Internet-connected sensors technology to heating and air conditioning operations in transit facilities to reduce energy usage.

“What we basically figured out is the vast majority of the buildings in New York, and pretty much the entire country, are running on controls that really haven’t changed fundamentally, since like the ‘60s and ‘70s,” said Lee Hoffman, co-founder and president of Runwise.

In many cases, he added, even recent buildings are operating heating and cooling systems with exceedingly low-tech controls.

“No. 1, the software printed on the board never updates. No. 2, it has no indoor sensors; literally, [it] just runs off a thermometer and a timer. It’s not connected to the Internet, so [it's] just incredibly inefficient,” said Hoffman.

Runwise developed a modern automated sensor network connected wirelessly to the Internet that can be installed quickly and cheaply. The connected control system generally yields about a 20 percent or more in energy savings.

“The reason why this is important is it allows us to deliver really, really fast [return on investment] and payback for installing, which is the incentive for doing it,” said Hoffman.

In transit operations, Quanergy will apply its lidar technology at the Grand Central Terminal and New York City Transit’s Sutphin Blvd - JFK station to help detect track obstacles, which can be detected with the help of lidar sensors. The system can be set to send alarms to train operators.

“Cameras look straight down, they have a limited field of view,” said Gerald Becker, vice president for market development and alliances at Quanergy. “We can only see what’s in front of us.”

The Quanergy technology can also offer added insights into areas like passenger flows or even fare evasion.

Last year, all levels of transit came to the central conclusion that in order for transit to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it needed to get riders back on board, said Matlen, adding, Quanergy technology can “help provide more rich information around passenger flows.

“Those are the sorts of things that give agencies better tools to respond to critical events that are happening not just overall across the system, but when emergencies happen they have more tools to have visibility into them,” she added.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.