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New York MTA Leans on Tech Lab to Solve Transit’s Biggest Problems

Transit officials are rallying behind the Transit Tech Lab to find ways to predict the severity of service disruptions and make bus routes more efficient.

(TNS) — It’s back to the future for the MTA with the launch of a new technology lab to crack transit’s most pressing problems.

Transit and business officials have announced a Transit Tech Lab to solve two vexing problems at NYC Transit. They hope to develop tech products that can predict severity of subway disruptions as well as find better ways to move buses through city streets.

The idea came from the Transit Innovation Partnership, a public-private organization from the MTA and the pro-business group, the Partnership for New York City.

“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 MTA’s has had a spotty record with new technology. Countdown clocks with Bluetooth “beacons” that were rushed into subway stations are frequently wrong or out of order. The bus system uses a computerized, GPS system called Bus Trek that has yet to keep service reliable. The MTA is already planning a new Bus Command Center with an upgrade to the technology.

The MTA also gave away $2.5 million this year in a Genius Transit Challenge that also sought the brightest minds to pitch their subway tech ideas. The MTA saw a demonstration with one undisclosed winner last month, according to MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein.

In the meantime, transit brass is under pressure to improve service for frustrated riders since the subway crisis reached its high point last year.

Rachel Haot, executive director of the Transit Innovation Partnership, which is launching the tech initiative, said this effort is different from the Genius Challenge.

There are no cash prizes, but teams can apply if they have products ready for beta testing, with paying customers. Promising teams will be selected from a panel that includes venture capital bigs like Union Square Ventures to take part in an eight-week accelerator program this February.

For the subway challenge, the tech fixes could be analyzing historical data to predict future disruptions or using social media to track severity of disruptions.

The bus challenges suggests sensors and cameras.

Haot described emerging technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision that the MTA can adopt.

“There are a range of technologies now in rapidly developing sectors that could help to achieve this,” Haot said.

©2018 New York Daily News Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.