- New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will partner with the business group Partnership for New York City on the nation’s first Transit Tech Lab, testing new technologies to modernize the city’s public transportation.
- The lab will evaluate new products, with the most promising companies selected by an expert panel to participate in an eight-week accelerator program, beginning next February. The most successful companies will then be selected to carry out 12-month pilot programs. Companies will be tasked with two challenges to solve: to better predict subway incident impacts, and to make buses faster and more efficient. Applications are due Nov. 30.
- "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 issues are well-documented, with new chief Andy Byford tapped to turn things around and restore confidence in the beleaguered transit agency. Some of its biggest issues have involved the reliability of its trains and the lack of speed of its buses, and it is unsurprising that the agency is turning to technology and the private sector to help it find new ideas and solutions given the budget constraints faced by the city.
Already, startups and new technologies have come together in New York City-based accelerators like the one proposed by the MTA and its partners, including at URBAN-X, which takes on a cohort of startups for a 20-week program to help them develop ways to solve urban issues. Kansas City, MO does similar work with its Innovation Partnership Program, so there is precedent for city agencies collaborating with the private sector on technology, although leaders acknowledge more must be done to bring the two together.
New York City’s subways are in desperate need of fixes, something Byford acknowledged when he unveiled a sped-up repair plan known as "Fast Forward" earlier this year. Collaborating with the private sector should foster innovative solutions to age-old problems, and is a pressing issue given the city’s battles with traffic congestion that make it harder and harder to get around. "The future of public transit will determine the future of New York," Rachel Haot, Executive Director of the Transit Innovation Partnership, said in a statement.