Regional transportation agencies launch tech competition for COVID-19 recovery, environmental sustainability

Feb. 3, 2022
Applications are open for Transit Tech Lab’s Recovery and Sustainability challenges with MTA, Port Authority, NJ Transit and NYC DOT.

The fourth round of the Transit Tech lab has commenced, with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) and New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) calling for technologies to aid in these agencies’ pandemic recovery and to meet sustainability objectives. 

Agencies are seeking solutions that restore customer confidence in public transportation, improve resilience to weather extremes and further reduce the region’s carbon footprint, including new tools that better predict travel patterns, identify extreme weather impacts in real time and support clean and efficient freight deliveries.  

Applications for the Recovery Challenge and Sustainability Challenge are due March 25. 

2022 Transit Tech Lab Challenges 

Recovery Challenge: How can we support the recovery of public transit and deliver service that gets customers back? 

As the New York metro region recovers from COVID-19, it is vital to reimagine public transit to meet the region’s evolving needs and address new mobility patterns established during the pandemic-era. The Recovery Challenge calls for technologies and approaches that help make transit more responsive to the changing needs of New Yorkers while ensuring customers and employees feel safe.

Examples include: 

  • Real-time regional data tools that provide insights on new travel patterns. 
  • Tools that streamline crew scheduling to ensure optimal staffing across operations. 
  • Enhancements to OMNY, the MTA’s contactless payment system, to improve the customer experience.   
  • Technologies that improve safety and deter adverse events including employee assaults and track intrusions. 

Sustainability Challenge: How can we build a more climate resilient transportation system while also increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions of our fleets and facilities? 

Bus, rail and subway operations have been impacted by extreme weather events, including flash floods and winter storms. This challenge calls for technologies that help make public transportation more responsive to extreme weather. It also calls for innovative methods and measures to help the transportation sector meet state and federal goals on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Examples include: 

  • Real-time asset tracking tools to prevent system failures, reduce operational costs, and improve energy efficiencies. 
  • New technologies to improve Electric Vehicle (EV) bus range, increase battery performance, develop EV charging infrastructure and rapidly deploy zero-emission buses and locomotives. 
  • Tools to support clean and efficient urban freight deliveries.  
  • Climate resiliency innovations to protect transit assets from flooding during coastal events and severe rainstorms.  
  • New techniques to allow customers to report extreme conditions in real time. 

“NJ Transit has continually leveraged technology to introduce new and innovative ways to improve the customer experience as we recover from the pandemic, in addition to making significant capital investments that will make the system cleaner, greener and more resilient against extreme weather events,” said Kevin S. Corbett, president and CEO of NJ Transit. “It is more critical than ever to continue focusing on building and restoring customer confidence in transit, and we welcome all of the fresh ideas this challenge is sure to yield.” 

Representatives from each agency will evaluate companies based on the technology’s impact, product, team and value. Selected companies will move forward to conduct a proof-of-concept over an eight-week period. 

“Since its inception in 2018, the challenges conducted by the Transit Tech Lab have provided tremendous value by connecting the MTA to firms with innovative solutions to problems that have plagued our system for years,” said Michael Wojnar, senior advisor for innovation and policy, MTA. “This year, we look forward to tackling two areas of critical importance with the Recovery Challenge and the Sustainability Challenge – reducing our carbon footprint and bringing customers back to the system.”  

Robert Galvin, chief technology officer at Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, added, “Public transit is at a critical moment and through the use of technology and innovation we can conquer some of today’s latest challenges. As the first transportation agency in the U.S. to embrace the Biden Administration’s net zero climate goals, we are thrilled to participate in Transit Tech Lab’s latest challenge, which will focus on recovery and sustainability."