COVID-19 Response Challenge

How can we make transit safer, healthier and more responsive amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Brief

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced unprecedented challenges in public transit. As New York recovers and rebuilds, it is vital to reimagine public transit to meet its new challenges. The COVID-19 Response Challenge calls for technologies and approaches that help to make New York's public transportation system safer, healthier and more responsive to customer and workforce needs. Examples of areas of interest include:

  • Thermal monitoring tools and systems to automatically measure body temperatures

  • Cutting-edge cleaning materials and equipment such as electrostatic sprayers, new-design air filtration systems, light-based systems and anti-microbial shields

  • Technologies and approaches that safely remove contaminated aerosols
  • Approaches to measure and encourage distancing in shared transit spaces

  • Tools to measure, communicate and mitigate crowding in trains, buses, stations and other shared spaces

  • Tools and frameworks to identify and communicate potential exposure risks

  • Tools to measure and support the use of masks and other personal protective equipment

  • Innovations in personal protective equipment, including contactless vending and fare card machines, mask and shield designs, sanitizer dispensers, and partitions

  • Approaches and technologies to redesign shared spaces and fare collection in vehicles and stations to encourage cleanliness, health, safety and distancing

  • Platforms to expand customer feedback and communication opportunities

  • Autonomous cleaning robots and robotic equipment to support cleaning crews

  • Secure digital services to further support mental and physical health among transit employees, such as counseling, coaching and self-care platforms

  • Tools to support remote transit employees such as secure cloud platforms for infrastructure monitoring, situational awareness, operations and service delivery

Apply by August 19, 2020.

How the Transit Tech Lab Works

The Transit Tech Lab enables public transit agencies to rapidly test and deploy innovative approaches to address top-priority challenges. As the New York region prepares to reopen, ensuring the safety and health of all who use and run public transit is critical. The Transit Tech Lab's COVID-19 Challenge provides an opportunity for innovative companies to submit their technologies to subject matter experts in transit, health and technology. 

To apply, companies must have a solution that is in prototype phase or later, be legally incorporated and certified to do business with New York State. Each company's application will be evaluated to determine the best path forward, including a proof of concept or pilot, if necessary. 

The deadline to apply is August 19, 2020. Learn more in our Frequently Asked Questions section


Transit agency participants in the COVID-19 Response Challenge include: 

  • Amtrak
  • Metro-North Railroad
  • Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • New York City Department of Education Office of Pupil Transportation
  • New York City Department of Transportation
  • New York City Transit
  • Port Authority of New York and New Jersey


Application Deadline - August 19th
Semifinalist Presentations - September 15th - 17th
Finalist Demo Day - September 18th
Proof of Concept Begins - October 19th
Pilot Starts - January 25th


In addition to transit agency subject matter experts, private sector and public health evaluators for the challenge include:

  • Reilly Brennan, General Partner, Trucks Venture Capital
  • Clara Brenner, Managing Partner, Urban Innovation Fund
  • Kenneth A. Bronfin, Senior Managing Director & Head of International Investments, Hearst Ventures
  • Kathryn Cleary, Senior Vice President, U.S. Business Development, Mastercard
  • Nick Grossman, Partner, Union Square Ventures
  • Hilary Gosher, Managing Director, Insight Partners
  • Maria Gotsch, President & CEO, Partnership Fund for New York City
  • Leslie Henshaw, Partner, Deerfield
  • Dylan Hixon, President, Arden Road Investments
  • Peter Meunnig, Professor, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
  • Brian Yormak, Partner, Story Ventures


COVID-19 Response Challenge applications will be judged using the following criteria:

Impact: the submission is workable in the MTA environment, presents a viable, relevant solution and has the potential to improve sanitization, safety, health and/or responsiveness of the transit system

Product: solution is in prototype or later phase and available for live demonstration with metrics and paying customers illustrating product-market fit

Team: applicant has a qualified, compatible team with dedicated financial and technical resources to execute a successful pilot

Value: solution presents a new way of deriving more value from existing transit assets, the ability to allow the MTA cleaning crews to more safely do their jobs, and/or an opportunity to more efficiently manage infrastructure, operations and/or customer service


Frequently Asked Questions

Reopening New York: New York State Public Transportation Guidelines (PDF)

WSP Report on COVID-19 Practices (PDF)

More questions? Email

Transit Tech Lab Challenges