FAQs

How does the Transit Tech Lab work?

Applicants participate in a rigorous selection process that may include in-person presentations. At the conclusion of the application process, regional transit agencies will select companies to participate in an 8-week accelerator to learn about the regional transit agencies and modify their technology to meet the transit system's needs. Following the accelerator, the regional transit agencies will select the most promising companies to deploy a 12-month, unpaid pilot with the transit system. The Transit Tech Lab offers companies an opportunity to demonstrate their technology in the nation’s largest transit systems and receive mentorship.

Do companies receive compensation for participating in the Transit Tech Lab?

 

There is no compensation for participation in the Transit Tech Lab, and pilots are unpaid. Companies may apply for limited grant funding from NYSERDA.

What are the evaluation criteria for Transit Tech Lab applications?

 

25% Impact: Technology is workable in the transit agency's environment, presents a viable solution relevant to the chosen challenge, and has the potential to positively impact performance and/or customer experience

25% Product: Technology is in prototype or later phase and available for live demonstration and the applicant is able to present metrics illustrating market fit and use by paying customers

25% Team: The company has a qualified team and is available for participation in person in New York City throughout the Transit Tech Lab program

25% Value: The technology presents a new way of deriving more value from existing transit agency assets, presents a potential new revenue source or cost savings for the transit agency and/or offers an opportunity to more efficiently manage infrastructure, operations or customer service

Program Questions

Who is eligible to apply for the Transit Tech Lab?

Companies must meet the following criteria to apply to the Transit Tech Lab:

  • Early- to growth-stage company with innovative solution to one of the selected challenge areas
  • Company has at least a working beta version of their technology and a proven track record of successfully delivering to customers
  • A corporation, joint venture, partnership, or LLC as defined by law
  • Companies based in New York state or that are expanding into New York state
  • Company is independently owned and operated
  • Company is not a subsidiary of a larger entity
  • Company representatives are available to participate in live virtual presentations, demo day and for duration of proof of concept

Does an applicant have to be a U.S. corporation? 

Applicants from other countries can apply, but must be registered to do business in New York.

Companies incorporated outside New York state who wish to participate in the Transit Tech Lab must complete the following steps prior to starting the proof of concept or pilot: 

If your company is not incorporated in New York state please:

  1. Obtain a 'Certificate of Good Standing' or 'Certificate of Existence' from the U.S. state or foreign country where your company incorporated.
  2. Complete the New York state Department of State 'Application for Authority' form located here: https://dos.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2018/11/1335-f.pdf

    Please note this form has a filing fee of $225 USD.

More information on the New York state Department of State website:
https://www.dos.ny.gov/corps/buscorp.html#appauth

What is the application process for the Transit Tech Lab like?

The application process is run on a platform called F6S.com—it is fairly standard for startup accelerators and streamlined compared to a government RFP.

How many companies will be selected for the Lab?

There is no pre-set desired number, the numbers selected will depend on the quality of the applications.

In the best case scenario how would a pilot benefit the selected startup pilot partners?

Pilots are unpaid, with some grant funding available from NYSERDA, and companies retain all IP. The transit agency gets a license for the duration of the pilot and a period of time following the pilot. The Lab is an opportunity for companies to get their technology in front of key decision makers at New York's major transit agencies. If chosen for the accelerator, it’s a chance for companies to refine tech for the largest transit systems in North America, and there is significant value in pointing to experience with the MTA and other agencies. 

What are the next steps if a pilot is successful?

Post-pilot, the standard route is that the transit agency will issue a competitive RFP, but this will be decided case-by-case and there may be flexibility for agencies to negotiate a contract directly if the product is unique and there is little competition on the market. Most cases will likely result in a competitive solicitation.

What happens in the proof-of-concept phase?

The proof-of-concept starts with the definition of goals for the next 8 weeks, with the objective to arrive at a decision to move forward with a yearlong pilot at the conclusion of the program. This creates urgency and structure that facilitates a meaningful proof of concept in a short period of time. Programming includes tours of operational control centers, meetings with agency leaders and program support from the Transit Tech Lab staff. 

What is the ideal size and scope of a Transit Tech Lab project?

For the initial proof of concept, we look for a small, targeted scope that can be implemented and measured within 8 weeks, with the ability to scale up to serve the entire agency if proven. Each company has discretion to create an achievable scope of work they are comfortable taking on.

What is the role of the Transit Tech Lab? How will they support selected participants?

The Transit Tech Lab administers the Lab. We set up the process, recruit companies, ensure all information is submitted, and support the subject matter evaluators from the transit agencies, private sector and public health world as they evaluate companies. After selection, we ensure a successful proof of concept and/or pilot by helping to address any hurdles.

Have any previous pilots led to commercial agreements?

Yes, for example Remix was selected for a yearlong pilot and successfully moved to a commercial engagement with MTA - New York City Transit

Will a technology that takes more than 8 weeks validate be excluded from consideration?

No. This can be addressed on a case by case basis. We encourage you to apply via the F6S portal.

What is the difference between the semi-finalist presentation and the demo day?

On pitch day you will have the opportunity to present your solution to leaders across regional transit agencies and private sector experts. Each presenting team will have a total of 25 minutes: 10 minute oral presentation with slides and 15 minutes of Q&A from the judges.

Evaluators will select companies to demonstrate their product at the end of each pitch day. On demo day you will have the opportunity to present your product to a wider audience of regional transit subject matter experts in a fair-style exposition.

Both events will be in person.

Can one proposer submit multiple applications for different scopes of work and/or different agencies?

Yes, you can submit multiple solutions. Each solution should be submitted separately.

Can you share examples of how previous startups were able to take advantage of NYSERDA grant funding during their pilot?

If a company is selected to participate in a year-long pilot, they may apply to NYSERDA for grant funding. In the past, startups have used NYSERDA funding to integrate software tools, conduct surveys, train agency staff, and install hardware. Each funded project demonstrated how their project could reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and outlined key deliverables to demonstrate how the completed work could make transit more efficient and sustainable.

Is it required for me to be in NYC for the entire duration of the 8-week POC and 12-month pilot?

No. If COVID-conditions permit, we request companies attend in person midpoint meetings and final presentations.

How would you Introduce a new product to the Transit authority?

Through three steps: (1) Companies submit an application through the website: https://www.f6s.com/transit-tech-lab-challenge-2023. (2) Expert evaluators select the most compelling solutions for a proof of concept. (3) Companies with successful proof of concepts deploy their technology at scale, to address the challenge they applied to resolve.

What is your track record of deploying products? 

Of the 23 companies selected to complete pilots with regional transit agencies, 6 have gone on to deploy their technologies in a commercial capacity.

Can participation be in both categories or just one or the other?

Yes, you can submit solutions to both categories. Please submit separate applications if presenting more than one solution. 

Who are the judges?

The lab works with public and private sector judges, who help select the most promising applicants. Public sector judges are subject matter experts on areas of operations and human capital. Private sector judges are VCs with deep expertise evaluating startups. 

What has set apart past years winners of the challenges?

Companies that have a market-test product that is scalable and can be integrated to help agencies save money, time, or improve customer experience in a quantifiable and cost-effective way have had the most success.

Which challenges are most important for you to solve?

Both listed challenges have been identified as top priorities. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to present innovative solutions in their application. 

Are there additional datasets, specifically APC datasets available, that we can use for the challenge? What kind of solutions are you looking for?

Any solution that addresses a challenge statement is eligible to apply. Please use your discretion in submitting an application. 
While APC data is not publicly available, public feeds can be found here: https://new.mta.info/developers 

Are technologies that are not centered on physical technologies eligible to apply?

Yes, any solution that addresses a challenge statement is eligible to apply and will receive equal weight for scoring and selection.

When is NYSERDA funding available to companies?

After a company is selected by a transit agency to conduct a year-long pilot, companies will receive materials to apply for NYSERDA funding.

Info Session Questions

Is there a monetary (revenue) threshold that defines "early" and "growth" stage companies?

No - we’re looking for companies that are mature enough from a team, financial, and product perspective to pilot with a large transit agency. Please review our eligibility requirements in our Terms and Conditions to ensure your company is eligible to apply.

A proposed employee who may participate in the submission is a former NYCT employee that precludes them from working on NYCT related projects for a certain amount of a year. Are they eligible to participate with other agencies under the MTA umbrella such as LIRR, Metro North etc?

To submit an application to the MTA, you must be eligible to work with the MTA. You are able to submit an application to other participating transit agencies.

Would there be any interest in solutions for resilient data management and security across distributed devices and systems?

Yes - this would fall under the operational efficiency bucket and we encourage you to apply.

Are MTA buses utilizing dash cams and AI safety alerts to improve safety across the fleet?

Yes- there are three camera initiatives ongoing and each in various stages of completion:

Security: 5200 buses have interior-facing security cameras on board that record real time video and are used for investigations and keeping the ride secure and safe from a deterrence perspective.

Service management: Buses has nearly 420 buses with ABLE exterior-facing cameras that automatically ticket bus lane violators. The use of these cameras for machine-intelligence based analysis of bus lane blockages and other relevant hot spot monitoring is being explored.

AI- based safety monitoring pilot: Buses is currently working on a pilot to install a micro fleet of buses with AI-based early warning system that audibly and visually alerts the operator of an impending/potential collision along the right-of-way or along right or left turns.

Can you give us more information about the application process?  What is the acceptance process once someone applies?

After you submit an online application, public and private sector evaluators review your application based on the Lab’s evaluation criteria (found in section 5.3 of our Terms and Conditions). These scores determine which applicants have the opportunity to present their solution in person to the evaluators during our Pitch and Demo Day. In-person presentations will be scored by the evaluators using the same evaluation criteria. Each agency will then select which of the highest ranked companies will move forward with an 8-week proof of concept.

What are the agency's top pain points for addressing operator/employee assaults?

MTA: The majority of incidents against Transit personnel are committed against Bus and Train Operators. Annually, a few hundred incidents are perpetrated against Transit workers including them being punched, pushed or struck with an object or a liquid. While the MTA has taken substantial efforts to prevent these crimes before they occur through initiatives such as shields for bus operators, these are not always preventative, as bus operators sometimes need to rise from their seat to assist a rider in a wheelchair; conductors and train operators may need to open their window when pulling into a station, etc.

What are the top goals the MTA are looking to accomplish in the ridership space? How important is people flow to your process?

Attracting more riders into the system is a top priority. Managing passenger throughput is also very important - as it is essential to managing crowding, safety, etc.

How are disruptions currently handled during operations, which covers for lots of things like construction changes, accidents, pretty much anything that happens outside of the schedule?

MTA:

Planned Service Changes

Planned changes often include temporary schedules that send trains onto different lines or to different terminals, or that slow trains down to allow for the safety of the workers on the tracks as trains pass work zones.

For major capital projects the planning begins years in advance, as project managers lay out how often, where, and for how long they will need to have access to the tracks to get the work done. Based on these long-range forecasts, NYCT’s Division of Operations Planning develops conceptual plans for how to reroute trains and/or what kind of substitute bus service may be needed.  The closer the time comes to actually do the work, the more refined the plans become, and we start adding additional planned work for more routine maintenance tasks, like scheduled inspections. 

Unplanned Service Disruptions

In contrast to planning for construction and maintenance work, incidents that can disrupt service, like a maintenance problem, a sick customer, or a police investigation, cannot be known in advance, and NYCT must react to such incidents in real time. As such, there are no schedules for trains (or buses, if needed), and the changes must be handled by managers and supervisors in the field.

NYCT’s Rail Control Center (RCC) takes the lead role in coordinating responses to incidents. The professionals at the RCC have numerous delay management strategies that they can deploy in response to an incident. If an express track is blocked, for instance, the RCC will direct trains to run via the parallel local track until that express track opens back up.

How the RCC directs the response to an incident depends greatly on where the incident takes place, at what time of day it occurs, and how long it will take to bring things back to normal. Sometimes, the RCC will contact the Bus Command Center to arrange for substitute buses, which must be taken from regularly scheduled bus service.

In the case of a major incident that may go on for a long time and may affect rush hour service, planners from Operations Planning, in consultation with RCC senior management, will be asked to quickly develop a comprehensive service plan tailored to the specific situation. Such a service plan will take into consideration the expected ridership, the capacity of tracks to handle rerouted trains, where the trains are, what support personnel may be needed, or what customer information is required.

You mentioned that the POC is unpaid. If our solution is a software based solution that requires design and setup can we still charge for expenses and/or trial period?

No, proof of concepts are unpaid.

Is there an expedited process for NYSERDA funding?

Yes. We work directly with NYSERDA who has generously supported the Transit Tech Lab and has provided funding opportunities for pilots. Companies who’ve previously won NYSERDA funding through the Transit Tech Lab work out separate contracts with NYSERDA and execute these contracts in a similar timeframe to the transit agency pilot contracts.

What is the typical dollar amount of the grants that are available and are the grants guaranteed if your company or product is selected?

Pilot funding is not guaranteed. The typical dollar amount varies each year and is determined from each company’s NYSERDA grant application.

Does NYCT paratransit combine some trips with a fixed-route bus rather than paratransit the whole way? Or do all paratransit trips consist of a door-to-door ride?

Right now the system is geared towards door-to-door trips, however the system in theory could do either one. NYCT has tried combining trips with fixed-route buses, but the efficiency in general did not outweigh the customer benefit.

We have an existing Intermodal Transit Planner (ITP) scheduling engine, which identifies routes that some could take that would provide them with a paratransit ride to a certain point where they switch to a mode and station they’ve been deemed able to use. We have not been using that system since the start of the pandemic though. The current system is geared toward point-to-point trips but is still capable of doing both fixed route and point-to point.  In order to implement ITP, the scheduling engine identifies customers who are functionally eligible to take those types of trips.  However, when we’ve turned on the ITP engine and expanded service in the past, a number of customers returned back to our assessment centers to obtain a higher level of eligibility to avoid being selected for this service. We also found that the efficiency did not outweigh the customer benefit.

What tools does MTA use to understand paratransit travel patterns? Is data visualization and exploratory analysis an area you’d be looking to improve?

The MTA currently uses Tableau to pull data from the trip system (provided by the vendor). However, there is an opportunity for additional data visualization and analysis to provide greater operating insights with existing data.

Can one participant submit 2 different innovative product/solutions for 2 different agencies?

Yes

How is technology IP handled/managed over the proof of concept and pilot?

Each agency has posted terms and conditions that govern how IP is handled/managed over the proof of concept phase. See here: https://transitinnovation.org/terms-and-conditions

For the pilot phase, there is a separate contract that both the agency and the company execute which contain IP protections for the company and the agency.

Overall, although companies grant the agencies certain limited licenses through the program, companies retain all IP rights that companies hold in their submitted technology.

"Technology must be at least in beta version". Please define what a beta version means to you.

A working prototype with active users. Technology products must be mature enough to be used at a POC/pilot-level within a large transit agency.

What is the main difference between the POC phase and the actual Pilot?

During a POC, technology will be tested at a smaller scale and an SOW is defined during an eight week period. The objective is to arrive at a decision to move forward with a year long pilot at the conclusion of the program. Pilots are a year long with a more robust SOW. The pilot purpose is to demonstrate the value of a scaled implementation.

With IT software, how is the tech evaluation + the legal process streamlined for this engagement (vs going directly to the MTA or other department)?

The Transit Tech Lab works directly with Legal and IT Security departments to simplify and streamline the onboarding process. This is a major benefit of the Transit Tech Lab.

Is there a specific data standard that must be integrated with for proposers since this includes some operations solutions that might end up interacting with other technologies at the agency?

It is preferred that data is in a standard format (i.e. JSON) – format is on a case by case basis depending on programs being used. Agencies recommend adhering to industry standards.

What Computer Aided Dispatch software does MTA paratransit use? Are there specific challenges with the current software for efficiency? Would testing alternative systems be viable for this project?

Paratransit uses a Computer-Aided Dispatch System (RTS/CAD) and an Automatic Vehicle Location Monitoring System. One of the challenges is incorporating up-to-date traffic patterns and real-time traffic information to plan optimal routes. We need to be able to take a heavy trip volume, understand all the parameters for Paratransit service and the parameters of traffic patterns and real-time traffic information and schedule those trips in an efficient way (optimal driver routes) and in a very efficient timeframe. Testing alternatives is viable, albeit perhaps in a simulated fashion to start.

As a note, MTA paratransit is interested in technologies that can assist with drivers finding customers and customers finding drivers when the vehicle arrives to pick them up. 

We do not provide services that are specific to the current needs discussed today, however we do provide services that could be beneficial to the transit system and its ridership.  Should we hold off on participating in this round? Also, is this for start-ups only or can established companies apply? 

Companies must be independently owned and operated. Subsidiaries of larger companies are not eligible. If you feel that your product can fit within one of the two buckets (operational efficiency or human capital), we welcome you to apply. We are not looking for prescriptive solutions.

Is there any further interest in protection from covid or any other pathogens that spread infections on board transit vehicles?

Your solution should address the challenges in our open call for applications.

My company has a current pilot with NYCT Subways. It is ongoing and not originally initiated through the Transit Tech Lab. Are we eligible to submit for a pilot, with the same technology, through Transit Tech Lab for New Jersey Transit, PANYNJ or NYCDOT?

As long as your company meets eligibility requirements, as stated in the Terms and Conditions, and has a technology that addresses one of the challenges, then yes, we encourage you to apply.

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