New York Regional Transportation Agencies Launch Tech Competition to Enhance Operational Efficiency and Human Capital Utilization

January 5, 2023

Applications open for Transit Tech Lab’s Operational Efficiency and Human Capital challenges with MTA, Port Authority, NJ TRANSIT and NYC DOT 

Today the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, NJ TRANSIT, NYC Department of Transportation and the Partnership for New York City launched the fifth iteration of the Transit Tech Lab’s annual competition, calling for tech-driven approaches to support the agencies’ objectives in operational efficiency and human capital utilization.  

Applications for the Operational Efficiency Challenge and Utilization of Human Capital Challenge are due March 2 and are accessible at:  

Representatives from each participating agency will evaluate startups based on the technology’s impact and the applicant’s product, team, and overall value proposition. Finalists will move forward to conduct a proof-of-concept over an eight-week period; the companies with the most compelling technologies that advance the agencies’ goals can win a yearlong pilot. In the past few years 23 companies have been selected to participate in yearlong pilots, conducting deeper tests to demonstrate the value of their technology to agency partners.

Operational Efficiency Challenge: How do we utilize new tools to increase operational efficiencies? 

In response to post-pandemic reduced ridership and revenue, NYC regional transit agencies are seeking tools that can reduce costs while increasing efficiency.  

Technologies may include: 

  • Predictive maintenance and analytics on public transit and infrastructure assets, such as track, signal and power systems, to proactively identify possible operational failures before they occur. 

  • Tools to prevent fare evasion and improve/automate the issuance and processing of fare evasion summonses. 

  • Tools predicting and mitigating operational disruptions, such as impacts of weather events, delays, platform crowding, excessive wait times, crime, road safety, or EV bus battery electric fires. 

  • Tools to help prioritize operational staff resources, such as: where to deploy cleaning staff & waste management solutions, manually inspect assets, place human flaggers, or allocate people counters on trains. 

  • Tools to help automate and improve operations and make them more sustainable, such as: 1:1 customer digital communication, locating buses within a depot, internal employee communication, adaptive bus pick scheduling, automating track inspections to help speed up service, or microgrid and decarbonization optimization. 

  • Connecting disparate sources of data into one system. Data examples include, tolling data across different locations, cargo and truck movement, and integrating customer feedback. 

Human Capital Challenge: How do we best utilize human capital resources? 

NYC regional transit agencies, along with other public transportation agencies across North America, are facing a workforce shortage. To meet service needs, agencies are seeking tools to improve employee recruitment and retention through the Human Capital Challenge.  

Technologies may include: 

  • Enhanced training tools to speed up and improve the hiring and onboarding process.  

  • Tools to help recruit and retain operations staff, especially those with Commercial Driver Licenses (CDL). 

  • Tools to communicate long-term career paths within agencies. 

  • Upskilling and training tools for both technical and soft skills to invest in current employees. 

  • Tools to empower employees by tracking and communicating productivity. 

  • Tools for workforce and succession planning. 

  • Tools to improve conductor and bus driver safety. 

The Transit Tech Lab is a program of the Transit Innovation Partnership, a public-private initiative created by the MTA and Partnership for New York City to make New York the global leader in public transit. The Transit Tech Lab is supported by the Partnership Fund for New York City, and modeled after the Fund’s successful accelerator program, The FinTech Innovation Lab, which has helped make New York the premier hub for fintech startups. 

Stacey Matlen, Vice President of Innovation at the Partnership for New York City, said, “Public transit is the backbone of New York, and the Transit Tech Lab has been honored to facilitate five years of highly productive collaborations between our transit agency partners and the tech community. Their exceptional work is helping build a better transit system for all, and we look forward to another exciting and impactful year of collaboration.”  

Michael Wojnar, Senior Advisor for Innovation and Policy at MTA, said, “Now entering its sixth year, the Transit Tech Lab continues to be an outstanding way for MTA to explore innovative approaches to improving critical aspects of our system, and it’s great to see riders enjoy the benefits of this work as previous Challenge winners have signed major contracts in recent months. This year, we are excited to focus on innovations in operational efficiency and human capital, which are both absolutely central for system-wide performance.”

Will Carry, Assistant Commissioner for Policy, New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), said, “New York City DOT has been proud to join transportation agencies in the City and across the region to meet the tremendous technological challenges of the last few eventful years. This latest Transit Tech Lab initiative will allow us to test creative new innovations to improve overall organizational performance, enhancing our ability to make our streets safer and more efficient.”

Lookman Fazal, Chief Information and Digital Officer of NJ TRANSIT, said, “New Jersey’s Innovation economy gave birth to the world’s first transistors, and invented many of the technologies that power so much opportunity in today’s mobility ecosystem. In this nationally important moment for public transportation, NJ TRANSIT recognizes the immense power that ‘innovation in mobility’ has to deliver a stronger, fairer New Jersey, and looks forward to our continued partnership with the Transit Tech Lab to connect us with firms that are developing creative solutions to key components of our operations.”

Rob Galvin, Chief Technology Officer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said,“For more than a century, the Port Authority has led the region in harnessing new technology and innovations to create and operate world-class infrastructure and best-in-class facilities, from the world-first engineering feats of our bridges and tunnels to constructing new bridges and redeveloping airports without affecting service. Our participation in the Transit Tech Lab and the successes we have seen so far from the collaboration align with our agency’s long history of developing and identifying global best practices to improve every aspect of our operations that span the region’s largest and most varied portfolio of infrastructure and services.”

This is the fifth challenge cycle for the Transit Tech Lab, a process that has yielded substantial success in advancing technological innovation at New York-area transit agencies. To date, the Lab has supported 36 proof of concepts, 23 pilots and six commercial procurements with innovative technologies across its partner transit systems.  

About the Transit Tech Lab  

The Tech Lab program is part of the Transit Innovation Partnership, which yielded the award-winning MTA Live Subway Map and was established by the MTA and the Partnership for New York City to bring private sector innovation to improve public transit.  

Since 2018, the program has put the New York metropolitan region at the forefront of transit innovation, which promises to support the modernization of public transit and to transform the customer experience. Winners of previous competitions include Remix, a collaborative digital platform used to redesign the bus routes, and Axon Vibe, which built the Essential Connector smartphone app to help essential workers plan journeys during overnight subway disinfection closures. 


Get notified about the Transit Tech Lab and receive occasional updates.

© 2024 Transit Tech Lab and New York City Partnership Foundation


Get notified about the Transit Tech Lab and receive occasional updates.

© 2024 Transit Tech Lab and New York City Partnership Foundation


Get notified about the Transit Tech Lab and receive occasional updates.

© 2024 Transit Tech Lab and New York City Partnership Foundation