Is Innovation Finally Coming to Our Transit System?

Having completed its inaugural Transit Tech Lab accelerator, the joint initiative between the MTA and the Partnership for New York City known as the Transit Innovation Partnership will proceed with the next round of its accelerator program.

Additionally, the MTA has recently announced the selection of Tennessee-based company TransCore to provide the technology needed for the tolling system underpinning the Congestion Pricing Program that will tax vehicles travelling in the busiest areas of Manhattan.   

Given the serious and well-known issues surrounding our transit system, as well as the frequent politics involved as can be seen by the recent but short-lived resignation of NYC Transit Chief Andy Byford, both are welcome developments.


The effective implementation of innovation is critical as the Transit Innovation Partnership itself has stated that we currently have a “public transit system in crisis,” which includes serious budget issues.   .

Although it has announced it will spend $51.5 billion on its upcoming 2020-2024 Capital Plan, which represents a 70% increase when compared with its 2015-2019 Plan, groups such as Reinvent Albany are critical of many aspects, not to mention the fact that basic elements are absent, such as a start date.

There are also concerns as to how the MTA will fund the addition of over 500 Police Officers, intended to address at least in part the presence of homeless individuals. 

Companies participating in the 2020 Transit Tech Lab will be directed to develop technology solutions to 3 challenges:

  1. accessibility
  2. traffic coordination; and
  3. revenue generation. 

Given the findings of a study performed by Reinvent Albany, it would seem that the MTA could also benefit from the assistance of technology when it comes to implementing capital improvements.

The study states that the “real constraint on MTA capital plans has become the ability to spend, not find funding,” and that in this area, it has “gotten further and further behind.”

Technology companies can learn more about the accelerator program including the steps involved in applying on the Transit Innovation Partnership site, which states that an information session will be held on November 4, 2019 and that the application deadline is November 30, 2019. The program will begin in February of 2020.   

When it comes to the Congestion Pricing tolling system, TransCore will “design, build, operate and maintain” the equipment involved in what the MTA is hailing as the “first-of-its-kind Central Business District Tolling Program (CBDTP)” in our City.

The program is to contribute $15 billion towards the funding requirements of the 2020-2024 Capital Plan and is expected to be implemented in 2021.  

Our transit system is critical in so many ways to our ecosystem. Few would currently consider New York City to be the global leader in this area, but at least innovation is finally being infused in a tangible manner that can continue to spread.    

Categories: Comparative Advantage, Industry Analysis & Updates, Smart Cities, Startup Assistance & Opportunities

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