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New York launches Covid-19 response initiative for public transit

The MTA and the Transit Innovation Partnership want to engage the private tech industry to evaluate and deploy technologies that make transport safer and more responsive to needs amid the pandemic.

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The challenge aims to help the rapid deployment of innovative transit technologies
The challenge aims to help the rapid deployment of innovative transit technologies

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Transit Innovation Partnership have launched a Covid-19 Response Challenge.

 

It aims to engage the private tech industry and evaluate and deploy technologies that make public transit safer, healthier and more responsive to customer and workforce needs in light of the global pandemic. Areas of interest include thermal monitoring tools, robotic cleaning equipment and tools to measure and mitigate crowding.

 

Call for proposals

 

The challenge calls for companies to submit proposals by 30 July that address critical pandemic-related health and safety objectives for the New York metropolitan region’s mass transit network.

 

Interim New York City transit president Sarah Feinberg said that to truly modernise every element of how the transit system is run, “you have to look far and wide for new ideas”. She added:That means tapping into the city’s robust entrepreneurial and technology scenes and thinking in new ways about how a vital institution like New York City Transit can embrace innovation in everything it does.”

 

MTA is specifically seeking companies that have proven innovative technologies that can safely reduce or eliminate contaminated aerosols from MTA’s public transit system. The other public agencies participating in the Covid Challenge – New York City Department of Transportation, New Jersey Transit, and the Port Authority – are seeking a broader set of solutions.

 

Companies that submit proposals deemed promising by transit, tech and health sector evaluators may have the opportunity to implement their technology with regional transit systems including the MTA.

 

The challenge organisers have listed the areas of interest as follows:

  • 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
  • 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, sanitiser 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 counselling, 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.

The Covid-19 Response Challenge builds on previous collaborations addressing the pandemic, including the MTA’s launch of the Essential Connctor app with Transit Tech Lab graduate AxonVibe to help essential workers plan journeys during overnight subway disinfection closures.

“The pandemic hit us in New York like no other place in the country. MTA took unprecedented steps the past four months, opening itself up to innovative ways to reduce the risk to our riders and our workers”

The Transit Tech Lab one of the Transit Innovation Partnership’s initiatives created by the MTA and Partnership for New York City in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for private sector innovation to improve public transit.

 

In addition to MTA officials such as chief innovation officer Mark Dowd, private sector and academic experts with experience in transportation, public health, urban innovation, infrastructure and artificial intelligence will also evaluate submissions to the Covid-19 Response Challenge.

 

“The pandemic hit us in New York like no other place in the country. MTA took unprecedented steps the past four months, opening itself up to innovative ways to reduce the risk to our riders and our workers," said Dowd. “We are excited to partner with the Transit Innovation Partnership in our quest to find new technologies and approaches that safely remove contaminated aerosols from our public transit system.”

 

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