In the spring of 2020, the Transit Tech Lab completed the second annual transit innovation program. Through the pandemic, eight companies worked closely with agencies across New York and New Jersey, to offer solutions that have the potential to improve accessibility or traffic congestion for millions of daily travelers.
During this unprecedented time, the lab remained committed to supporting transit agencies and front-line workers.
In addition to our founding partner Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the Transit Tech Lab was joined by nearly every major transit agency in the region including Amtrak, NJ Transit, NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission and Port Authority of NY & NJ.
After receiving over 130 applications, judges selected eight finalists to take part in an 8-week proof of concept that wrapped up at the end of April.
Here’s an inside look at the results from last year’s program.
Accessibility Challenge: How can we make New York’s public transit system more accessible?
Metro-North Railroad installed the Acoustic Protocol hearoes solution, which has processed an average of 300+ daily public announcements by automatically translating them to text. Nir Aran, founder of Acoustic Protocol, noted that “the Transit Tech Lab offered us a direct contact with transit authorities and a streamlined path to put our technology to work in the world’s largest transit hub”.
The text announcements continue to be reviewed by MTA staff and are publicly available via hearoes smartphone app.
Knaq’s hardware was installed at Newark International Airport and the Fulton Street subway station. It collected status data on three elevators and two escalators. The company provided current, historical and summary data via a dashboard. Brian Carey, CEO of Knaq commented that the company was “very pleased with the ability to quickly work with stakeholders in various transportation agencies. Knaq installed pilots and demonstrated technical capabilities, ultimately progressing to decision points about longer term arrangements through an extraordinarily efficient program.”
During the program, Knaq demonstrated its ability to push maintenance alerts and recommendations. This enables improved operational awareness, maintenance, and overall uptime for elevators and escalators across the system, supporting accessibility and service goals.
Navilens created more than 30 unique codes for placement on M23 crosstown bus stops. New York City Transit, in partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation, installed decals at 12 bus stops across the M23 crosstown bus route. Users who download the Navilens app will be able to see real-time MTA bus arrival data and service status information. Javier Pita, founder of Navilens, stated that the Transit Tech Lab offered a “very quick and efficient process to pilot and validate innovative technology.”
Navilens codes will support the mobility of customers with visual, audio, or navigation impairments. Testing, evaluation and product improvement will continue based on ongoing feedback.
Okeenea installed Evelity, an indoor GPS app for visually and audio impaired riders at the Jay Street-Metro Tech subway station. Only one day was necessary to install 41 beacons to cover 50,000 square feet. “It was an amazing experience in a very short time. The help provided by the Transit Tech Lab team was invaluable in achieving our goals so quickly”, said Sylvain Denoncin, CEO of Okeenea.
MTA staff continues to test the app in the field. User testing was delayed by the ridership downturn and further testing of beacon technology will be conducted by a panel of staff and customers.
Curb Challenge: How can we reduce traffic by improving coordination at the curb?
In partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation, Allvision defined a scope of work and framework which will enable the agency to digitally manage, monitor and analyze activity on select curbs and streets. Allvision CEO, Arron Morris, said the company “gained exposure to key stakeholders across a number of transit agencies that would have been nearly impossible to do our own in the same time frame.”
CARMERA created a dashboard that shows traffic lane-level construction events across Manhattan as identified by their fleets. The tool leverages the company’s data exhaust to map construction events across select areas. This surfaces traffic lane violations and highlights potential obstacles for bus operators. Ro Gupta, CEO of CARMERA, said, “partnering with the nation’s largest transit system gave us a new perspective, allowing us to explore how our HD map technology can help not only our core autonomous driving customers but also operators within the entire transit ecosystem in our shared mission of making mobility work for all.”
In partnership with the Port Authority of NY & NJ, curbFlow identified over 20 installation sites where their technology could be tested. “This unique opportunity allowed us to develop new applications of our computer vision technology in partnership with one of the largest and most influential public agencies in the world,” said Ali Vahabzadeh, CEO of curbFlow.
curbFlow’s technology has the potential to improve efficiency, reduce congestion and support social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures.
Numina installed a sensor at the Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway subway station and produced insights on pedestrian and bus flows, supporting more efficient service delivery and planning while prioritizing riders’ privacy. The program “enabled us to jump right into the detailed operational needs of bus planning with New York City Transit, to learn and build immediate value-add functionality into our platform for the benefit of transit agencies everywhere” said Tara Pham, CEO of Numina.