Thoughts from The Prepared on the Transit Tech Lab

Lots of T’s in that title…

Anyway, the MTA’s latest attempt to make like Silicon Valley and solve all their problems with technology has launched: Transit Tech Lab. The idea is that it will serve as an accelerator for startups working on tech that could help improve MTA service (because the Genius Challenge worked so well 🙄).

For not the first time, I find my own sentiments articulated better than I could have done it myself via Spencer Wright, a longtime member of the NYC hardware startup community and publisher of The Prepared, which is the newsletter that largely inspired me to create my own Magnitude and Direction. Here’s his take:

The MTA and the Partnership for New York City announced the Transit Tech Lab, an unpaid accelerator for "entrepreneurs who are developing products that could be useful to the MTA’s modernization plans." A few thoughts about this:

  1. I strongly believe that NYC should work to maintain its position as *the* global center for people wanting to work on urban infrastructure. That said, the MTA needs to figure out how to recruit, retain, and nurture top talent itself, and the Transit Tech Lab (like the MTA Genius Challenge before it) seems to punt on this issue.

  2. The MTA is broken largely due to the fact that neither the city nor the state have the incentive to take it as seriously as it deserves, and it's not at all clear to me that the technological (rather than political) fixes that accelerators tend to produce will be effective in that context. This is particularly acute in the second challenge, "How can we make buses faster and more efficient?" The obvious answer is that buses are slow because there are too many cars in the way, and while mounting cameras to buses will help measure that, solving the problem will ultimately involve either reducing the number of private vehicles on the road, or seriously stepping up bus lane enforcement, or creating a legit Curitiba-style bus rapid transit system.