New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is often cited as having antiquated infrastructure, lagging behind other large cities such as London and Amsterdam. In recent years, the MTA has slowly embraced technological advancement, as seen in the launch of projects such as the OMNY contactless payment system and upgrades to the MTA Smartphone App.
In 2020, there has been an increasing focus on technological innovation fuelled by the outcomes of the COVID-19 Pandemic. In effort to increase ridership, the MTA is developing strategies aimed at creating an environment in which customers feel safe enough to return to public transit. To achieve this goal, the MTA has partnered with Transit Tech Lab to execute the COVID-19 Response Challenge, a global competition calling for innovative approaches that will help the city increase safety, and responsiveness to customer and workforce needs. The selected proposals cover a range of new system elements including disinfecting technology, live crowd-tracking applications, and expansion of e-bikes and e-scooters. The finalists are set to begin their pilot programs in January 2021.
The MTA is not the only transit agency that has turned to innovation in the face of the pandemic climate. The rapid modification of public transportation systems demonstrates the competence and capacity of transit agencies and government bodies to drive change nationwide.