Announcing Challenge Winners

We are pleased to announce the Winners of the MTA Genius Transit Challenge!
The Winners have collectively been awarded $2.5 million in prize money for their Genius ideas to help modernize the New York City subway system.
The Judges selected these Winners out of 438 Submissions from 23 countries.

See the Awards in Each Challenge Area:

Challenge One Winners

Modernize New York City's Subway Signal System

Challenge 1 seeks to accelerate deployment of modern train signaling technologies to the subway system, to increase the number of trains at peak periods and promote faster and more reliable service.

Revolutionize Signaling Deployment Using Ultra-Wideband

Robert James: $250,000
Metrom Rail: $250,000

Two applicants submitted innovative solutions to revolutionize the deployment of subway signaling using Ultra-wideband (UWB), a next generation wireless technology. The implementation can be done much faster than MTA's current plan for signaling deployment, eliminating the need for cumbersome and costly wayside equipment. UWB technology is utilized by other industries globally and is currently being tested in other transit systems.

  • Rapid Implementation: Removes the need for expensive, cumbersome equipment currently required by the signaling system. MTA has the ability to begin UWB installation immediately.
  • Precision: A UWB-based mesh network provides centimeter-accuracy location for cars in tunnels.
  • Reduction of Wayside Equipment: Reduces maintenance effort and maintains safety.
  • Cost-Effective: Can be implemented at a fraction of the cost of the current signaling technology.

The Judges selected Robert James and Metrom Rail because their proposals of Ultra-wideband technology provide substantial benefits relative to the current technology of subway signaling and communications.


Robert James, an experienced transportation engineer, proposes combining UWB with Connected Vehicle (CV) technologies, a dedicated short-range communications network that provides 360-degree awareness. This system uses far less wayside equipment than required for typical CBTC, reducing installation and maintenance time and costs. Mr. James also offers an innovative installation methodology that dramatically reduces the number of train service interruptions and leverages an existing power source without putting more strain on the system. MTA can leverage the UWB network to track workers in the right-of-way and alert them to a train's movements, reducing the risk of injuries and fatalities. It can also use the system to navigate drones in between the moving trains for tunnel and track inspections, without interrupting service.

Metrom Rail, a company known for providing innovative solutions to the rail industry, proposes a cutting-edge, train-centric control system that utilizes Ultra-wideband and an integrated sensor suite. The system provides high accuracy train locating through redundant and integrated technologies, and optimizes train movements while maintaining high safety levels. The components are designed to be integrated with NYCT's existing infrastructure. The time required for MTA to install a UWB-based system is dramatically less than the current plan.

The MTA has been exploring and will continue to robustly test UWB for train location, and will further research how the Applicants' technology could supplement MTA's current signaling system.

Read Robert James' Application Here Read Metrom Rail's Application Here

Onboard Sensors and Cameras for Train Positioning

Ansaldo STS: $250,000
Thales Group: $250,000

Like the technology used in autonomous vehicles, next generation train positioning solutions employ sensors and cameras, lending themselves to the revolutionary concept of a completely train-centric signaling system with little to no equipment on the tracks. Train location technology historically has involved the use of complex wayside equipment which is both time consuming and costly to deploy and maintain. Two applicants have focused on moving most, if not all, of the wayside equipment onto the train itself and making use of onboard sensors and cameras.

  • Rapid Implementation: Solution could be implemented in approximately one-third of the time of the current plan.
  • Reduction of Wayside Equipment: Reduces maintenance effort and maintains safety.
  • Cost-Effective: The equipment would cost nearly 60 percent less than the current configuration.
  • Modernized Technology: Leverages advances in video and sensor technology.

The Judges selected Ansaldo STS and Thales Group to receive this award because they each proposed innovative onboard systems that would more efficiently and accurately perform necessary train positioning actions, as well as maintain a high degree of safety, reduce delays, and mitigate costs.


Ansaldo STS, a company with a global presence in the field of railway signaling, proposes a train positioning solution that replaces wayside signaling devices with a system of trainborne outward-facing video cameras, a heads-up display, and augmented reality devices. MTA would leverage the cameras to perform localization functions and the heads-up display to convey information to the train operators. This system would eliminate the need for speed sensors, increase reliability by reducing hardware and track maintenance, and is fully compatible with MTA's existing architecture.

Thales Group, a multinational company with expertise in electrical systems for aerospace, defense, transportation, and security markets, proposes a new, autonomous train location technology that also uses onboard sensors such as cameras, radar, GPS, and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology. The trains themselves can determine their locations, respond to changing track conditions, and adjust brake rates. They can also recognize preceding trains, as well as recognize MTA workers on or near the track and identify whether they are authorized individuals. The system would benefit the MTA by mitigating the number of delays and undetected individuals on the tracks, by reducing trackside infrastructure, and by helping MTA operators move people to stations faster in the event of a system failure.

In light of these awards, MTA plans to begin testing video- and sensor-based systems for integration with future signaling systems.

Read Ansaldo STS's Application Here Read Thales Group's Application Here

Challenge Two Winners

Rapidly Deploy Modernized Subway Cars to the Subway System

Challenge 2 seeks strategies to obtain and deploy modern subway cars more efficiently or refurbish existing cars in order to increase the subway system's capacity and reliability, prevent car breakdowns, and reduce delays.

Modify Passenger Loading with Longer Trains to Increase Capacity

Craig Avedisian: $330,000 Award

Craig Avedisian, a lawyer with a passion for transit, proposes changing passenger loading procedures in combination with longer trains, thereby increasing capacity. This solution involves front and rear cars platforming at alternating stations and middle cars platforming at every station. Mr. Avedisian's proposal allows for a substantial increase in capacity with limited change to technology architecture.

  • Rapid Implementation: Allows for immediate improvement on critical lines, with minimal changes to technology infrastructure.
  • Scalable Solution: Allows MTA to add two, three or four cars to each train, and to scale up and down as needed.
  • Cost-Effective: Costs significantly less than previous CBTC proposals.

The Judges selected this proposal because Mr. Avedisian presented an innovative, practical approach to increasing capacity on trains with minimal impact to the system and a positive result for the passengers.

MTA will analyze Mr. Avedisian's winning proposal to evaluate a plan that can be implemented across subway lines in the future.

Read Craig Avedisian's Application Here

$50 Million Initial Investment to Design NYC Transit's Car of the Future

CRRC: $330,000 Award

CRRC, the largest train car producer in the world, proposes making a $50 million initial investment to co-develop with MTA the NYCT car of the future. Technology is improving at a rapid pace, thus CRRC proposes that cars should have a shorter lifecycle to quickly adapt to new technology. In addition, they have proposed exploring new materials, such as carbon fiber, to create these modernized vehicles. These cars would be built in the United States. Once the design is complete, MTA will have a specification that can be used to procure new cars on a significantly faster timeline than is currently possible at MTA. CRRC's modular design permits plug-and-play installation of core systems, including modern train control technology, which reduces maintenance time and allows for easy upgrades. This solution integrates on-board communications for modern train control and provides numerous rider benefits such as Wi-Fi, cellular, charging ports, LED lighting, and large OLED screens for delivering real-time information to riders.

  • New Approach: This award represents a new approach to car manufacturing and procurement for MTA, backed by a $50 million dollar investment by the world's largest train car producer.
  • Leverages Innovation: This submission proposes to shorten the life of cars in order to more effectively ride the technology curve and explores using alternative materials, such as carbon fiber, to lower the overall weight of the car and the power required to move it, resulting in energy and cost savings.
  • Cost-Effective: The shorter lifecycle will eliminate the high cost of a 20-year midlife overhaul.

The Judges selected this proposal for an award because CRRC's commitment to partner with MTA supports modern train control combined with the high potential for significant cost savings and an enhanced rider experience.

MTA will be creating a joint working group with CRRC to explore design options.

Read CRRC's Application Here

Harnessing Big Data

CSINTRANS: $330,000 Award

CSiT, an international provider of integrated transit IT solutions, proposes an open communications software platform that will provide both MTA and the riders with crucial in-journey, near real-time information. By integrating CSiT's software platform with the trains' black boxes, the system would provide an additional benefit of capturing and centralizing the big data collected during train operations and displaying it on a dashboard. MTA could leverage this powerful information to quickly and accurately diagnose maintenance issues, and analyze trends for more efficient preventative maintenance.

  • Improved Reliability: An open information system that delivers near real-time system information to riders onboard the train via HD LCD screens.
  • Superior Rider Experience: Provides MTA maintenance divisions with near real-time information on the status of all major systems within each car, as well as car location information.
  • Leverages Big Data: This integrated software platform utilizes big data and allows for improvement of system performance.

The Judges selected this proposal for an award because it supports modern train control, harnesses big data to help MTA increase operations efficiency and car reliability, and improves the rider experience through real-time updates such as service disruptions or emergency messages.

MTA is in talks with car manufacturers to obtain the data they store on the trains and is considering a strategy to deploy some of these systems to current subway cars and future subway car procurements.

Read CSINTRANS's Application Here

Challenge Three Winner

Increase Communications Infrastructure in the Subway System

Challenge 3 seeks to identify communications systems that will support the rapid installation and deployment of modern train communications and control technologies in the subway system, to increase the system's capacity and overall throughput.

Robotic Installation System

Bechtel Innovation: $500,000 Award

Bechtel Innovation, an arm of the largest construction and civil engineering company in the United States, proposes The Big B, a semi-automatic robotic system that can rapidly install communications and control systems infrastructure in the tunnels. Automation is a new and innovative technology for the rail industry, and its application has many benefits to MTA and the riding public. This radical robotic system is quick and nimble enough to climb off the railways, into stations, and onto platforms or service bays.

  • Rapid Implementation: By significantly reducing installation time of communications infrastructure in the tunnels, The Big B mitigates disruptions to service, and riders will experience the benefit of fewer delays due to equipment installation or repair.
  • Leverages Innovation: Executes automated work with mechanical precision and efficiency, thus saving time and labor costs and improving track worker safety.
  • Scalable Solution: Can be implemented on a line-by-line basis, and is scalable across the entire subway system.

The judges selected this proposal because it identifies a cutting-edge solution to implement infrastructure in a rapid timeframe that is scalable across the system.

MTA supports the development of The Big B for deployment of communication infrastructure within existing tunnels and on new construction, such as the Second Avenue Subway. MTA looks forward to working with its union partners to jointly engage with this new technology.

Read Bechtel's Application Here

Challenge Three Honorable Mention

Increase Communications Infrastructure in the Subway System

Challenge 3 seeks to identify communications systems that will support the rapid installation and deployment of modern train communications and control technologies in the subway system, to increase the system's capacity and overall throughput.

High-Speed Connected Train Network

Transit Wireless

Transit Wireless proposes building a private, secure, dedicated long-term evolution (LTE) network that connects trains to a mix of tunnel entrance radios and trackside radios, providing train to ground connectivity. Transit Wireless currently provides public, multi-carrier LTE service and public Wi-Fi at MTA subway stations. By leveraging Transit Wireless' existing fiber, space, and power infrastructure in the stations, implementation will be accelerated and costs will be reduced.

  • Rapid Deployment: Leverages existing infrastructure and enables rapid deployment of communications network within tunnels.
  • Open Architecture: LTE is not proprietary; therefore, NYCT will not be dependent on a single supplier.
  • Passenger Amenities: Ensures passengers have seamless Wi-Fi throughout their trips by expanding service into tunnels.

The Judges selected this proposal because it provides a scalable, cost-effective, reliable, and quickly implementable communications structure with an eye to future technology innovation.

MTA will closely analyze the solution identified in this proposal as an expected part of their overall communications and IT plan.

Read Transit Wireless's Application Here

Next Generation Subway Communications

Alcatel-Lucent (part of the Nokia Group)

Alcatel-Lucent, part of Nokia, a global leader in mobile network innovation, proposes a communications solution for modern train control and passengers by deploying a private, trackside long-term evolution (LTE) network and backbone network equipment, complemented by an end-to-end cyber security solution. This proposal supports continuous Wi-Fi connection for train passengers through fiber-fed trackside LTE radios at various locations in the tunnels and enables the continuity of a communications network from stations through the tunnels. The solution also incorporates a software application for remote monitoring, configuration, and maintenance of devices. In addition to the daily connectivity benefit to the public, LTE has the added advantage of not being proprietary; therefore, NYCT will not be dependent on a single supplier.

  • Rapid Deployment: Draws upon deep technology resources and enables rapid deployment of communications infrastructure within tunnels.
  • Passenger Amenities: The network is capable of relaying signaling, voice, maintenance, and passenger information, as well as providing uninterrupted high-speed internet service.
  • Secure Network: To ensure safety, a cyber security suite would protect railway operations using an end-to-end security approach.

The Judges selected this proposal because it provides a scalable, cost-effective, reliable, and quickly implementable communications structure with an eye to future technology innovation.

MTA will closely analyze the solution identified in this proposal as an expected part of their overall communications and IT plan.

Read Alcatel-Lucent (Nokia)'s Application Here

Innovation Timeline