Frequently Asked Questions

We have designed these FAQs to provide answers to general questions that you may have regarding your participation in the MTA Genius Transit Challenge and to assist in your better understanding of MTA Genius Transit Challenge Terms and Conditions (the "Agreement"). Please note, however, that we intend these FAQs to provide guidance; and not to supplement, change, or modify the Agreement in any way.

Questions on:
Eligibility
  1. Is there an age requirement to enter the Challenge?

    Innovators of all ages are welcome to participate in the Challenge, but you must have reached legal age in order to sign the Agreement and complete the application process.

    If you have not yet reached legal age, you may still participate — and we will evaluate your application in the same manner as all other applications — but you will need to have your parent or legal guardian sign the Agreement and complete the application process on your behalf.

    Please see Section 3.1 (Circumstance No. 1: Age Requirements) of the Challenge Terms and Conditions for more information.

  2. Do I have to be in the state of New York to apply to the Challenge?

    Not at all! This is an international competition. We welcome applications from around the country and the world, although certain restrictions apply. If you have experience with other transit systems or see ways that MTA can use a best practice from another transit system, please submit an application!

  3. Does my company need to be in a certain sector to apply to the Challenge?

    Companies from all sectors are encouraged to apply.

  4. Who is ineligible to participate in the Challenge?

    In fairness to other applicants, we cannot accept applications from certain individuals, including: (i) members of the evaluation committee, finalist judges, or MTA personnel responsible for making decisions in connection with the Challenge; (ii) officers, directors, or employees of the MTA or its affiliated entities, or (iii) applicants subject to, or who reside in jurisdictions that are subject to, trade restrictions or sanctions under any applicable law. We also cannot accept applications from family or household members of certain ineligible individuals.

    Please see Section 3.2 (Circumstance No 2: Related Parties and Sanctioned Parties) of the Agreement for more information regarding the eligibility requirements.

  5. Can an MTA contractor apply?

    Unless the MTA contractor helped develop the Challenge itself or has been seconded to, or otherwise resides at, the MTA, they are eligible to apply.

  6. I do not have the ability to implement my idea or do much more than provide a high-level description of it. Should I still enter the Challenge?

    Yes, you should still enter the Challenge. Although we ask that submitted ideas be practical for implementation, applicants do not themselves need to have the ability to implement their ideas.

The Application Process
  1. I submitted my application but never heard back. How can I check the status of my application?

    You can check the status of your application on the application portal. Please notify us at GeniusChallengeInfo@mtahq.org if you submitted an application but did not receive an email confirmation.

  2. I tried to submit my application, but wasn't successful. What should I do?

    If you did not receive an automated email notifying you of successful receipt of your application, please try resubmitting it. If that does not work, please notify us at GeniusChallengeInfo@mtahq.org.

  3. When will I hear back from you about my idea?

    We will notify Phase 1 applicants who will be invited to move on to Phase 2 of the Challenge in September 2017.

  4. I need MTA data to submit my idea. Will MTA supply this information?

    Resource materials for each Challenge area are available on each Challenge area page. Further release of data will be provided at MTA’s discretion. Please email us at GeniusChallengeInfo@mtahq.org and request to be added to our mailing list to receive updates about this information.

  5. Can I edit my application after submitting it?

    Once an application is submitted, it will be considered a final submission and can no longer be edited.

  6. I have many ideas. Can I submit multiple applications? Can I submit applications in multiple Challenge areas?

    Yes! The Challenge consists of three competitions in three Challenge areas, as explained in "The Challenges" section of the website. You may submit multiple applications, and submit applications to one, two, or all three Challenge areas. However, applications must be submitted in the proper format to permit evaluation of your ideas:

    • If you have multiple ideas to submit in one Challenge area, separate your ideas in a logical manner and include only one idea per application;
    • If you plan to submit ideas in more than one Challenge area, do not "mix" Challenge areas within a single application.

    Please see Section 4.5 (Multiple Submissions; Proper Form) of the Challenge Terms and Conditions for more information regarding eligibility requirements.

  7. I have an idea that I want to submit but I can't determine which category I should submit to. What should I do?

    We advise applicants to pick one primary category in which to submit their application.

  8. For a given application, does the 5-page limit apply to each supporting document or to the sum of all supporting documents?

    Each application can be submitted with one supporting document of up to 5 pages.

How Applications Will Be Evaluated
  1. Who are the finalist judges and the members of the evaluation committee?

    Our evaluation committee and finalist judges consist of individuals who have significant expertise in wireless technology, manufacturing, business and railroad operation, and other areas. Read more about the judges announced to-date here.

  2. What is the evaluation process?

    We will conduct the Challenge in two phases:

    • In Phase 1, our evaluation committee will review and score your application based on weighted criteria, such as the application’s fulfillment of Challenge area core objectives, implementability, cost-reasonableness, and innovativeness. Based on these scores, and review and approval by the finalist judges, we will determine whether you will advance to Phase 2;
    • If you advance to Phase 2, our evaluation committee and an expert panel of finalist judges will review and score your application based on weighted criteria, such as the application’s fulfillment of Challenge area core objectives, implementability, cost-reasonableness, and innovativeness; and determine whether to recommend you as the winner, or one of the winners, for one or more Challenge areas.

    When the evaluation committee and the finalist judges have completed their evaluations, we will decide and announce the winners, although we reserve the right not to select any winner in one or more categories, and have no obligation to make an award.

    Please see Sections 4 (The Genius Transit Challenge) and 5 (Conducting the Challenge: Two Phases) of the Agreement for more information regarding the prize and the evaluation procedures.

  3. If the team submits several applications in a given Challenge area, will each application be evaluated separately?

    Each application will be evaluated separately.

Intellectual Property and Confidentiality
  1. Who will own the ideas or materials that I submit to MTA in connection with the Challenge?

    You keep ownership of all intellectual property rights that you hold in the products, processes, designs, ideas, and technologies that you submit to us in connection with the Challenge. You remain free to commercialize your submissions and your associated intellectual property, and you have no obligation to share with us any compensation, fees, royalties, or other benefits that you receive from commercializing these assets.

    Please see Section 7.1 (Your Retention of Ownership) of the Challenge Terms and Conditions for more information regarding ownership rights.

  2. What rights will MTA have regarding the submissions?

    Although you retain ownership of all intellectual property rights that you hold in your submissions, you must grant us certain licenses to your submissions, including those described below.

    License to patents. You grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, and limited license to exercise any patent rights that you hold in your submissions. We will, however, exercise these rights solely for purposes of testing, prototyping, and validating the submissions in connection with the New York City subway system, and only for a limited period. We will be entitled to permit our contractors, consultants, and others to exercise these rights on our behalf.

    License to non-patented intellectual property rights. You also grant us a license to exercise any non-patent rights that you hold in your submissions. We will exercise these rights solely for purposes of the New York City subway system and other New York State transportation needs. Please note that, however, under these rights (unlike the patent license described above), we are permitted to fully implement your submissions, including for purposes that are not related to testing and validating your submissions.

    Please see Section 7 (Intellectual Property Rights) of the Challenge Terms and Conditions for more information regarding intellectual property rights.

  3. Will MTA disclose my applications to anyone?

    We will keep your applications as confidential information up to and during the date we announce the winners. During that time, we will only disclose your confidential information to the members of the evaluation committee, finalist judges, New York State officials and employees, our affiliates, and our consultants for evaluation and processing purposes. We may also disclose your confidential information to comply with the New York State Freedom of Information Law and as otherwise compelled by law.

    After the date we announce the winner, however, we will be entitled to publicly use and disclose your applications in exercise of our license rights.

    Please see Section 6 (Confidentiality) of the Challenge Terms and Conditions for more information regarding the confidentiality obligations and exceptions.

  4. Regarding Section 8.2 of the Terms and Conditions, it is understood that there will be some form of reciprocity and that the winner will be allowed to communicate regarding the award. Please confirm our understanding.

    Winners will be allowed to communicate that they have been selected as a winner of the Challenge following a public announcement from MTA. Specifically, winners may disclose that they have won in a specific Challenge area, and provide a general description of their application to the extent it does not contain confidential, security-sensitive, or proprietary information.

  5. I'm not sure whether or not I own all the intellectual property relevant to my idea. Can I still submit an application?

    We've structured the language of the Terms and Conditions to address these concerns as much as possible.

    You'll see in Section 9.1.1.2 of the Terms and Conditions that we only ask you to represent and warrant that "to the best of your knowledge and ability" your submissions do not infringe the intellectual property rights of third parties. In other words, we've refrained from asking for your representation or warranty on intellectual property infringement issues, if you don't know (or have the ability to know) whether your submissions infringe a third party's intellectual property rights.

    In addition, we've similarly structured Section 12 (Indemnification) of the Terms and Conditions to address these types of issues. Your obligation to indemnify us only applies to complaints or damages that arise out of a third party's claim that, if true, would constitute a breach of your representation and warranty under Section 9.1.1.2. As we explained above, if you don't know (or have the ability to know) whether your submissions infringe a third party's intellectual property rights, we do not ask for your representation or warranty on intellectual property infringement issues. And, because we won't have your representation and warranty in such circumstances, you won't need to indemnify us!

  6. With regards to Section 7 of the Terms and Conditions (Intellectual Property Rights), is it correct to assume that the grant of the limited license in submitted technology is applicable only to the submitted technology of applicants which are ultimately chosen for an award – i.e. those applicants who will be receiving consideration (up to $1,000,000) in return for their grant of a limited license?

    Your assumption that the licenses we receive under Section 7 (Intellectual Property Rights) apply only to the submitted technology of applicants who are chosen as winners of the Challenge is incorrect. The testing and validation license granted under Section 7.2 (Testing and Validation License to Patents), for instance, applies to any submitted technology, regardless of whether the submitting applicant is chosen for an award. Please note, however, that we strove to limit certain rights in order to provide applicants with greater comfort. For example, Section 7.2.1.2. (Restricted in Term) limits the testing and validation license to a specific time period.

The Prize
  1. What is the prize?

    We will award up to $1,000,000 (one million dollars) to the successful applicant in each Challenge area, if any. Depending on the quality of applications, we may apportion the prize among multiple applicants in a Challenge area.

  2. Is the prize tax-deductible?

    Please consult your tax professional to determine whether the prize will be tax deductible.

Technical FAQs

    These technical FAQs are designed to help you better formulate and submit your ideas. These FAQs provide information on questions raised by applicants to date for each Challenge area.

    Technical FAQs are also available on the Challenge area pages.

    Note that technical questions for all Challenge areas are included below, so please scroll through to find answers to your specific technical questions. If you have scrolled through all available technical FAQs and still do not see an answer to your question, please email us at GeniusChallengeInfo@mtahq.org.

  1. What type of door systems are fitted? Is there a manual and/or are there drawings available?

    The door systems on New York City Transit passenger cars can be grouped into three categories as described below. Door systems on all cars employ the same basic structure for operating commands and status indication, and all systems employ obstruction detection systems to mitigate incidents of drags.

    • Under-seat door operator configuration (car models R32 and R42): Door operators are mounted under the passenger seats to the floors of the cars. Center door operators drive two panels in adjacent door openings through mechanical linkages, while corner door operators open and close single panels at the ends of the car. Door panels are suspended by roller-bearing tracks attached to the door header car structure.
    • Wall-mounted door operator configuration (car models R46, R62, R62A, R68, R68A): Door operators are mounted through a baseplate to the sidewall structure of the car. Each door operator controls a single panel through mechanical linkages. Door panels are suspended by roller-bearing tracks attached to the door header car structure.
    • Overhead drive door operator configuration (car models R142, R142A, R143, R160, R179, R188): Door operators are mounted to an integrated baseplate which includes screw-drive mechanisms and roller tracks. Door panels are suspended from these roller tracks. The integrated baseplate in turn is mounted to the car structure.
  2. What type of door failure modes have been experienced or are known?

    Door failure modes fall into two categories:

    • Electrical: Failures in electrical drives or controls, such as limit switches or relays, shut down the door system or fail to confirm to the train crew that the doors are closed and locked.
    • Mechanical: Failures of electro-mechanical or mechanical components, such as drive linkages and locking mechanism, shut down the door system or fail to confirm to the train crew that the doors are closed and locked. These failures may be caused by vandalism.
  3. How many door failures have been experienced and what is the impact to revenue service/customers of each?

    The number of door failures per month varies widely by month and by car class. The impact on revenue service depends on whether the car must be removed from revenue service to make the repair, which would require pulling the entire train out of service; or if the door panel can be repaired in the field while keeping the train in service.

  4. How are the door failure instances tracked currently? What is being done to address them?

    All door failures are logged and addressed at the maintenance facility.

  5. What data (frequency, volume) is available per door cycle?

    Door systems on recent car models, such as the R142, capture and record door failures that affect safety and reliability, such as notices of unauthorized commands or failure of a proximity switch.

  6. Are the conditions/factors contributing to door function deterioration known and if so what are they?
    • Mechanical/electrical wear and tear: A typical car door will open and close hundreds of thousands times within the 7-year maintenance cycle. Mechanical drive mechanisms, electrical relay contacts, gears, and motors are all impacted by the heavy usage.
    • Vandalism: Vandals are a common cause of door failures.
  7. Can you provide the wayside signal braking model referenced in the signal engineering documents?

    Please see: Brake Stopping Distance.pdf

    This curve forms the basis of all wayside signal design stopping distances. The distances have to be adjusted for grades because grade has a significant affect. The safe braking distance is generally 35% longer than the emergency braking distance.

    For communications-based train control (CBTC), the safe braking algorithm is developed by the suppliers of the CBTC technology. It typically includes latencies in CBTC system processing and communications and vehicle system response. As with most automatic train control systems, it includes the distance traveled before brakes are fully applied.

  8. We want to provide real-time train information through an app. Would we be required to provide the Wi-Fi services that connect with our app or would a third party be able to implement the Wi-Fi services?

    Currently, all subway stations have Wi-Fi connectivity. The tunnels do not yet have such connectivity (this is set forth under "Core Objectives of Challenge 3"). To the extent Wi-Fi services are deployed throughout the tunnels, such an app would be able to leverage these systems, subject to MTA policies and procedures.

  9. What is the type of fiber optic cable installed in the tunnels (single or multi-mode and wavelength)? Number of strands? Date installed?

    MTA has both single mode and multimode cables installed in tunnels. For communications systems, only single mode is used. Multimode is used for certain signals projects only. The single mode fiber cable used is the conventional non-dispersion shifted fiber according to ITU-T G.652. The majority of equipment uses 1310 nm, however DWDM and ROADM equipment operates in the 1550 nm range.

    The majority of fiber cables are 12-strands. Newer cables are 36-strands. However, most of the 36-strand cables are spliced to a 12-strand fiber cable inside the tunnel, so the effective usable strands remain 12. Generally, there are no available fiber strands in our backbone fiber optic plant. The 12-strand fiber cables were originally installed in the late 1980s to early 1990s.

  10. What types of RFID transponders and readers are used for the Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) system in the A Division?

    The A Division uses an Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI) system.

  11. What type of track circuit equipment is in use?

    Track circuits consist of two insulated joints for isolation from adjacent track circuits, four track wires, two resistors, two fuses, two matching transformers, and a track relay.

  12. What type of CBTC tachometer and inertial measurement unit (IMU) are used on the 7 Line?

    The speed measuring system on this line uses "Hall effect" speed sensors and accelerometers.

  13. What type of CBTC distance measuring method is used on the Queens Boulevard Line?

    The Queens Boulevard Line uses a dual tachometer-based system and dual accelerometers. The speed measuring system on this line uses "Hall effect" speed sensors.

  14. What is the outside diameter of the steel hand stick for passengers in the car?

    Generally, cars constructed prior to 2000 have handrails that measure 1.25" in diameter and vertical or center stanchions that are 1.68" in diameter. Cars constructed after 2000 have handrails that measure 1.25" in diameter and vertical or center stanchions that are 1.5" in diameter.

  15. What is the approximate time duration of the D Line from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to Kingsbridge Road?

    It varies, but it is approximately 90 minutes from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to Kingsbridge Road.

  16. What is the size (width and length) of the flat surface of the car ceiling?

    There is very little flat surface on the ceilings of our cars. HVAC vents, air inlet ports, speakers, and lighting take up a substantial portion of the visible ceiling.

  17. In Section 4.1 (a) of the Terms and Conditions, you state that one core objective for Category 1 (Improve Subway Signaling) is to "accelerate dramatically the deployment of CBTC or a related version of such technology". As MTA/NYCT has qualified Siemens and Thales to be their CBTC suppliers according to NYCT specifications, is a related version of such technology any CBTC product that can be provided by any company as long as it meets IEEE 1474 definition?

    It took nearly seven years to install CBTC on the Canarsie and Flushing lines. MTA has 24 lines. We need a solution that will address our needs much faster. We are looking for innovative train control solutions that may include leapfrog technology.

  18. Which list of cost rates is usually referred to regarding the New York City subway?

    Please see: 220 Schedule of Prevailing Rates 2017-2018 and Federal Wage Rates NY.

  19. Which types of braking (air brakes, friction brakes, or electric brakes) are included in the emergency brake curve, by fleet?

    All fleets have friction braking.

  20. What type of maintenance vehicles or cars are allowed in the underground track areas? Does MTA allow high-rail carts attached to diesel light trucks to be used for maintenance on active revenue tracks?

    Flat cars, diesel locomotives, and high-rail carts attached to diesel light trucks are the only maintenance vehicles permitted in the underground track areas. Use of high-rail carts is very limited.

  21. The signal system deployed on the L Line used CBTC and fixed-block at the same time. After completion of CBTC, the fixed-block equipment is still present. Will any proposed replacement to CBTC be required to operate along with fixed-block equipment?

    Proposed solutions are not required to use or accommodate the existing fixed-block equipment.

  22. In a worst case scenario, what is the sharpest turn angle in current tunnels with no line of sight?
    • IRT Line: 144 foot radius
    • IND Line: 277 foot radius
    • BMT Line: 167 foot radius
  23. What are the technical and what are the operational differences between Canarsie, Flushing, and Queens Boulevard Lines' CBTC systems and how are they interoperable with each other?

    The Canarsie Line CBTC system (Siemens) and the Flushing Line CBTC system (Thales) differ in that the Canarsie Line CBTC system uses fixed virtual blocks whereas the Flushing Line CBTC system uses moving blocks for safe train separations. Both designs comply with New York City Transit’s Interoperability Interface Specification (IIS) and have equivalent performance with regard to safety, throughput, and operational requirements.

  24. Is it feasible to propose a device that uses power from the third rail?

    Yes, but there are significant safety risks that would have to be addressed.

  25. What are the type and number of subway cars that have free axle tachometers or odometers?

    The R188 fleet (506 cars) and R179 fleet (300 cars) have free axles.

  26. How long did it take to install CBTC on the Canarsie (L line) and the Flushing (7 line)? What was the necessary timeframe for CBTC installation on the Canarsie and Flushing lines? For how many days or hours did each of these lines have to be shut down in order to install CBTC?
    • Flushing Line: Installation was performed over a 7-year period. It required approximately 3,700 hours of weeknight shutdowns and 3,200 hours of weekend shutdowns.
    • Canarsie Line: Installation was performed over a 6-year period and required weeknight and weekend shutdowns.
  27. What is the clearance for A Division (IRT) cars and B Division (IND/BMT) cars relative to the tunnel cross beams? What is the the catwalk clearance for divisions A and B?

    The vertical structural clearance line minimum distance to the underside of the subway roof or mezzanine floor for both A and B Divisions range from 12'-6-3/8" to 12'-9-1/8".

    Note that clearances are increased on vertically curved track to accommodate car center (sag) and end (crest) excesses.

    The lateral structural clearance line from the gauge face of the running rail on the tangent track to the edge of the high bench (bench-walk between stations) is as follows:

    • A Division: 2'-9-3/4"; to face of curtain wall supporting high bench is 3'-1-3/4"
    • B Division: 3'-1-3/4"; to face of curtain wall supporting high bench is 3'-4-3/4"

    Note that clearances are increased on curved track to accommodate car center and end excesses.

Other
  1. We have noted that the core objectives listed in the Terms and Conditions and the objectives listed in the Challenge conference slides (e.g. for Category 1: "Train Spacing", "Safety", "Compatibility", …) or in the other pages of the website do not fully match. Please confirm that the Terms and Conditions are the sole reference for the evaluation.

    Applications will be evaluated based on the core objectives listed in the Challenge Terms and Conditions.

  2. In Section 4.1 (a) of the Terms and Conditions, you state that one core objective for Category 1 (Improve Subway Signaling) is to "accelerate dramatically the deployment of CBTC […]". What is the targeted deployment duration that is implied by "accelerate dramatically"?

    MTA seeks technologies that can reduce deployment duration beyond current practice. The extent to which recommended solutions do so will be a key component in evaluation of applications. MTA does not provide additional timeline-related details beyond what is listed on the website and in the Terms and Conditions.

  3. In Section 4.1 (a) of the Terms and Conditions, you state that one core objective for Category 1 (Improve Subway Signaling) is to "identify alternate signaling or other solutions that offer technological advantages". Could you please clarify the expected purposes of these "technological advantages"?

    MTA seeks technologies that provide additional features as compared to the current signaling systems used by MTA. The extent to which these features improve upon current practice will be a key component in evaluation of applications. MTA does not prescribe specific technological advantages beyond what is listed on the website and in the Terms and Conditions.

  4. Can an application submitted under Category 1 be reassigned to Category 4.4 (Other Innovations) by MTA?

    MTA will not reassign applications from Category 1 (or Category 2 or 3) to Category 4.4 (Other Innovations).

  5. Will MTA share all the questions and answers with all entrants?

    Yes, MTA will share questions and answers with all entrants, and we do our best to answer all questions we receive. New questions received by MTA will be posted (with answers) on the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website.

  6. How can I learn more about the Challenge?

    Please review the website for further details. If you have further questions, please contact us at GeniusChallengeInfo@mtahq.org.

  7. I have more questions. What should I do?

    If you have further questions, please contact us at GeniusChallengeInfo@mtahq.org.