MBTA eyes formal policy to attract innovation proposals

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BOSTON — The MBTA connects some of the country's busiest universities with the downtown business community and the heart of the state's thriving technology sector, and now it wants to establish a process for those groups to suggest ways to improve the transportation system.

The T's Fiscal and Management Control Board next week is expect to vote on a policy that would lay out a mechanism for industry groups, labor unions, advocacy organizations and others to pitch fully-developed proposals to the T.

Dubbed the Innovation Proposal Policy, it would "encourage private industry, associations, groups, to put ideas in front of the T on an unsolicited basis on ways that we can operate more effectively and serve our customers better," Acting MBTA General Manager Brian Shortsleeve said.

Transit agencies in Los Angeles, Dallas and Denver already have similar policies, Shortsleeve said, and LA has received 40 proposals since its policy took effect in February.

Successful proposals would offer "direct or anticipated benefits" to the T and its riders, would be possible to do within the T's current operating and capital budgets, could be "reasonably accommodated" within the T's budgets, and would have the potential to reduce operating or capital expenses, Shortsleeve said.

Shortsleeve said the T would post all proposals online to give others the opportunity to bid against them or propose alternatives. The Innovative Proposal Policy would not replace the T's public bidding process, he said.

The T's FMCB heard about the policy from Shortsleeve last week and is expected to vote on its adoption at its meeting next Thursday.

"Our goal is to try to get this live as quickly as we can so that we start to see ideas come in," Shortsleeve said. "We want to make sure that the technology community, the innovative service community, the ride-sharing community, know that we're very much open for business."


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