Santa Clara VTA opens innovation centre to incubate and test new transportation ideas

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways February 24, 2015 10:08

Santa Clara VTA opens innovation centre to incubate and test new transportation ideas

The Innovation Centre launch event

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) opened a new Innovation Centre at their River Oaks headquarters on February 18 as a space where VTA teams, companies, startups and students can develop, test and showcase new transportation technology. The technology displayed at the open house ranged from transit trip planning and biking to connected cars and security.

VTA is looking at all kinds of ways to improve the transit customer experience, offer better transportation choices, and optimize vehicles, roadways and other mobility infrastructure. The innovation centre is a space to focus on these efforts. It’s also a living laboratory for testing technology, with a station holding much of the equipment installed on buses, trains and stations.

“We need to put ourselves in the positions of customers” to understand what technology could help make transit more appealing, said VTA Board of Directors member and San Jose Vice Mayor Rose Herrera. The North San Jose Transportation Innovation Zone is a good example of her city and VTA collaborating for innovation, she said.

“The Innovation Centre will bring Silicon Valley to the Valley Transportation Authority,” said VTA General Manager and CEO Nuria Fernandez. “It’s an incubator of new ideas and a developer of existing ideas that have not been applied to transit.”

As economic and population growth puts more and more pressure on our limited infrastructure, “we need to figure out how we’re going to maximize the use of our transportation network,” Fernandez said. The Internet of Things, which refers to the increasing wireless connectivity between everyday objects such as vehicles, refrigerators and watches, will help.

Innovation is about more than technology. But many of the exciting projects VTA have underway are focused on tech: mobile apps, connected vehicles, big data, and using Silicon Valley’s ingenuity to invent new approaches to transit, connected vehicles and mobility.

“Ideas are fantastic but what really counts are solutions. VTA is about solutions,” said Doug Davenport, Executive Director of Prospect Silicon Valley, which administers the North San Jose Transportation Innovation Zone in which the Innovation Center sits. “We’re trying to get something done. We partner with doers.”

Vijay Sammeta, City of San Jose Chief Information Officer, also noted a long history of innovative partnership with VTA. “Smart cities and the Internet of Things require collaboration,” he said, and that collaboration can “reshape the way we think about public transportation.”

Thinking Highways
By Thinking Highways February 24, 2015 10:08