Pitch your transit ideas to Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation

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Are you being driven crazy by traffic in LA and think you have a great idea for getting things moving? The Office of Extraordinary Innovation would like to hear from you.

Joshua Schank heads Metro’s department of Extraordinary Innovation which asks for your ideas for improving mobility. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

A few weeks back we heard from a listener, Peter Terrill, who suggested we look into how “average” people — not just the Elon Musks of this world — can get ideas for improving mobility in the Southland into the mainstream. Terrill himself has an idea for moving people on our hillsides with cable cars, akin to many Latin American countries. See his video, below.

Well, it turns out you don’t have to be Elon Musk to pitch an idea to transit planners. Metro, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has a new department called the Office of Extraordinary Innovation. It is helmed by Joshua Schank and DnA spoke to him on this broadcast.

He talks about their three-pronged program for private-public partnerships, which seeks outside ideas for: faster, cheaper delivery of major transportation projects; strategic planning of the network; and improvements through technology of transportation in Los Angeles.

He explains some of the 90 unsolicited proposals so far received, including drones that would inspect facilities and track; better provision of parking for bikes at stations and an Uber-style partnership for taking people to and from stations.

We also talk about how these private-public collaborations work financially (the private operator has to have some “skin in the game”) as well as “ordinary” innovations that might make the system extraordinary: easier access to TAP cards (soon to be available via an App), amenities at stations that might make them more attractive and safe, and improvements to the design of buses and trains.

And we ask, do you have to be a VC-funded tech company to get a hearing, or can a solo inventor pitch a concept. Both are welcome, says Schank, saying that “the basic concept is you submit a Phase 1 proposal which is a preliminary concept proposal. . . If we like the Phase 1 proposal, we’ll give you an RFI (Request For Information), where we want to see more detail in a Phase 2.”

“And then if we like the Phase 2 proposal the most likely outcome is a competitive process where we go out to the market and say, okay, we got this idea, now who’s got the best version of it, and then we’ll take it.”

Good luck!

Peter Terrill, a KCRW listener, says LA should introduce cable cars on its hillsides. Check out his video, above.

Photo top of page of Orange Line Metro bus by Steve Hymon/Metro.