After first shunning independent developers, the broken agency that is the MTA has now embraced them. “The MTA App Quest offers $15,000 in prizes to the best transit software applications that ‘improve the transit experience’ for the region’s 8.5 million riders (aka potential app users). Now that submissions are in, the MTA wants the riders to get in on dishing out those prize dollars,” a press release announced yesterday.
There are 42 competing apps and about $3,000 in prize money on the line for the ones that wins the popular vote. Dead Escalators locates outages for elevators and escalators (“This escalator is now stairs. We apologize for the convenience“); History Bus features historical information along the route of the M22. Email MTA lets you ask “Is the L train fucked?” by email, for any line. NYC Station Finder helps you find the nearest subway station using augmented reality: hold your phone up to see nearby stations superimposed over the landscape. The TravAlarm NYC wakes you up when you are about to get to your stop, which is estimated by the amount of time elapsed after you got on the train. TurnStileData shows how many people pass through a specfic turnstile in a four hour period.
“It’s easy to imagine how even more sophisticated and useful apps will result once there is real time location data of trains and buses available to the developers,” muses the optimistic MTA.
“The NYC Notify Me app had the early lead in votes,” the MTA says. “This app alerts you when there are service disruptions on your regular subway or commuter rail lines.”
After the riders’ choice awards, the remaining prize money will be awarded by a panel of judges from city government, “transit-friendly media outlets,” and “tech experts,” the MTA says.
As it is ill-maintained and ripe for disruption, the subway has proven fertile ground for creative coders. At first, the MTA wanted bloggers and developers to cease and desist using their data; thankfully, after realizing the sheer usefulness of services they lacked the resources and ability to provide customers, the MTA powers that be relented and started encouraging the phenom. There are more than 12 data sets available for app-making, says the MTA, including General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) schedule data; current service status; real-time information for a handful of bus lines; elevator/escalator status; turnstile and fare data; bridge and tunnel traffic data; and subway entrance GIS data. Just imagine what it will be like when AT&T and T-Mobile start providing cell service at more stations.