Home MTA Technology Coming Soon: MTA App Quest 2013

Coming Soon: MTA App Quest 2013

by Benjamin Kabak

It is to the MTA’s credit that the agency has been very generous with their data while not releasing too many of their own apps. As the clunky Subway Time interface without momentum scrolling shows, in-house app design is hardly an agency specialty. But with the data and BusTime and Subway Time APIs out there for public consumption, plenty of other developers can pick up the slack, and for the second year in a row, the MTA is attaching a monetary reward to those who design the best apps.

The MTA’s second App Quest competition will kick off May 4 with a weekend-long hackathon. Sponsored by AT&T, the contest features two prizes: a $10,000 award for the best app to emerge from the weekend session and a $40,000 reward for the winner of the long-term challenge. As a prompt, the MTA is seeking apps with some of the following criteria:

  • Provide transit visualizations of timetables, service alerts, real-time feeds, and information about capital projects, operations and other vital MTA programs
  • Augment in-station way-finding, particularly for people with disabilities
  • Integrate MTA services into other application workflows (calendars, e-mail programs, etc.)
  • Illuminate, score and personalize the carbon-footprint reductions gained by using buses, subways, regional rail and combinations of those modes
  • Leverage the increasing availability of cellular phone service on the MTA network to create data-driven models of train and bus performance and customer flow
  • Are creative, functional, and engaging

Already, over 250 developers have signed up, and the event’s organizers are happy with the early turn-out. “The response we have seen from New York City’s tech community to create the next generation of transit apps has been overwhelming,” Marissa Shorenstein, the president of AT&T New York, said. “We can’t wait to see how participants envision riders using their mobile devices to improve their daily commute.”

At the least, New Yorkers are likely to gain access to a wide array of useful transit apps. This is how a transit agency in 2013 should use its open data feeds.

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9 comments

MH April 23, 2013 - 2:49 pm

I am surprised that the MTA themselves have not come through with their own app with these features. Their apps are mediocre at best in my opinion. Third-Party apps seemed to be more superior to the MTA’s apps because they give more detailed information. However, it is always good to see MTA reaching out to outside developers to see what they can bring to the table.

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Christopher April 23, 2013 - 3:04 pm

In related news, one of my favorite Apps, Exit Strategy, which allows you to “pre-walk” to a car that will let you exit closest to the stairs, has finally been updated after several years. I will no longer have to wonder where the V train will take me.

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Benjamin Kabak April 23, 2013 - 3:05 pm

The Exit Strategy creator had been devoting his time to TimeHop. I think that’s why it had stagnated. Also, exits don’t really move over time.

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al April 23, 2013 - 6:24 pm

Except when MTACC close one for renovation or reopen a long closed entrance.

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Christopher April 25, 2013 - 11:58 am

Right, but it took a few years for the app to reflect new re-alignments that brought us the end of the V, etc. For a free app, no big deal, but for a paid app (OK, only $.99), it would have been nice if he had made the few changes necessary to keep up.

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BrooklynBus April 23, 2013 - 5:50 pm

This was Jay Walder’s greatest contribution. Otherwise the MTA would still be in the dark ages regarding technology.

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D.R. Graham April 23, 2013 - 6:23 pm

Subway Time for iPhone is horrible. Subway Time for Android made by a developer is a dream come true. What a difference using the phones GPS makes in helping get the information you want directly on the screen when you want it.

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Sometime April 23, 2013 - 6:23 pm

It would be very helpful with an app and online to include the large scale station area map that are located in most stations. Tap on the station and you get the detailed area map.
Especially at night, it can be confusing which direction you need to go when you exit an unfamiliar station.

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alen April 24, 2013 - 12:04 pm

if anyone is listening, please add offline capabilities to your apps. otherwise they are useless if you are on the train and trying to use it

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