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.