App Developers Hunker Down In Brooklyn To Make Transit Service Better

Hackathon Underway To Improve Service On Subway, Bus, Commuter Rail

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of app developers and other tech whizzes gathered in Brooklyn this weekend for a contest to create apps for transit riders.

The MTA AT&T NYU-Poly Hackathon contest and collaboration began Saturday at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in downtown Brooklyn. After Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials outlined the problems that needed solutions and described the available data, the teams got to work.

Once they are done, MTA officials said, the new apps they create could make life much easier for transit riders.

“They’re going to be looking at ways to create apps to help MTA riders who ride the subway, ride buses, ride the commuter rails, hopefully with more information on upcoming trains, and more information about where to catch a train; where our trains and buses are in real time,” said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.

The MTA wanted to draw from tech-savvy New Yorkers to help the agency provide better service, according to Donovan.

“We recognize that our thing is transportation – we work on running trains and buses – and there’s other folks out there who know a lot more than we do about building apps, and we’re hoping to harness some of their talent this weekend,” Donovan told WCBS 880.

The MTA is depending on the developers for creative ideas that can help straphangers, Donovan said.

“The MTA is hoping that the developers – technologically savvy folks that build apps for a living — are going to be able to come up with better apps than we can create ourselves and make them available to the public,” he said.

This is the first time the MTA has attempted something like this, according to Donovan.

“This is the first time there’s a hackathon – which is a weekend-long session where folks are going to be physically together in the same space tackling potentially thorny database challenges together in one room,” he said.

The best app will win $5,000, followed by $3,000 for second place, and $2,000 for third. Those involved may also participate in a competition that is going on through August.

The creator of the winning fully-formed apps from that longer competition can take home $40,000.